Fresh polytechnic graduates had it tougher in the job market last year, according to the latest survey conducted by the five polytechnics here - although the institutes said there was no cause to worry.
According to the survey, 86.4 per cent of their graduates found permanent, freelance or part-time jobs last year within six months of graduation. This is a drop of 4.2 percentage points from 2016's figure of 90.6, and the lowest since 2005, when the Joint Polytechnic Graduate Employment Survey was first conducted.
But the polytechnics remain optimistic, saying that the employment rate "remains healthy". The survey results, released yesterday, also showed that graduates' median monthly salary rose to $2,200 last year from $2,180 in 2016.
The survey committee also said that changing aspirations among graduates have also contributed to the falling employment rate.
A spokesman added: "More polytechnic graduates are choosing to start work later, or plan to set up their own businesses...
"While the number of polytechnic graduates who cannot find employment has not changed significantly over the years, with the shrinking base of economically active graduates, this results in a rising unemployment rate."
UOB economist Francis Tan cautioned against reading too much into the survey numbers as fluctuations for such data are common.
"Wage growth and the hiring scene were poorer in general last year due to the slower economy in 2016, and polytechnic graduates were not spared from this phenomenon. With improved economic figures in 2017, the next survey should see more positive numbers for these graduates," he said.
The survey was conducted between last October and last month, and involved 10,151 people who finished their final examinations last year. Also surveyed were 5,022 graduates from 2014 who completed their full-time national service (NS) between April 1, 2016, and March 31 last year.
The employment rate for post-NS graduates fell from 95.4 per cent in 2016 to 89.8 per cent last year. Their median monthly salary dropped from $2,517 in 2016 to $2,480.
Ms Annie Yap, managing director of human resource and recruitment firm AYP Group, suggested that the polytechnics provide a more detailed list of courses whose graduates were less employable.
"For instance, retail-related courses might have taken a hit with the growing role of e-commerce that has disrupted the retail space, so graduates from such courses might be affected," she added.
The survey spokesman said the polytechnics conduct regular reviews of the curricula "to ensure our courses are relevant and meet the changing demands of the respective industries".
"For each course, we ensure that the curriculum stretches the potential of our students. We also have industry representatives who sit on our advisory boards to ensure that our curricula are constantly up to date. Students also undergo internships so that they are exposed to industry and are better prepared for the world of work. The increase in overall median gross monthly salaries clearly shows that the skills and knowledge of our graduates continue to be valued and held in high regard in the marketplace."
Last year's graduates from health sciences courses earned the highest median monthly salary of the cohort, the same as in 2016. But the median salary fell from $2,800 in 2016 to $2,600.
Ms Perlina Lee, 21, graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic last year and delayed her university education to gain working experience in her industry of interest - human resource.
"I've seen some of my peers ask for pay above market rate for a nine-to-five office job, so graduates should do their market research to find out what the industry is actually paying," she added.