Graduates from less specialised fields felt the impact of the pandemic more and had greater trouble finding employment, experts told The Straits Times.
Conversely, those from courses that were more focused in a particular field were deemed to be of a "high priority" for hiring, the experts said when reflecting on the annual joint graduate employment survey released yesterday.
Across the board, fewer students who graduated last year managed to secure full-time jobs, but the effects were muted for those who studied IT, health sciences and business. More than three in four graduates from courses in these fields secured full-time permanent jobs within six months of leaving university.
Graduates from more general disciplines did not do as well. Only about three in five from the humanities and social sciences found full-time permanent jobs, and those from arts, design and media as well as science courses had even less luck, with about half finding full-time work.
Singapore Human Resources Institute president Low Peck Kem said this was to be expected, considering how companies have had to be more careful about their spending amid Covid-19 disruptions.
"Companies would be more targeted in their selection process and hire those whose competencies and skills are sorely needed to run the business. That is why the specialised sector continues to do well - these skills are in high demand," she said.
Those in more general fields of study tend to be hit harder as limited hiring places would mean that priority would go to graduates trained for specialised roles who can hit the ground running, added Ms Low.
Ms Jaya Dass, managing director of recruitment agency Randstad Singapore, noted that the pandemic has caused a shift in priorities for companies, which are now focusing on keeping their core business alive. This means that when hiring, firms would look out for candidates with more specialised skills who could potentially contribute more significantly to help a business survive.
"There is a need to keep the wheels on the bus turning, so priorities shift and companies would hire based on what is needed for their survival. It would be skewed towards specialised roles, and not generalists," she said.
The survey also showed that while full-time permanent employment might have fallen, more graduates are still finding jobs. Overall, 93.6 per cent of them were employed within six months of completing their final examinations, up from 90.7 per cent in 2019.
Mr Paul Heng, managing director of career consultancy NeXT Career Consulting Group, attributed this partly to help from the Government.
About 16.9 per cent of graduates were employed through the Government's SGUnited Traineeships Programme. This helps fresh graduates, including from polytechnics, boost their employability chances by going through an attachment at a company while receiving an allowance.
>3 in 4
Proportion of graduates in IT, health sciences and business who found a full-time permanent job within six months of leaving university.
3 in 5
Proportion of graduates from the humanities and social sciences who found full-time permanent jobs within six months of leaving university. Those from arts, design and media as well as science courses had even less luck, with about half finding full-time work.
But associate professor of economics Walter Theseira of the Singapore University of Social Sciences cautioned that while these graduates might be employed eventually, the quality of traineeships might vary.
He said: "There definitely are good traineeships in the programme, but not all of them will be a good match for the person. The question is, can these graduates build their resume or get relevant experience?"