12 March 2007

Big rush for positions in public sector

Graduates often lack skills for private sector, and govt jobs offer secure employment

By Carolyn Hong
The Straits Times

A RUSH of 30,000 people sent in applications when the Universiti Malaysia Kelantan put up notices for 110 vacancies recently.

'The sackfuls of applications could not fit into the post office and had to be put outside,' the university's vice-chancellor, Professor Zainai Mohamed, said.

These public-sector jobs are highly sought after. Nearly every job listed on the Public Service Commission website receives a mind-boggling number of applications.

For example, 17,484 applied for the 77 positions of assistant information technology officer. For jobs like nurses and technicians, it averages about 10,000 applications.

Ironically, at the same time, the private sector is struggling to fill thousands of vacancies.

Almost 840,000 vacancies were registered last year, according to figures from the Labour Department as cited by Human Resources Minister Fong Chan Onn.

In the first two months of this year, another 62,000 were added.

Yet few people want these jobs, said Datuk Seri Fong.

It is easy to see why.

Less than 5 per cent of these vacancies were for graduates. The bulk was for general workers, factory workers and sales assistants.

But most of the registered job seekers were looking for professional or technical jobs, or administrative positions.

No statistics are available from the private job agencies or private-sector employers, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that they find it difficult to get applicants with the desired qualities.

This mixed picture of large numbers queuing up for civil service positions while shunning low-end private-sector jobs is partly related to the phenomenon that received a lot of publicity last year - unemployed graduates.

At one time, there were as many as 60,000 graduates who could not find jobs, but the government has absorbed a large number of them.

There are various reasons why they were unemployed. Some wanted to remain in their home towns where there were no suitable jobs. But by and large, most lack the soft skills sought by the market. Their technical skills frequently also do not fit industry requirements.

'This is particularly noticeable in the information technology sector,' said Mr Shamsuddin Bardan, executive director of the Malaysian Employers Federation.

'There are jobs, in particular on the IT side. But the graduates' skills do not match requirements such as skills in software development,' he told The Straits Times.

Those who have these skills are grabbed quickly.

Malaysian Multimedia University president Gauth Jasmon was quoted in the New Straits Times daily as saying that their graduates secure jobs within six months of graduation.

And 30 per cent of them were snapped up even before their final exams.

Mr Shamsuddin said his organisation has made recommendations to tweak public-sector education for better job prospects.

'But it will take time to see a change in the public universities. The private universities are quicker to adapt,' he said.

In the meantime, graduates who are unable to find private-sector employment but do not want menial jobs are flocking to the public sector.

Besides, public- sector employment can be attractive as it offers job security.

Mr Shamsuddin said many private companies now only offer contract employment, and the lack of job security deters potential employees.

No comments: