Thursday, February 09, 2006

Paradigm Shift

My fellow friends, I came across this interesting yet relevant issue about Malaysian students in The Sun (Wednesday, Feb 8) and I would like to flick some lights upon this issue. We can look at it as a platform for us to learn and making effort to improve, in order to be well-rounded students and employees in the future.

Excerpt :

Being employed means having a job but being employable means having the qualities to keep a job and progress in the workplace. You might not be able to hold down a job if you are not adequately skilled.

So why is employability seemingly so elusive to so many Malaysian graduates? A local public university was said to have a graduate unemployment rate of 38% in 2004.

Before anyone smirks and says "Not me! I am joining a private university", the thousands who can't speak nor write English properly - A CORE EMPLOYABILITY SKILL - are not only from public universities, but also from local private colleges and universities.

Students at private colleges and universities may study in English but they are also rarely graded for their grasp of the language, except in specific instances.

Naturally, language competency, both written and oral, helps one to understand lectures and academic text, and to convey ideas and argue points, but it is still possible to get away with a minimal competency because lecturers give marks on the core subject and not on language skills.

What is sad is that these students then have the illusion that their competency level is acceptable in the real world, and don't bother to improve their skills, ONLY TO BE SHOCKED DURING THEIR JOB SEARCH OR WHEN THEY START WORKING.

Entering a private university or college does not guarantee employability. It only provides the opportunity to build up employability skills. There must be intense self-learning in strengthening all type of skills, language included.

Examinations and assignments are good practice for critical thinking, effective communication, problem-solving and time management. They are also tests of endurance and creativity - which are all employable skills.

Yet, many students view tests and assignments as they do in secondary school, as ends in themselves.

Perhaps such an attitude implies an expectation to be spoon fed by the lecturer and even to be given exam tips.

The three to four years at university are not viewed as practice for the workplace - dealing with colleagues who may be uncooperative or incompetent ( IN COLLEGE - LAZY OR INCOMPETENT COURSE MATES IN GROUP PROJECTS), clashing deadlines (EXAMS AND ASSIGNMENTS WITH OVERLAPPING DEADLINES), demanding bosses (DEMANDING LECTURERS), or even personal or financial problems interfering with work (PERSONAL PROBLEM AFFECTING STUDY).

Simply put, if basic things like PUNCTUALITY or ability to listen well and follow instructions, are not developed by the time a person graduates, he is likely to be a dilemma in the workplace.

The late Kathleen Cotton of the American Northwest Regional Laboratory, in her School Improvement Series, titled Developing Employability Skills, divided employability skills into basic skills, higher order, and affective skills and traits.

In her report, she quoted L.L. Buck and R.K. Barrick from They're Trained, But Are They Employable? (Vocational Education Journal 62/5 (1987) : "Employability skills are the attributes of employees, other than technical competence, that make them an asset to the employer." "

Hopefully we would be able to achieve the expectation. Good luck.

Frankl once said, "What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us"

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