Thousands of Bachelor and Master’s graduates enter Nepal’s job market to hopefully land the job of their dreams with a handsome salary and unbelievable office perks. Yet, the current job market values skills and knowledge over degrees and a college or university degree is not enough to land the job that you hoped to get. Although there are many college graduates around the country who enter the labor market, there is a shortage of skilled manpower to fill the hundreds of job vacancies. Colleges and universities should do a lot more to prepare young graduates for the “real world” and students need to be equally prepared and responsible for what may come after graduation.
Currently, many Management and Engineering colleges and universities in Kathmandu are producing graduates who are not ready for the job market. The students do not have adequate experiences, communication skills, and job interviewing skills. I believe it is the responsibility of colleges to conduct the needed workshops and programs to prepare their students for life after graduation. Students are looking for a career direction and the right guidance at the right time will make a profound difference in their future careers.
How colleges can help
Colleges can do a myriad of activities to prepare students for the job market. The Career Services office is one of the most important departments at a college. Students should be encouraged to consult the college’s Career Services office right from the start of their college career, not when they are about to graduate. For students to visit the Career Services office right before they graduate is extremely last minute. The urgency and preparation needed to get the job based on experiences should be felt as early in the college career as possible.
To further prepare students, colleges can facilitate an orientation of the Career Services office to their students, especially those in their first year. In the orientation, students should be made aware of the different services available through the Career Services office (Resume/CV writing, interviewing skills, soft skills, etc). As students go through their college career, they will require more guidance and mentorship to be ready for the job market. For example, Sagarmatha Engineering College (SEC) and its sister college Sagarmatha College of Science And Technology organized ‘Sagarmatha – Institution to Industry’ in its college premises that was held in Sanepa on November 17, 2018. This was a well-received event where job and internship seekers were able to network with companies such as Fusemachines Nepal, Karkhana, Javra Software, etc.
Events like these are where students and job seekers can get a chance to interact with companies face to face and get details on job openings. Colleges in Kathmandu and outside of the capital can also organize career fairs, management and technology meetups and other career-related events to help their students get exposure and access to various companies. One such opportunity for the students is the upcoming IT MEET being held at Kathmandu University on December 28 and 29. The IT MEET is marketed as the largest non-profit tech meet up organized at a University level that is annually held in Nepal. This event will be a good platform for students to meet company representatives, interact with them, and hopefully be a gateway to a job or an internship. I strongly believe that the above avenues are better platforms to obtain internships and jobs than applying online.
Students have to also realize that there are always opportunities for competent, qualified and proactive individuals. Students need to be proactive and take up internship(s) during their college career. Some colleges require students to take up an internship in their final year, while others have internship(s) as an option. Students who want a job closer to graduation or when they graduate should use the internship as a springboard to a rewarding career. Internships allow students to get inside the company and it is the best opportunity to understand what the company does, its culture and how the individual can best fit into the work environment.
I have seen many young professionals enter a company as an intern, hone their knowledge and skills, and then become part of the management team of the company in a few years. An internship does not always guarantee a job, but the experience and knowledge can be instrumental in gaining further opportunities. Thus, an internship experience cannot be underestimated nor overlooked.
Onus on students
Other ways for students and job seekers to get interviews and eventually a job is to visit career fairs, networking events, and by calling or emailing the company. From my experience, I have seen students apply through online job portals and just sit back and wait for calls from potential employers. Students and job seekers have to do more than that. They have to take more initiatives and be creative in their job search. That means talk to your friends, professors, mentors, alumni of your college or university and let them know that you are very interested in a job. Even if students are keen on starting their own company, gaining a few years of work experience will be valuable to them.
College and university students need to be realistic and prepared for what comes after graduation. A Bachelor or a Master’s degree alone does not guarantee a job. Yet, complaining about the job market and not hearing back from employers will do no good to job seekers. I know of many established and startup companies looking for talented individuals but they are not finding candidates with skills that they need. There seems to be a huge gap between what the industry is looking for and what the colleges and universities are producing. The gap can be attributed to outdated course syllabus that does not reflect the market’s dynamic needs, teaching styles and priorities of teachers, and lack of seriousness and maturity of students about their careers among others. These problems are serious and we need to address them promptly. The solutions will not come overnight and each of the stakeholders—colleges, curriculum advisors, students, and parents—have to keep working at it.
Both colleges and students have to be proactive and do much better going forward. The college years are important to instill the right foundation of knowledge, experience, values, and optimism in students. It is also the time for students to seriously think about their career plans after graduation. Students should wisely use their time in college, enjoy the college years, and most importantly be prepared for life after graduation.
The above article was published on Republica national daily on December 18, 2018.