Rough ride ahead for fresh graduates, says MEF

Ng Min ShenMonday, March 20, 2017

Degree holders fresh out of university looking for jobs are in for a rough ride, as global and domestic economic volatility and the rising dominance of information technology (IT) across most sectors have led to cautious hiring with a focus on niche talents that may yet be undeveloped.

In a recent interview with The Malaysian Reserve (TMR), Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) ED Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said unemployment rates across the country currently hover around 3.5%, up from 3.4% last year.

“If you look deeper into the unemployment numbers, it is mostly degree holders who are the worst hit by the lack of employment opportunities.

“There are approximately 400,000 unemployed people in the country and they are mainly fresh graduates who will struggle to secure suitable or relevant jobs, as companies and employers are cautious of rolling out new jobs,” he noted.

Shamsuddin said while the graduates may be able to find jobs, these would usually be in an unrelated field to their degree or positions that they are overqualified for. Asia Pacific and Middle East MD Sanjay Modi pointed out that recent Monster Employment Index (MEI) reports suggest Malaysia will experience a cautious job market in 2017.

“Businesses are expected to reduce or freeze headcount across non-critical and support areas, and step up their recruitment drive in niche verticals like risk and compliance and design-thinking,” he told TMR recently.

With government plans to boost innovation and smart manufacturing, jobs in the engineering and construction sectors are likely to be affected in the medium term.

Sanjay said although this does not mean that jobs will be replaced, there will be a need for talents with very niche skills to operate under this transformed environment.

“Similarly, in IT and banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI), traditional roles will be made redundant and there will be an urgent need to fill the talent gap that would require niche skills,” he added.

Within the BFSI sector, the nature of jobs has also shifted from traditional roles to those with greater focus on robotics and risk and compliance.

“This sector reported a plunge in online job postings in the second-half of last year, but has improved gradually,” Sanjay said.

According to the MEI, online hiring for “hot” sectors such as IT, telecommunication and Internet service providers, business process outsourcing, as well as IT-enabled services recorded the steepest growth at 36% year-on-year (YoY).

“This figure is up 21% from 15% YoY recorded in December last year. This growing popularity can also be attributed to the focus on financial technology in Malaysia and government measures to boost innovation and technology,” Sanjay said.

His comments were echoed by regional communications head Simon Si, who observed new job postings in IT-related areas.

“We see new job creation in the areas of cloud technology, big data analytics, mobile computing and app development as a result of initiatives to drive greater IT development,” he told TMR.

While middle-skill jobs such as in manufacturing are declining, both low-skill and high-skill jobs will continue to expand.

Sanjay said the rise of automation would transform more conventional, manual labour-based roles into increasingly sophisticated ones — thus requiring higher skills.

“Certain job roles will transform — for example, toll booth clerks may bear the brunt of this, but it’s hard to say they would become completely obsolete.

“However, automation and increased usage of technology are something businesses need to plan for in advance. The implementation of technology is something that transforms a business, and thus will require a different hiring strategy to ensure the right people are targeted to aid this transition,” Sanjay stated.

Even with growing demand for niche markets due to the push for country-wide innovation and automation, Shamsuddin said employers would prefer experienced candidates when hiring.

“During these challenging times, jobseekers will struggle to find appropriate employment, while employers will practice caution in hiring. Companies will likely choose candidates with experience to mitigate risks,” he added.

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