Budget 2021: Uncertain future for new graduates

There are an estimated 300,000 graduates who will be completing their education soon

pic by TMR FILE

IS BUDGET 2021 — that was announced by Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz which offers a total amount of the stimulus packages worth RM322.5 billion — inclusive towards every income group and individuals, especially new graduates?

At the end of 2019, the world was given a mere glimpse of a new virus now called Covid-19.

It somehow became widespread a couple of months later, and the next thing we knew, it was announced a pandemic that has wreaked havoc ever since.

Today, the devastating effect can be seen around the world, and Malaysian economy has certainly not been spared either.

While efforts are being made to expedite the introduction of a vaccine that could be the solution to woes, the World Health Organisation warned that the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will be felt for decades.

While economies are paralysed, many other important sectors are also severely impaired. Among them is the education sector.

It is rather obvious that graduates who had just graduated from public higher educational institutions (IPTA) and private higher educational institutions (IPTS) will have a hard time finding their spots in the job market.

As such, it is pertinent for the government to find a solution that prioritises the future of graduates who can be considered as national assets.

According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, the unemployment rate in September slightly dropped 4.6% to about 737,500 jobless Malaysians.

There are an estimated 300,000 graduates who will be completing their education, and 25% or 75,000 of them will be struggling to get employed for at least another six months due to the pandemic.

Budget 2021 includes an allocation of RM1 billion that will be utilised for re-skilling and up-skilling programmes.

About RM150 million was also set aside for the Ministry of Higher Education’s professional certification that is expected to benefit 50,000 new graduates who will receive vouchers worth RM3,000 to pursue a professional certification course in IPTAs and IPTSs.

The government also introduced an initiative called MySTEP (short-term employment programme) with about RM700 million allocated for it.

The initiative is expected to create 50,000 job opportunities starting January 2021.

Government-linked companies are also expected to provide 15,000 job opportunities to fresh graduates via apprenticeship programmes with priorities mainly in the technical and financial fields.

Each graduate will receive RM1,000 per month for up to three months within the stipulated period of the apprenticeship.

The programme is also expected to provide employment exposure to fresh graduates. In return, employers will receive a RM4,000 grant for providing training programmes for the apprentices.

The programme, with an allocation of RM250 million, is expected to benefit up to 50,000 new graduates.

In 2018, more than half a million Malaysians were unemployed. Of the total, about 140,000 of them were graduates.

Budget 2020 also included an initiative called [email protected], aimed at creating better employment opportunities, especially to youth.

Through the initiative, unemployed graduates received job offers from the government with a wage incentive of RM500 per month for two years.

Still, Budget 2020 did not really emphasise much on new graduates compared to Budget 2021 that offers quite a huge sum for new graduates, particularly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The spread of the virus has really affected and disrupted the readiness of graduates to leave school.

Some of the graduates might have already applied for their dream jobs and are expecting good news from the employers.

But will new graduates still survive during this hard time? Finding a job itself is already hard, and the pandemic is making it even more difficult for graduates to get employed.

At this point, it is also advisable for new graduates to consider enrolling into more professional training and education.

Beefing up new skills, such as soft skills and networking skills, is also important.

New graduates can still attend networking organisations in the industries they intend to be part of.

However, they might also need to prepare for a slower than normal recruiting and onboarding processes.

Being picky is not suitable in this current situation. We need to grab any chance that comes our way as opportunities do not really knock every day.

New graduates also need to be proud of themselves for being able to withstand all the struggles that many others might not have to face.

Dina Zulaikha
A Universiti Sains Malaysia student

The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.