Happy But Difficult Times Ahead for New Graduates

This is a happy time for graduates. At last, they have completed their grueling four years in college. Throwing their mortars in the air, they exclaim, “At last, the difficult times are over.” But is it?

Vol. VIII, No. 12, April 27-May 3, 2008

Fresh graduates usually rest for a week or two before plunging into the real world in the hope of reaping the rewards of their hard work in college. However, Ms. France Sumang, a career specialist in one of the colleges in Metro Manila, said that as soon as the reality that jobs are hard to find sinks in, graduates frantically repackage their resumés and scan classified ads.

Even as the January 2008 report of the National Statistics Office (NSO) shows that the unemployment rate is only 7.4 percent and the underemployment rate is 18.9 percent, job hunting has become increasingly difficult. According to the IBON Foundation, the unemployment figures being presented by the government is understated as it changed the definition of unemployed in 2005 to exclude 1 to 1.5 million workers who they classified as “not looking for work.” Also data from the IBON Foundation shows that the average unemployment rate of 11.3 percent and underemployment of 18.5 percent during the last seven years is the worst in the country’s history. For the 380,000 students graduating every year, these are not mere figures. This means more pressures and competition for jobs.

Leah, an accounting graduate last year, said that when she graduated, her main concern was to find a job immediately. And she did, but Leah admits, she feels discontented with her current job. “Walang chance for promotion. Feeling ko maii-stuck na ako dito. Pati sweldo ko, naka-stuck na rin” (There is no opportunity for promotion. I feel stuck in my current position. Even my salary is stuck at its current rate.)

Even graduates of nursing, considered to be a lucrative profession as it provides an opportunity to work abroad, are having a hard time landing a job. Nurses need a minimum work experience of two years before qualifying for jobs abroad. But finding work in local hospitals is no longer easy. Local hospitals are being swamped by applications from the more than 20,000 new nursing graduates every year. Mary, not her real name, is a new nursing graduate from the Philippine Women’s University and has just passed the licensure exam. But she was told, by the hospitals she applied in, to wait for a month up to a year before she would be considered for an interview. Actually, this is Mary’s second course. She graduated in computer science and worked for four years. But she was not earning enough to help support her family. This prompted her to enroll again, this time in nursing.

Graduates of two-year courses are having a much more difficult time compared to college graduates. Job opportunities for them are more limited; and when they do find work, the pay is generally lower and promotion opportunities are much more limited. Lailani, a graduate of office management, has just landed a job as a cashier in a popular chain of malls. When asked about the difficulties of finding work, Lailani said that it depends on the person’s willingness to take on any kind of work.

A different kind of work

Leloi Arcete may not be earning much but she said she is more than happy in her work in a non-government organization (NGO). Arcete is the public relations officer of the Watch, Pray, and Act Movement, which supports NBN-ZTE whistle-blower Mr. Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada. Arcete said that working in the Watch, Pray, and Act movement is her way of serving the Filipino people. She said that she always dreamed of doing something beyond earning money.

Arcete feels fulfilled in being part of the campaign for truth. She also relishes her time working for Sr. Mary John Mananzan, a known patriot and activist for women’s rights. What also makes Arcete’s work gratifying is seeing more and more women attending their forums and becoming involved in issues confronting the country.

Where to?

In the competition for students, some colleges advertise that they guarantee immediate employment for their graduates. For example, STI College launched the Interactive Career & Recruitment System (I-CARES) that aids their students by establishing links with potential employers. Maman Borres, alumni coordinator of STI, explained that all their graduates may avail of this service for as long as they register in the online system.

The employment of last resort for most graduates who would want to earn a decent income seems to be the booming Call Center business. But the work is hard and stressful because of the late night work hours and the many not-so-pleasing encounters with clients. Thus, the turn-over of employees is very high. Nevertheless, graduates with good English proficiency can easily land a job in Call Centers and the pay is decent. Some work in Call Centers to gain work experience. The lack in work experience is an inherent disadvantage for fresh graduates.

However, Ms. France explained that fresh graduates need not feel intimidated about their lack of experience. She said that potential employers prefer applicants who accept their weaknesses, and are willing to improve and be mentored.

All told, employment opportunities are still limited and the competition for jobs are intensifying especially for the hundreds of thousands graduating every year. And as the numbers of those unable to find work pile up, the more difficult it becomes for future graduates to find work. Congratulations is an apt greeting to all new graduates. But after the congratulatory messages, we say Good Luck! (Bulatlat.com)

Share This Post