It's our fault our kids can't find jobs

NOV 12 — A friend of mine resigned from a job, deciding she wasn’t the right fit. Her colleagues kept trying to persuade her to stay, though, telling her that it was apparently “really hard to find jobs.”

My friend really has nothing to worry about. She is bright, personable, has a degree from a reputable foreign university and has no qualms about working hard.

The job market is anything but slow right now and is particularly good for fresh grads. Like her.

But right now there are plenty of jobless fresh graduates, living with their parents and wondering when they will find work.

Is it their fault? Perhaps they are picky. Perhaps they are reluctant to join the workforce so soon after the drudgery of assignments and exams.

Perhaps, it’s us.

This is the reality — the best jobs in the corporate workplace need candidates who can speak passable English. You don’t need to speak like an Oxford don, but at least be able to converse and understand instructions.

But then you have people who go on their soapboxes about how you don’t need English to succeed! That is so elitist of you to say, Erna!

I am sorry, but this is Malaysia. Unlike Japan, Indonesia or Germany where important reference material and news is readily available in their respective native languages, the same does not hold true for Malaysia.

Read any university subject reading list, how many (apart from Malay literature classes) ask you to read local tomes? Recommended reading lists are full of, oh look, English books.

When local university students whine about the recommended texts being in English, I feel like just telling them to learn the damn language. English is the key that opens the door not to just textbooks but news, entertainment and material that tells you Mastika is full of poppycock.

You do have to give credit to the local Chinese publishing industry, though. All you have to do is go to Popular and you will find translations of reputable works into Chinese.

Now if I suggested university students  learn to read Chinese instead, I suspect Perkasa will be on my doorstep with fire and pitchforks.

Also our kids can be picky. If you can’t find a degree-level job, perhaps try temping or a part-time job in retail. Maybe be a barista, teach tuition, find something to do instead of sulk about your rejection letters.

“But I want a job that suits my qualifications!” Tough luck, kid. I was jobless for a long time during a recession so I temped as a receptionist. Wonder of wonders, one of the callers was so impressed with my phone manners he asked me to come see him.

He just happened to own an employment agency and thanks to him, I rejoined the workforce and eventually came to annoy you all with this column.

Opportunity is everywhere and not just on Jobstreet. We have created a culture where our kids wait for offers, wait for leads, wait for something to fall on their heads.

Just like when they were spoonfed in school.

Real life is hard. A university degree is no longer a magical passport into middle class comfort. At least, not anymore.

The successful kids will be the ones who learn the world owes them nothing, that they can buck tradition and the status quo, and forge their own way in the world.

But we are a country that rewards obedience, values subservience and prefers our youth to be docile and not doing such rowdy, dangerous things like protesting.

The real world sucks, kids. But unemployment can be a gift. All that free time can be used to figure out who you are, where you are going and where you want to be. And maybe, just maybe, until you figure that out, a job at Starbucks isn’t a bad idea.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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