Thursday, January 19, 2012

Educated youth in search of employment – A case study – points to ponder

I helped a complete stranger one day over the phone in giving ideas of how to draft a cover letter in obtaining an interview for a job, which was part of her assignment for the two year full time Diploma in English course she is currently following at the Advanced Technological Institute in Dehiwela. She has just commenced her second year, and there are now 60 in the batch with 59 girls and one boy. When the course commenced there were 175 and many have transferred out or dropped out. The minimum qualification for entry to this course is either an A or B in English at the O levels and a pass at the A levels.

There are a smattering of such institutes dotted all over the Island, which offer A level students who have not obtained sufficient marks to enter the University system, an alternative. The courses are usually two years in length if they are full time and are for subjects such as IT, English, Business Administration, perceived as being necessary in obtaining employment.

These institutions offer Free Tuition, and some burseries and mahapola shols for living expenses, and are also part of the Ministry of Higher Education. There is the possibility of doing part time courses there too, while in employment and for that there are tuition fees. In this facility there is a girl’s hostel, where first years are housed, with the boys having to find accommodation locally. Many students follow other courses at the same time, and the student in question, while following this course is also studying for an external degree at the Kelaniya University in Arts, specializing Dance and Drama. The classes for the latter being on Saturdays.

I met this student at my office yesterday, as she was seeking my assistance in obtaining employment, preferring to go part time, while doing a job as it costs her Rs10,000 a month to live, her home being in Embilipitiya. She said that she has topped her batch at her college as well as all the similar colleges in the island and was seeking even a job as a receptionist as she is fluent in English also.

My observation was that they are totally unprepared in knowing how to get about finding a job, even though they now live in the metropolis, where there is a pool of jobs available, and heavily advertised, but for which the lack of experience is a huge handicap. This is where the ability to prepare a relevant resume and good cover letter showing the applicant knows what he or she wants, along with the confidence at interviews gives them an edge, and also the offer of working without pay, for a few months to show their aptitude in a given job, hitherto untested can be measured and competency tested in a real world working environment.

All this points to is the crying need for a life skills development workshop upon completion of the A levels, to be held soon after sitting the exams and not after the results are obtained. Students can then be equipped to make choices that take into account their personal preferences and not just with reference to parental or peer pressure about what they should do.

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