What keeps you awake at night? If you are an undergraduate like yours truly, chances are it’s due to the haunting imagery of a looming failed career. While the concern of receiving good grades contributes to my sleepless nights, it is merely a small piece of a much larger puzzle that I keep on trying to solve. Funnily enough, even during the semesters where I was firing on all cylinders, I would often find myself staring at the ceiling, as I lay in bed. My mind? Busy playing a highlight reel of my worst nightmares that could come true after I am done with graduation. And at the epicenter of it all, is the million-dollar question- am I doing enough? Do I have what it takes to challenge for the position of my dream job? 

Unfortunately, I have good reason to be in a constant state of questioning my employability status. People can overact, but facts can’t. And the facts intertwined with this concern of mine does not paint a hopeful picture. Allow me to throw some context into the mixture. 

An Impending National Crisis

“Bangladesh Development Update October- 2019” a monthly report issued by the World Bank, cited that at least one in every three graduates are unemployed. Further analysis showed that merely 19% of all college graduates end up being employed part-time/full-time. 

A survey from the University Grants Commission (UGC) showed that 46% of the unemployed youth also happen to be university graduates. That is some damning evidence pointing towards a massive skills gap among students. We have an overwhelming number of students graduating every year, but only a small portion of that population end up getting employed in a reputed organization. An argument can be made here addressing how we have failed to create an adequate amount of job opportunities. However, dodging this line of conversation each time it comes up does nothing to improve the state of these jobless graduates. 

In fact, lack of job readiness has consequences beyond the borders too. On top of struggling to secure a job position, we hardly see home bred prospects challenge for a leadership position in multinational companies. Instead, companies prefer to tap into foreign resources when it comes to handing over the reins of this territory. At the moment, there is no other alternative than to equip our own students with the proper resources if they are to ascend to a managerial position down the line. 

Lack of Job Prospects, Not Jobs

I have seen firsthand that opportunities are indeed out there. But unfortunately, very few are eligible to answer that call and seize the opportunity. This points towards a mismatch of expectations between an employer and an employee. Barring a few basic criteria, the most weighted standard of evaluation is attributed to an applicant’s horizon of practical knowledge related to the job role. When the chips are down, employers will side with the applicant that has a reasonable amount of practical knowledge under their belt as opposed to the one with lesser to none. 

In contrast, countries with a lower unemployment rate are reaping the rewards of smart decisions. Universities abroad offer student programs that are much more effective for job readiness. As a result, undergraduates are much better prepared for the inevitable challenge. 

A Far Cry From Reality

The role of education is not limited to producing graduates with the bare minimum skillset, but to groom up leaders for the future. 

There is a lack of distinct knowledge of real-time decision making, leadership abilities, coping mechanisms in the face of complex situations, critical thinking, and analytical ability. These are, above everything else, the attributes that employers seek in applicants these days. They prefer to hire someone with moderate academic performance but has proper knowledge of all the functions s/he is applying for. Interviews these days are much less about explaining a term with definitions and examples and everything about responding to a hypothetical scenario that tests the applicant’s capacity of practical knowledge. 

Hiring processes have been redesigned to include more assessment centers, simulation rounds, analytical tests, and boot camps. Bookish knowledge is not enough to equip a student with the proper skills to pass through these rounds of recruitment. Hypothetical knowledge needs to be complemented by skillful expertise and practical use of theories and charts. 

Abridging the Gap

So, what can be done to undo this horrific state of unemployability conundrum? This overhaul will take long term planning and academic course correction to begin the process of developing students’ employability status. And each of the universities, employers, faculties have a role to play here. 

Students must be exposed to more opportunities in order to ensure that they can acquire substantial practical knowledge. Universities need to reconstruct their academic framework into one that allows scope for acquiring practical knowledge. The course outlines should also be given a makeover to ensure that the lessons provided are updated and relevant to the current market trends. 

Who Can Facilitate?

Companies have started to roll out internship/part-time job opportunities to students enrolled in undergraduate programs. More companies need to jump on this bandwagon and go with the flow. The best way to create a pipeline of talent hubs for the future is to invest in the present. These opportunities give students a lucrative opportunity to test the waters before jumping in for a swim. 

Faculties can play a major role in boosting the confidence of students and uplifting their morale. Assignments and projects need to challenge students to think outside of the box and create space for acquiring some practical knowledge along the way. 

Practicality is the Gordian Knot of a student’s life as an undergraduate. The sooner it is untangled the better for the student aiming to enter into the job market. Once they are out there, fighting for jobs, they will have to face the music regardless, so might as well do so prepared.