Graduation done and dusted, now comes the really hard part

Liu Qiong, chief vocational guidance consultant for Minhang District, tries to help graduates find work as it is now a government campaign to maintain social stability.

As the number of college graduates in China increases, the job market seems to tighten.

The Ministry of Education said graduates this year rose by 250,000 to about 8.2 million. Helping them find work is now a government campaign to maintain social stability.

“Increased enrollment in higher education has created more university graduates … but the employment space is limited due to current economic conditions in China,” said Chu Zhaohui, a research fellow at the National Institute of Educational Sciences in Beijing.

Part of the problem seems to be a disconnect between market skills that are needed and the skills and mindsets of the young. Companies are complaining that it’s getting hard to find employees they want.

Liu Qiong, chief vocational guidance consultant for Minhang District, has worked for seven years in the Minhang Employment Promotion Center trying to tackle such problems. She concludes young job seekers are different from past generations.

“People born in the 1990s have more awareness of equal rights,” she said. “They show a higher propensity to seek quality of life, meaning they are willing to give up higher-wage jobs in exchange to a lifestyle that suits them.”

She added, “They are eager to express themselves, and have less respect for the authority. We need to respect their choices when trying to provide help for them.”

Companies, too, need to lift their game. Many of them write unclear job descriptions or offer wages that don’t match the skills required.

She encourages the young to do internships that see whether a job stacks up to their expectations and values.

“Money isn’t the only goal now,” she said. “They want to find the right job for themselves. They aren’t in a rush to work. If they can’t find a satisfactory job, they would rather take a ‘gap year’ to travel or study further.”

Graduation done and dusted, now comes the really hard part
Ti Gong

Liu Qiong gives advice to young job seekers.

The Employment Promotion Center has five departments providing a full range of services and vocational guidance. It helps young people start their own businesses, trains the unemployed with working skills and pays unemployment insurance to job seekers.

In order to boost the employment rate, the center held training camps for young people and college students in 2017 for the first time. The camps were open to youth who have been unemployed for a year or more or are new college graduates.

Participants were taught office etiquette and professional skills at the camp. The course was designed to keep them in touch with current trends, such as the new retail trend of customer-oriented services and online shopping. Most of the camp participants subsequently found jobs.

Last year, the Chinese government called for expanded efforts to help college graduates find jobs or start their own businesses. With that national strategy as the basis, local government devised their own plans. The employment rate of Shanghai graduates hit 97 percent last year, according to Xinhua news agency.

The success rate belies the fact that many new graduates don’t know how to go about finding work.

“They are relatively green and idealistic but lack the experience of practical skills,” Liu said. “Many are self-centered and don’t know how to effectively communicate with co-workers or bosses. Those who do find jobs sometimes end up resigning over minor frustrations.”

Each year the center helps about 1,000 young people find work. Many of them are keen to start their own businesses.

“The post-90s generation are bold and unafraid of failure,” Liu said. “Though their spirit is commendable, they need to understand that it often takes more than skills to start careers. Many young entrepreneurs choose the path of going it alone simply because they couldn’t find a job and not because they are burning with good ideas for a new business.

The employment center covers all 16 towns and subdistricts in Minhang.

“We often go out into far-flung communities and provide free services,” said Liu. “Sometimes young people live far from our office or are too shy to ask for help.”

The center does follow-up calls once a week, until a job seeker finds work, and also does one call a month during probation periods. The center also deals with those who want to change jobs and need guidance.

It recruits teachers to provide courses like bakery, massage and photography for young people. Most of these courses are held in vocational schools, helping those without college degrees. The government pays for study fees if job-seekers obtain qualification certificates and find jobs after the courses.

Graduation done and dusted, now comes the really hard part
Ti Gong

Liu gives a talk on how to help people land a job at the Minhang Employment Promotion Center.

Liu said finding jobs for the disabled and for young people with criminal records is the hardest part of the center’s work.

In order to help those groups, the center holds discussions with companies. When companies are unable to fill vacancies over a long period, the center encourages them to hire from socially vulnerable groups.

“We don’t have statistics, but I come across dozens of these candidates each year,” said Liu. “And about half of them eventually find jobs. At best, we are like shooting stars flying across job seekers’ lives. Our intervention is short, bright and then disappears once a job is secured.”

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