Job-search blues

Job-search blues

Asian youth anxious about finding employment but confident in their skills, says DHL survey

People explore employment opportunities at a job expo held last year. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul
People explore employment opportunities at a job expo held last year. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

More than 90% of young people who responded to a recent survey are "anxious" or "very anxious" about their ability to find a job, with nearly 95% saying the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the process of job hunting, according to Deutsche Post DHL Group (DPDHL).

The three-week online survey, conducted to mark World Youth Skills Day on July 15, drew close to 950 responses from young people above 15 years of age across seven countries -- Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

"Job uncertainties and insecurities abound as most economies in the region continue to battle different waves of Covid-19 even as the pandemic starts to recede with the availability of vaccines," said Christoph Selig, vice-president for sustainability communications and programmes with DPDHL Group.

"While this inevitably impacts the hiring roadmap for businesses across multiple industries, it is heartening to see our youth recognising the challenges ahead, yet remaining optimistic about their own aptitude and abilities to secure a job upon completing their education."

Despite the high anxiety expressed about being able to find a job, there is a sense of confidence as well as optimism: 88% of respondents believe they are ready to enter the job market, with more than 70% indicating they expect to land a job in less than six months upon completing their education.

When evaluating an offer, the "opportunity to learn and be challenged" came first among factors to consider, followed closely by "job security", which nearly 20% of respondents indicated as crucial.

Unsurprisingly, 38% of those surveyed regarded traditional methods such as internships to be useful in helping them land a job. Recommendations from mentors and teachers are also considered to be key enablers.

Online job portals, while prevalent, are viewed as the least useful channel simply due to the lack of the personal connection afforded by working as an intern or validation by a contact, according to the survey, done as part of the DPDHL GoTeach programme, with the support of its global partners Teach For All network and SOS Children's Villages.

CAREER PREFERENCES

Some 360 respondents felt that working as a healthcare professional such as a nurse or doctor is the most recession-proof occupation, undoubtedly swayed by the critical roles that these front-liners have played since the global Covid outbreak. A job in the education or government sectors was tied in second place.

Interestingly, when asked what their preference as a first job will be, more than 20% picked entrepreneurship compared to 14% who selected healthcare. In fact, the education and hospitality/tourism sectors joined entrepreneurship in the top three industry preferences, with healthcare trailing in fourth place.

"Young people just entering the workforce have witnessed an unprecedented crisis that would have influenced their view of the working world," said Susanne Novotny, corporate partnership manager at SOS Children's Villages.

"It's therefore not surprising that most felt the healthcare industry is somewhat recession-proof but equally, most young people might have preferred to start their own business to have better control over their own lives, careers and destiny."

ESSENTIAL SKILLS

Beyond technical and vocational skills, 45% of those surveyed viewed interpersonal communication skills as key, while 30% thought language skills to be pertinent in their ability to secure a job.

"Our GoTeach mentorship programmes are always designed to equip young people with the broad range of knowledge and skills that they will need to fulfil their potential in a rapidly changing world, and we'll keep working closely with DHL to refine our activities as the world evolves," said Pablo Millanes, head of corporate partnerships at Teach For All.

"For example, we migrated all our GoTeach activities online last year when Covid hit, which was challenging at first but it opened up opportunities for volunteers around the world to participate."

Designated by the UN General Assembly in 2014, World Youth Skills Day is an opportunity for young people, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions, and public and private sector stakeholders to acknowledge the importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship. This year's theme was "Skills for a resilient youth".

An environment, social and governance (ESG) initiative dating back to 2009, GoTeach seeks to improve the employability of young people, especially those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds caused by social unrest, poverty and/or loss of family. Volunteers from across DPDHL Group in over 60 countries contribute their time and effort to working with young people under the programme.

In Asia Pacific, more than 600 DHL volunteers ran several initiatives in 2020, including mentoring, job skills training, resume writing, internships and youth camps.

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