With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the economy, job prospects have been severely hit in Singapore. This is given the country’s worst recession since independence. Fresh graduates are finding it hard to get opportunities in today’s market. CNA interviewed several prospects, who shared their qualifications and struggles.
Ben is a 24-year-old quantitative finance major from SMU. Having graduated with distinctions, and with multiple internship experiences, he would usually be highly sought after. However, in the two months since he graduated, in the height of the pandemic, he only managed to receive one offer, with a salary offer that is way below average.
Image taken from 3D World, a virtual engine for hosting virtual career fairs
Apart from degree holders, graduates from other tertiary institutions are similarly frustrated in their job hunt. In total, 48,500 graduates will be hoping to enter Singapore’s workforce this year. After struggling with remote learning, online examinations and cancelled convocations, they face an even tougher challenge ahead. Since COVID-19 battered the economy, businesses have laid off staff and froze hiring. In some cases, job offers have even been rescinded. This is on top of the pay cuts that many staff have to take since March 12th. The vacancy to jobseeker ration has also plummeted, from 84 to 100 at the end of last year, to 71 to 100 as of May. This is likely to continue dropping, with the pandemic likely to lead directly into a recession.
What It Means
The situation might be dire, but there is some good news for fresh graduates. Their plight has not gone unnoticed, and the government, businesses and educational institutions are coming up with multiple initiatives to help them find jobs. This includes 21,000 traineeships for first-time jobseekers. S$100 million has been set aside to help these graduates upskill and gain industry-relevant experience, giving them a firmer foothold in the job market.
National University of Singapore also held a virtual career festival for their graduating students to speak to potential employers through one-on-one live chat sessions. Nanyang Technological University also had two career fairs of their own, with a total of around 7,400 job vacancies on offer.
For fresh graduates who are still unable to get a job with the above resources, they might want to consider taking up internships or further studies to keep their spirits up. It is also essential to take a reality check. If you are in a situation where you need to pay the bills, you might need to put your career aspirations on hold, and jump into jobs that pay the bills.
Another possible avenue to a full-time position is to start with an internship. Most companies would be risk-averse right now, and human resources is an investment they can’t afford to risk. Instead, an internship is a low-risk manoeuvre that gives them a chance to gauge your capabilities and contributions. If you impress well enough, a full-time conversion might not be that far off.
For many other, keep a lookout on initiative rolled out by the government, especially the SGUnited Traineeships Programme. Applications have opened at the beginning of the month and will provide a monthly allowance for up to 12 months. There are roles in private organisations such as Singtel, DBS as well as public agencies like WSG and HDB. While it might not be the same as a permanent job, it will help sustain you through this crisis. As Mr Tharman stressed, Singapore “cannot wait for the employment market to recover and to solve these problems on its own.”