Dubai: It is cause for concern that UAE graduates are not getting jobs in the fields for which they have studied, according to a preliminary study by British University in Dubai (BUID) researchers.
The study focuses on those who have embarked on undergraduate studies in a variety of disciplines, but since graduation have felt pressured to seek, accept and remain in employment in a job that is definitely not their first choice.
However, it was found that these 20-somethings are not willing to accept low salaries that don't meet their expectations, have not done internships or part-time work in their field of study and are not strategic in their job search.
The study focused on the experiences of three recent graduates and their difficulties in finding relevant work experiences in their chosen fields. It is part of a larger series of studies on graduate employment.
Prof Ashly Pinnington, professor of Human Resource Management (HRM) and Dean of the Faculty of Business at BUID, and HRM masters graduate Nithasha Bhanu conducted the study. They recently presented their findings at the Employability of Graduates and Higher Education Management Systems Conference in Vienna.
Pinnington's interest was piqued when he found out that Bhanu was having difficulty getting stable work in HRM after graduation. "She's worked for various help desks and some sub-contract work through agencies but she's not found the sort of job she really wants. She had friends who were having similar problems," he said.
Pinnington encouraged her to look at this topic as a research study and Bhanu focused on Indian nationals who studied and lived in Dubai who were having problems finding work in their fields.
Bhanu interviewed three women graduates with degrees in microbiology, banking and chemical engineering. "They were clear about what occupation they wanted to pursue a career in, but all three have been thwarted in their career ambitions. We were particularly interested in how they were having trouble getting their first foot on the ladder in the field that they studied," said Pinnington. All three are currently employed but not in a relevant job. The microbiology graduate works from home for an IT company, the banking graduate works in an administrative role, and the chemical engineering graduate works in her family's business.
Pinnington says all three made some significant mistakes in their approach to finding employment.
"All report having turned down jobs because they weren't well-paying. Even if those jobs were poorly paid, it still gives them experience in that field and the world of work in their field of choice."
Exploration and trial
By turning down these positions, they have turned down the possibility of getting work experience and will not develop in the various career stages from exploration and trial to a greater certainty and commitment to a particular path, said Pinnington.
He said all three graduates made no serious attempt to find an internship or part-time work. They all focused on their studies with the hope that their chosen field will be available to them when they graduated with good results.
In addition, they had no work experience in second, third or fourth year of study. "They need to know what a poor offer is and what a reasonable offer is in terms of pay." Also, all of them are heavily influenced by their parents — whom they live with — although there is not tremendous pressure by the family to find a job. The danger with parents' influence is that they do not have the most up-to-date information about opportunities in the workforce.
Another surprising observation was that the graduates were not engaging with their peers face to face or electronically using social media tools. "Young people are very connected on Facebook, the internet and Twitter, but these three were not keeping in contact with their friends about jobs."
Pinnington suggested it was perhaps the embarrassment and anxiety of not getting a position in their chosen occupation that caused them to be less keen to seek help and exchange information.
In the study, the students themselves admitted to not prioritising job hunting during their studies and after graduation.
"I haven't really looked for a job during the last year of my university, as I was under the impression that I would get a job really quickly, so was just waiting to complete my education completely to get a job," said the microbiology graduate.
The banking graduate said: "I was under the impression that my qualification will lead me to the job that I have always dreamed about."
She also said she got a lot of job offers from banks, construction companies "but the pay that the companies were offering was not sufficient enough to take up that job, and being the eldest in my family, I have got certain responsibilities to my family, which I would like to fulfil. That's why I have been waiting to get a better job with a good pay."
Look for work while you are still studying, even if it is unpaid. This way you will learn to relate to people in the workplace context.
Universities need to think about how they can team up with employers, economic departments and government organisations on providing people with reasonable information about employment and job opportunities.
Parents need to know where they need to be point their children regarding job opportunities.
— Source: Prof Ashly Pinnington, professor of Human Resource Management and Dean of the Faculty of Business at British University of Dubai