Tackling Graduate Unemployment: The Need For University-industry Cooperation | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 19, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:38 AM, March 08, 2015

Tackling Graduate Unemployment: The Need For University-industry Cooperation

Tackling Graduate Unemployment: The Need For University-industry Cooperation

BRAC University and Prothom-alojobs have recently organised a roundtable discussion on “Tackling Graduate Unemployment: The Need for University-Industry Cooperation”. We publish here a summary of the discussion.  -Editor


Mahfuz Anam,  Editor & Publisher, The Daily Star
Industry does not need to be convinced about hiring skilled labour. They are looking for it for their own growth. It is the supply side problem. It is the universities which are not yet tuned to be responsive to the industry. It is the university that needs to be more convinced. One stream of the education process will be research oriented for finding new knowledge. Other stream will create highly skilled professionals. Private universities are doing it some extent. But they are concentrating more on commerce education but not on industries. It is a peculiar phenomenon in our country that many people are going after few jobs and many jobs are going after few people. We have to get out of it.

Kumar Murshid, Director-CSO, BRAC University
Graduate unemployment is a major problem in our country. A large number of young people are suffering from underemployment problem. They have to opt for a job that is not suitable to them and there is little scope of fulfilling their potential. But there is very little research on the real situation of employment of our young graduates.
If we look at sector wise employment generation we will see agriculture is still at the top with 47% employment generation rate followed by service sector which is 37% and industrial and manufacturing sector- 14%. We are clearly lagging behind in terms of industrial and manufacturing sector borne employment.
Our manufacturing sector has been experiencing robust growth. The leading manufacturing sectors are garment, pharmaceuticals, IT, shipbuilding and so on. Some new manufacturing industries are coming up with huge potentials: hospitality and tourism , cultural industry including performing arts, creative writing etc.
We have total work force of about 85 million. And 42% among them are young people. Creating employment opportunities for such a large number of work force is indeed a daunting task. Universities have the primary onus of educating their students properly so that they can find good job and flourish their potentials. Industries will create employment opportunities for them and develop them further. And that’s why we need cooperation between industries and universities. In our country, there are very few platforms for university-industry collaboration. We want to create such a platform where universities will understand the need of industries and industries will find research and resources for further development. Our young graduates will be able to get the best of this partnership.
We want to establish a platform for this endeavour.

Humaira Sharmeen, Head of Operations, Prothom-alojobs
Though we have a serious unemployment problem most of the companies are running with 10-15% of vacant positions because they do not have the right people. In the near future, the problem will be acute. That’s why we are trying to team up with universities and industries to bridge the gap.
Our universities should encourage students in participating and talking about their visions in different forums organized by the universities. Students need to develop their soft skills. They need to ask questions. By talking, asking and participating soft skills will be developed among students. Soft skills are crucial to be successful in professional life. In different career workshops, I find that students do not ask questions. We repeatedly request them to ask questions. The even do not know how to ask a question.
Universities have to develop various events in order to develop soft skills of their students. These are basics. Students with basic skills go to industry. Industries will develop them further. They have to invest in capacity building of their employees. It will ultimately pay benefit to the overall industrial sector.
Apparel and beautification industries have bright future. Our university students are a bit snob. They fail to understand the prospect of these emerging sectors. In the long run these industries will need a lot of skilled professionals. These industries should also brand themselves. It will attract talented professionals.
In the long run we will also involve the government in the industry-university collaboration effort.

Ahmed Shafee, VC, East West University
We need to develop some basic skills so that we can be at par with changing  market demand. In the age of internet you can have global knowledge in our pocket but not the skill. Our universities should focus on this issue.

Rokeya Afzal Rahman, President, Bangladesh Federation of Women Entrepreneurs
I want to emphasize on efficiency in English language. Students should have good communication skills. Universities should create the scope so that students can learn how to communicate effectively.
In this industry-university collaboration, chambers of commerce can play a big role. We should involve them.

M. Zulfiquar Hussain, CEO and Lead Consultant, Grow n Excel
There are three dimensions and these are graduate development, content i.e. curriculum development and finally faculty development.
We need to orient our students about job market from the 2nd year so that  they can prepare themselves to face the challenges of tomorrow. The second dimension is to review course curriculum and how these programs are relevant to meet the demand of our industry.  Most of the business cases and examples are taught from western perspective but we should also promote local success stories & cases.  The third dimension is to continuously develop our faculties and many of them are not aware about emerging industries. Universities should take structured approach in developing the capabilities of faculties and industry must play its role by offering insights and exposure.
Our current talent pipeline is unable to meet managerial requirements considering short supply of quality graduate and limited development opportunities offered by large local corporate. It is important to establish a clear road map to attain desired growth objectives.

Sharful Alam, COO, Aamra Technologies Limited
There is disconnect between the Industry and University because they rarely talk and listen to each other. Job market is changing continuously and evolving very fast. Rapid progress of information technology replacing the clerical jobs. There is huge demand but acute supply of innovative and intelligent graduates. Innovation has to be encouraged and rewarded at academic level. We have to follow the changing requirements of our job market and prepare our students accordingly.
There is a great scope of talent export. Bangladesh has already done a good job in this regard. We can do even better and earn more foreign currency.

Saood Bin Masood, Managing Director, HR Kites
We need to make a definition of talent and train our students accordingly. Employers want to buy talents. They have their own definition of talent. When industries expand their business, they want to buy readymade leaders. So that they do not have to bear any expense other than salary. Industries only think of short time employment. They do not want learning and development system. They do not want to recruit future managing directors.
Talent is actually competency, commitment and contribution. This is the definition. Competency is divided into two points: leadership competency and functional competency. Universities will develop the leadership competency and industries will develop the functional competency.
I would request universities to prepare their student as much as possible as per market demands. I would also request our industrial leader to give their employees a better coach, mentor rather just a boss. . There should be mentors for the fresh graduates.

F R Khan, Managing Director, Building Technology & Ideas Ltd.
In our country, three months intern system is a show off. Students do not learn anything. Somehow, they manage a performance report which is the requirement of the university. Extensive in-job training should be included in the education curricula. In Japan, students have to do one year in-job training. Through the training, they become prepared for the market.
I want to recommend from the real estate sector perspective that we would provide on the in-job training.
It is really disappointing that we are hiring people from abroad. We have skilled people. We need to produce more. For this, both industry and university have to work together.

Syeda Yasmin Rahman, Chief People Officer, GPIT
Employers always look for talents. The particular challenge we are facing that we do not have the information which university have what kind of specialization. Now we assess it  from performance of our employees. Every university offers every kind of topic. Specialization and branding of universities are very important. It is important to know for the universities that which university is specialized on what subject.
Knowledge can be acquired, skills can be changed and learnt but what we find lacking is confidence and attitude. Leadership, soft skills, communication skills are very much needed. We cannot work without English skills. Today, learning English is no longer an added advantage , it is a must to compete with the outside world. Universities can focus on fixing these basics.
India has been following the university-industry collaboration for many years. They have strong industrial attachment programme in their education curricula. Many of our universities invite industrial people to give lecture. But it is a one-off program. We have to build a consistent partnership where both the industry and university will have a stake for a particular outcome. If nobody has stake in it, nobody will be accountable.
Bangladesh has great opportunities in creating entrepreneurship among young people. The young minds can really make difference. They can be employers. Instead of waiting for employers they can create jobs on their own.
Often we hold different career fairs and ask the students what would you want to do with your education. We see blank looks in their eyes. Because what they want is a job and a monthly salary which is a pity. They really need to dream big and reach somewhere.
In the IT sector, we find that some of human-intensive jobs are becoming obsolete and that’s where the business process outsourcing is coming out. Developed nations are outsourcing those in our nations. We are in a very good position because we have young people and we have many in numbers. We need to get ourselves prepared to tap that opportunity. So the key question is how we train and develop those people. Here come the training institutions. Universities can play a big role here. Industries are always willing to invest in training. So universities have to link with industries on that purpose.
Now, we have to start action. It can be one year in-job training or industrial attachment. Only after starting work we will learn what are the lacking and what we have to do more.
One success story is collaboration between GPIT and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology. This was a one and half year program. It is the success story of birth of the first Bangla search engine, Piplilika. That particular project has created employment for sixteen young minds. It is also contributing to our mother tongue. There are other success stories in our country. We have to find them. University curricula should include our local case studies so that our students can learn better.

Sarah Ali, Managing Director, Bitopi Advertising
We have to start from school because that is the place where the foundation happens. The reason why I mention schools is the basic criterion of asking questions, participating in discussions needs to be embedded in the schooling system. Our students are shy and they feel intimidated in a setting where they don’t want to get signed out – they are afraid of asking questions and participating in discussions. Independent thinking needs to be fostered and has to happen from school and of course later on mature further at university. Our students should be taught about commitment and responsibility. We find lack of commitment in employees. They switch from one job to another. Consistency in a job is very much needed.
Life skill training is another important area. Every student needs to learn some basic skills like computer, business planning, marketing planning, and communication skills and so on so that whatever sector they enter, they can easily fit in.
It is possible that Universities can explore the liberal arts education system – where students get an introduction into an array of subjects and they only specialize in their interest area after two years of liberal arts education. There are some key foundation courses that should be applicable for all. And the specialization should only come later, after a candidate is sure about their interest area. The advisers from faculty should work closely with students and guide them to take a proper range of subjects so that they get a more multi dimensional education.

Md. Shafiq-ul Islam, Executive Director, CRP
There is a large number of disable people in Bangladesh. We have to think about their employment. They can add immense resource to our socio-economic development. We held a job fair with Prothom Alo Jobs for disable people. It was an excellent initiative. But it did not go far. There is a gap between training providing institution and employers. Our employers also need to change their mindset and give scope to disable people.
Disable people can be fitted in any sector. They just need proper training.

Humayun Rashid, Managing Director, Energypac Power Generation Ltd.
We want ownership and passion from our employees. But we do not find it in our candidates. Our universities should infuse these qualities in their students. Students should learn how to write resume, how to face an interview and so on.
Our engineering universities should also give more focus on math skills.

Md. Shahidullah Azim, Vice President, BGMEA
Garment industry is a booming sector and it will grow more. In this sector there are lot of scopes also for IT, commercial, finance, banking and other professional. Only BBA does not work. We want some specialization. If universities focus on that specialization we can get better human resources.

Asif Ashraf, Managing Director, URMI Group
Students should understand job market and make their focus. They should be consistent in their preparation for a fixed aim.

Reaz Uddin Al-Mamoon, Managing Director. Epyllion group
We have to promote entrepreneurship. Students should learn to stand on their own. Entrepreneurs should be made our idol.

Rubina H. Farouq, Vice President, Bangladesh Federation of Women Entrepreneurs
Our curriculum is not competency based. We have to do that because competency based curriculum create particular knowledge and skills required for market.
We do not have proper lab facilities for teaching technical subjects. Universities should sign contract with industries so that students can get practical training and lab facilities.
We want to put it into policies that priority should be given to certified and trained candidates.

Hasina Newaaz, Vice President, Bangladesh Women Chamber
As a nation we need to change our mindset. While we talk about university industry co operation, we need to realize that the state has a role to play as well. Right now the state does not connect itself to the curriculum to promote industry university co operation. To add to that, very few companies have activities that would expose students to industries before graduation. If the state comes up with curriculums designed to ensure this access, say for example mandatory course work in related industries, students will have more focused learning. This in course will also trigger the motivations to be an entrepreneur too. It will be a win-win situation.

M Azizul Huq, Managing Director. GlaxoSmithKline
We have to increase students’ participation is class activities. It will lessen their shyness. They would learn how to be focused and how to present themselves effectively.
Our education curriculum is very much job focused. It does not widen our outlook. To be creative and entrepreneurial one needs wide outlook. This quality help one to be competitive.

Munir Hasan, Coordinator, Youth Programme, Prothom Alo
Our universities have all types of clubs except entrepreneurship club. I would urge our universities to introduce entrepreneurship club.
Industries should support different types of start up initiatives  so that new entrepreneurs can emerge.
Freelancing has huge potential to create job opportunities for our young graduates. Young people should try to stand on their own.

Kaniz Almas Khan, CEO, Persona
Beautification industry has a bright prospect in our country. Students from different backgrounds are already joining in this industry. We have jobs for both male and female. To support our technical works of beautification we have back up offices where we need graduates like any other industries. So I would urge our universities to take this industry as a prospective one for graduate’s employment.

Sajjad Zohir, Professor in Economics, BRAC University
I want to ask our job providers why they ask for master’s degree. In most of the cases, the job has nothing to do with the master’s degree. I think it is a disinvestment.
Entrepreneurs can make a rating of universities. Then universities will be able to understand in which sectors they have to improve.
Graduates from public universities still dominate our job market. So we have to also include our public universities in the university-industry collaboration.
Universities are also graduate employers. They have to face the same problem as industries. Therefore, both the university and industry have to tackle the graduate employment issue in cooperation with each other.
University education is also related to what a student learns at the school and college level. So the question of graduation employment is linked with the root causes of our weak education system. Our education is caught into a low-level equilibrium trap. So to get out of it we have to be diagnostic rather than prescriptive.

Mahbub Hossain, Executive Director, BRAC
A semester of our curricula should be devoted to the personal quality development.
In developed countries, universities teach practical implication of theoretical teaching in the last year. They provide a pseudo-market environment for the students so that students can easily adjust with market requirements.
Regular dialogue between industry and university is very important because industries are well aware about continuous changes of requirement of the job market. Working with industry, universities will also understand the market trend. Student fairs should be held regularly so that students can come in touch with industries.

Ishfaq Ilahi Chowdhury, Registrar, BRAC University
Our education budget is below 2% where as South Korea spends 6% of their total budget for education. South Korea spends 4-5% of their GDP for research and development (R&D) where as our budget for R&D is only 1%. First of all we have to allocate more budget for education and research.
In our country, science education is shrinking. This is an alarming news.
From private university we have tried repeatedly to introduce new subject based on market demands. However, this effort gets stuck in red tape. Bureaucracy is hampering development of our private universities.
We have to have our own role models. Our role models should be our farmers and entrepreneurs.
Shyness is embedded in our culture. We even do not ask questions in our family. We are taught not to ask questions.

Matiur Rahman, Editor & Publisher, Prothom Alo
Our knowledge of Bengali language is also poor. We have to learn it effectively.
Corruption, nepotism, politicization have destroyed our universities. We have to save our universities. Otherwise no cooperation will be effective.
Newspaper is an industry and we have to take it that way. In media industry, we do not find efficient business professionals. We badly need them. We have to look for Indian professional because they have that experience and expertise in media industry. There is also a gap between entrepreneurs and newspaper publishing house.
Coaching, mentoring and training are very important. Every industry should follow that.

Salahuddin Ahmed, Managing Editor, The Daily  Star
In our country, industries do not invest in universities.  Why do not we initiate a MBA in garment industries which will be sponsored by the garment industrialists?
Our teachers are not interested about local case studies. Our industries are also not willing to provide information. We have to jointly collect and prepare our local case studies. In this case studies we will find our role models.

BRAC University and Prothom-alojobs have recently organised a roundtable discussion on “Tackling Graduate Unemployment: The Need for University-Industry Cooperation”. We publish here a summary of the discussion.

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