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Making graduates employable

The greatest change development brought about in Bhutan is in the education sector. In the short history of modern education, about six decades, the sector has developed so much that we are now overwhelmed with the number of people finishing colleges.

Parents of today’s unemployed graduates finished college when there were more jobs than graduates. Today some students give up hope even before they graduate given the competition in the job market. Some wise or smart parents, aware of government policies knew the trick. There were shortages of engineers. They sent their kids to study engineering. There were not many lawyers. They sent their kids to study law.

But this is not restricted to the educated, rich or the smart parents now. Everybody wants their children to become engineers, lawyers, doctors or architects. It is not only engineering graduates that are not finding jobs, but graduates in every field are also feeling the pressure.

The pressure will increase as the government will take in only a limited number and the private sector is yet to develop to create jobs, as much as we want them to. There are problems and solutions seem to be the hardest to find.

One solution could be rethinking priorities and college education. In the past, a Class six graduate could find jobs because the need was, for instance, to replace the expatriate cashier or clerks with Bhutanese. The need was very basic. Our needs have changed. We have enough general graduates good with theory but without any other skills. The pressure for academic qualification is forcing many parents to ensure their children finish college. Quality and planning is not a priority. This is evident from the employability of the thousands of graduates.

What could come as an encouragement to the graduates, there are scopes with the change in government policies. Our five-year-plan budgets are always on the rise. Which means more work and the need for human resources. The policy of decentralisation of financial power to the local government could create a demand for human resource at the local level. What graduates, engineers or planners, should have is the willingness to work from places outside Thimphu or Phuentsholing.

The creation of thromdes would need planners, architects, civil engineers, administrators even thrompons. We will have to relook at our human resource policy. With change, it will not only remain small and compact. Some in the ministries are already thinking that the central agencies will be weakened when the priority shifts to the local governments.

One way to help future graduates is to have a clear idea on the human resource need and make it transparent to help students or parents decide what to study after higher secondary school. At the same time, there is one basic truth which has not struck our students or parents. That there are more opportunities outside the civil service and what the country needs is skilled people and not general graduates.

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