College – Does it really make you valuable in today’s economy?

Let me first chronicle my personal experiences in transiting to the working economy after graduation. I had graduated with a degree in Chemistry, pretty general track of studies I would say. The school I had attended was relatively new, and modules were disorganized; and very much related to the respective professors’ field of research and had little related to real world industries. Education quality was very clearly the least of the dean’s concerns, as they were more drawn to the prospect of jetting up the school’s rankings through the route of mass publishing of research papers.

So yep, armed with a general science degree, I wandered about aimlessly navigating the swamped job market with little advice or direction. Needless to say, that vague sense of hopelessness began to overwhelm me. Sure, there were a myriad of jobs out there, but when I scrolled through the requirements section, it seemed that my resume failed to fit the bill. Chemistry related industries requested job specific skills and certs, which my educational background did no justice to. Clearly something had gone wrong with the Singaporean educational system. How could I fork out thousands every semester, slogged like a nocturnal creature to get through the exams, and end up so ‘unemployable’ in the sight of a prospective employer? This did no justice to the pain and sacrifice I had endured through the journey of nailing exams. In such a paper nation, traditional universities seemed to have failed in their purported duty to educate and skill the workforce in an ever changing work environment.

While I do not condone the personal duty of seeking self improvement by exercising vigilance to reskill as acording to the changing work trends, I see that universities really need to buck up in answering to students who pay copious amounts for school fees, that the end product of an university education justifies its cost. We are talking about legit, usable skills that people need to have before they leave school, not just the ability to take exams well and get first class honours.

After decades of shortsighted emphasis on paper grades, society has finally awoken from its slumber, seeing massive powers like China charge ahead with original innovations, technology and even space programmes. This is a true mark of a first-world nation – the ability to identify and solve problems by self-inventing technology, engineering solutions that will be sought after by the world. Clearly not borrowing and buying foreign technology, and importing ‘foreign-talent’ and giving them the leeway to leech off funds to innovate just for them to leave eventually, and neglecting citizens. What a silly way of governance.

With the emergence of learning programmes that aim to fit workers into industries more seamlessly, yes, I agree that finally, some work has been done to plug the skills gap in the local economy, albeit a little too late. Yep and of course, I capitalized on such opportunities and am currently being trained for a specialized role in a high-value manufacturing industry. Eventually I have plans to move abroad to learn more and solidify my career, as I feel that learning can plateau in such a tiny place.

Just some personal thoughts. Why not Singapore borrow a leaf from Germany’s book, and invest more in analyzing trends in the economy to come,? And work closely with universities to tailor degree courses that prepare students to go straight into industries? It saves a great deal of time, stress, and money. The students will thank you for it, which will translate to loyalty to your government, which is what you have been dying to buy since the wave of ‘political dissent’ that has emerged in recent years?

 

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