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Job-hunting college grads need 'soft power'

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-06-08 14:17

CHENGDU -- With China's make-or-break national college entrance exams beginning Friday, some of the world's most attractive employers have told new college students that they must develop "soft power" if they want decent jobs upon graduating.

Ellen Kullman, chairwoman and CEO of DuPont, said college students lack certain skills that employers value, such as cross-cultural communication skills, curiosity and commitment to constant self-improvement.

About 7 million students are graduating from Chinese colleges this year, marking the biggest number of grads in the country's history. But China's GDP growth slid to 7.7 percent in the first quarter, and analysts have said that economic recovery will remain tepid.

In Beijing, only one-third of college students set to graduate this month have received job offers, much lower than figures registered in previous years. In Shanghai, the percentage also declined.

Li-Kai Chen, a partner at McKinsey & Company, said skill mismatches have also given Chinese grads employment problems.

Chen said schools should strengthen communication with enterprises to address rising youth unemployment and companies' constant complaints of talent shortages.

McKinsey said in a report last year that close cooperation between educators and employers is key to successful education programs.

"Education providers and employers should actively step into one another's worlds," the report said. "Employers might help to design curricula and offer their employees as faculty, for example, while education providers may have students spend half their time on a job site and secure hiring guarantees for them."

McKinsey noted that in the best programs, employers and education providers work with their students early and intensely.

Unemployment among young people is not unique China. The International Labor Organization has predicted that the global youth unemployment rate will reach 12.6 percent in 2013, saying the figure is "close to its crisis peak."

According to ILO, 73 million young people are currently unemployed. At the same time, informal employment among young people is pervasive and transitions into decent work are slow and difficult.

"A lack of soft power has especially hindered job-hunting for students coming from rural areas," said Lu Mai, secretary-general of the China Development Research Foundation.

Lu said letting rural children study in cities is the ultimate solution.

Xu Xiaoqing, a well-known Chinese educator, said Chinese education does not encourage students to be themselves or to suggest their own ideas.

"Young people these days express their ideas through social networking websites. But they do not do so in class," Lu said.

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