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Skilled labor badly needed as too few jobs for youths

Updated: 2013-06-08 10:47
By Wei Tian in Chengdu ( China Daily)

Skilled labor badly needed as too few jobs for youths
A graduate holds a paper which says "Is it difficult to find a job for graduates? Yes. Please give me a job", at a recruitment fair for young people in Bozhou, Anhui province. This year was described as the "toughest year" for college graduates. [Photo/China Daily]

Experts and employers at the Chengdu Fortune Global Forum are urging greater efforts from both graduates and authorities in tackling the mismatch between supply and demand in China's labor market.

The call was made amid what was described as the "toughest year" for college graduates.

In 2013, 7 million graduates will flock onto the job market, but less than half had secured a job as the July graduation ceremonies approach, according to Lu Mai, secretary-general of the China Development Research Foundation, who addressed the forum on Thursday.

But, Li-Kai Chen, a partner with McKinsey & Co, a fellow panelist beside Lu, presented another take on the statistics.

China will face a shortfall of about 24 million highly-skilled workers by 2020, he said.

"If China does not bridge the gap, the costs, in the form of lower productivity and lost opportunities, could be more than $250 billion, which is about 2.3 percent of GDP," Chen said.

China's dilemma is not unique: There are 75 million youth that are unemployed at the moment globally, and about 40 percent of the employers say that lack of skills is the main reason for vacancies.

However, Chen said, half of the youth said their post-secondary education might not be helpful in improving their chances of finding a job.

He said employers are generally good at identifying hard skills by degrees, but not as good in finding soft skills, such as social skills and the willing to learn continuously.

This view was echoed by Ellen Kullman, chairman and CEO of DuPont. "It used to be that we published an ad and then got the right people, but today, from a qualified point of view, its very hard for us to get the right people."

"Graduates coming out of universities today certainly possess better knowledge than years ago, but they lack the appropriate soft skills.

"Many college graduates say 'I got a degree and that's it', but actually, you have to have the curiosity and should never stop learning, for learning is a life-long task," she said.

When many people are complaining about the glass ceiling in some companies, Kullman said a more challenging issue was many young people would rather put themselves in a box and say, "I'm done."

"Such soft skills need to be developed in the very early years," Lu said.

He also said the CDRF has already carried out pilot programs in less-developed Qinghai and Yunnan provinces, with measures, including better pre-school education, in a bid to nurture soft skills among China's next generation.

The panelists also agreed that the employers should play a role in helping freshman succeed.

"Young people can be very creative if you give them opportunities, thus it the boss's job to encourage your staff to do what they want, besides their assigned work," Lu said.

In the meantime, continued training in private job training schools would be a another solution, said Xu Xiaoping, co-founder of New Oriental Education & Technology Group, China's largest private education organization.

"Entrepreneurship is the most important soft skill," Xu said.

"The Chinese education system doesn't encourage individualism, but that's exactly what we called for in New Oriental."

Once the younger generation has the spirit to depend on itself, and start up business with its own ideas, that will be when the economy experiences a new dawn, he said.