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Bring more than your degrees

Skills, critical thinking matter more in job market
Published: 
Thursday, September 7, 2017
Employers tell Lok Jack hopefuls...

After over 15 years of state-sponsored tertiary education, job applicants with multiple degrees and post graduate qualifications have become quite common. Even with a wealth of highly educated citizens, employers are finding it difficult to find people with high-prized critical thinking skills.

Speaking at a forum at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business on changes in the Government Assisted Tertiary Education (Gate) programme for prospective students, two educators and a successful graduate all concluded that corporate head hunters are looking for strategic thinkers to fill top management positions.

Mirza Ali-Mohammed, an adjunct lecturer and former human resource consultant, shared his experience of recruitment in the oil and gas industry.

“As a human resource manager in the Point Lisas area, people would come and give you thick resumes with degree after degree, course after course. Sometimes we just put it aside and ask them to tell us what they can do,” Ali-Mohammed said.

Like Ali-Mohammed, former student and current CEO of the Youth Training Employment and Partnership Programme (YTEPP) Nigel Forgenie was also critical of people who they repeatedly described as professional students.

“Many people are functionally incompetent. There are people with degrees who think because they have these pieces of paper they know but when you put them to the test they don’t,” Forgenie said.

The school’s director of academic development and accreditation Dr Kamla Mungal conferred.

“Grades and certification are important but employers are very discerning now of the competencies you can bring to the table,” Mungal said.

All three called on “professional students” to consider whether an MBA (Masters of Business Administration) fit into their career plans and goals.

Ali-Mohammed said: “Pursuing your MBA is supposed to make you a big picture thinker and to help you make important and strategic decisions. That is what companies are looking for. You need to know how to think.”

Describing himself as the school’s unofficial cheerleader, Nigel Forgenie, CEO of YTEPP, said the skills he learned during his two years at the school were instrumental in him landing his current position.

“When they told me in the interview that I had to do a presentation I just smiled because during my MBA, I had the opportunity to do a lot of group work and presentations for almost every single course. It was a piece of cake,” Forgenie said with a grin.

He went on to reveal that he relied on his text book from his corporate turnaround course after his organisation’s budget was cut in half last year due to government austerity measures.

“I went back to the corporate turnaround guideline in the text to see how we could re-engage the company and hit our targets in spite of having a $66 million budget cut.

“I have to say we have not sent anybody home and we have still delivered on our programmes,” he added.

Mungal explained that the school was ideally suited to producing graduates with sought-after skills as it is staffed by lecturers, most of whom are top business professionals at major local companies before entering academia.

She also noted that much of the course material centred around case studies of local businesses for which students can relate.

They also encouraged their students to take advantage of the GATE funding which has recently been limited by the introduction of a means test for students.

“In the beginning, GATE encompassed anything; now it is diminishing.

“We don’t know what is going to happen next year or the year after so if you are considering an MBA, the time is now,” Ali-Mohammed said.

Speaking at the forum the school’s chief financial officer (CFO) Anganee Persadie admitted that she felt GATE funding would continue to take a hit due to the country’s economic woes.

However, she encouraged the students to take advantage of existing opportunities and to use the knowledge gain in tertiary education to help develop the country.

“We must take advantage, learn, grow and then make an impact in our country,” Persadie added.