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PERSPECTIVE

Can Hong Kong graduates cope in the workplace?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 5:44pm

 

Just how tough are our university students? A recent survey conducted jointly by social enterprise Solution on Wheels and charity Wu Zhi Qiao (Bridge to China) found that of 1,000 people interviewed (118 of whom were undergraduates), only 7.5 per cent thought students could tolerate being reprimanded and only 9.5 per cent felt young people could deal with boredom.

Vincent Wong, CEO of Solution on Wheels, suggests such scepticism might be due to the public's higher expectation of university graduates. He believes graduates would cope better with both issues once they found employment.

Eric Chan, a medical student who participated in the project, says: "Students need to face reality, as making mistakes at work is far more serious than in school."

The report also said that young people should not expect sudden riches after graduating.

While the survey may not have been entirely scientific, and the sample may have been small, its findings do seem to fit the common perceptions in society of young people. The question is why do these persist?

Certainly, in a civilised community we expect citizens to treat each other with proper respect, regardless of seniority. But, unfortunately, the fact remains that in a workplace those offering advice are not always entirely courteous.

However, shouldn't we expect this? When I entered the job market, my generation was prepared for the toughness of real life, and we took it as something we had to learn about - a necessary part of growing up. And, in most cases, we did not take that personally.

In his book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman describes how in a world where outsourcing is the norm, employees are often expected to work long hours. Furthermore, with multinational corporations everywhere, being transferred overseas for work is also common practice.

And who has to be told this?

Unless you get lucky and find yourself a job you enjoy - and such roles are rare - you are bound to find your job not very exciting or rewarding.

A university is a place of higher learning; it is not a model of your future workplace. We never dreamed that once we left the campus, we would walk straight into a rose garden.

We were rightly told there was no rose garden awaiting us. We were taught that we should work hard, save hard, and struggle our way through in sweat and tears.

So the question we, as a community, have to ask is why the current generation of young university graduates is so fragile. How have they come to be so vulnerable? Surely, as the world is getting more competitive, our young citizens ought to be tougher, not weaker.

Maybe we should reflect on our way of raising children nowadays. The overprotected young are not sturdy enough to face the harsh reality of the modern workplace.

The primary school, the secondary school and the home front are the formative places for young people - not university campuses. Ronald Teng is the founder of MEA, a promoter of liberal arts education

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