A policy to energise the PNG jobs market

Prime Minister James Marape addresses the Pacific Adventist University’s 35th graduation ceremony (PMNEC)

| PNG Career Development Inc

PORT MORESBY -In the first issue of The Organizational Doctor, published last August, I wrote on the important outcomes of a short survey I conducted on the issue of connecting graduates to jobs.

In Papua New Guinea we are producing many fine graduates who cannot find appropriate employment: this is a quite appalling situation for them and their families and a terrible waste to the nation.

Although my research was limited to recent graduates of the University of PNG, it revealed many useful insights that apply more broadly to graduates in Papua New Guinea who are having difficult finding employment.

These included poor visibility of entry level jobs, which are mostly not advertised, and a lack of skills on where and how to search for jobs, CV preparation, cover letter writing and interview techniques.

Amongst the practical initiatives that would improve this situation immensely would be the development of a website dedicated to providing information about entry level jobs and the establishment of a National Graduate Employment Scheme.

While teaching at UPNG, I’ve been actively assisting students by running workshops to assist students get a job.

The workshops cover writing CVs and cover letters as well as interview and job search tips.

I’ve distributed advertisements on internships, graduate development programs and entry level jobs, written reference letters for my students and supplemented with some research into jobs and employment opportunities for recent graduates.

I have complemented these efforts by creating two WhatsApp groups which have close to 500 active job seekers. I post jobs daily in these groups and encourage members to do the same and help each other.

In addition, I created the Facebook group, PNG Career Development Inc, in which along with committed volunteers I publicise and share current job vacancies each day. The group has a current membership of more than 23,000.

These efforts are my contribution to easing the way for young graduates but they are not sufficient to make a dent on a huge problem. Other people in PNG have initiated similar platforms. But the government should have a role in by providing this support.

Job creation is one of the key measures of a government’s performance in office. It’s a major driver of economic growth and a prosperous society.

Voters take very seriously whether or not they and their children and relatives are able to find a job. And when voters take things seriously, so do most governments because voters make decisions on how well a government is doing its job.

Media and academic commentators criticise or praise governments for their capability in many areas – and jobs are always in the top group.

Private sector companies and employers are significantly affected by the jobs market and have a great interest in whether governments are creating jobs.

So from many perspectives, government action through policy, legislation and investment is known to be critical.

In the US, Australia and many other countries, the small-medium enterprise sector provides the bulk of jobs.

The lesson in this for PNG, is that our government should ensure its policy and other tools are always employment friendly and puts the proper emphasis on the small-medium and informal sectors. And this is one of the key challenges for the Marape-Basil government.

These jobs must be created not just in the extractive sector but in quantity across other sectors.

raduation ceremony at the University of Papua New Guinea in the presence of the Duke of Edinburgh,  February 1974 (Pacific Manuscripts Bureau)

In PNG it is generally acknowledged that jobs are not being created quickly enough to accommodate the growing number of graduates coming out of the colleges and universities. It has not helped that the economy has been negatively affected by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The truth is that government agencies are not recruiting while the jobs being visibly advertised are predominantly in the private sector and the development/non-government sector.

From these understandings, I feel it is safe to say that graduate unemployment is quite high, although actual figures are hard if not impossible to get.

One piece of good advice I heard is for graduates to create their own jobs. But this is easier to say than to do. Even if they have marketable skills and knowledge, it is difficult for graduates to assemble the start-up capital and identify people who will pay for those skills.

Some government departments and private companies have begun to create short term internships and fully developed graduate development programs to meet their own needs.

These are genuine and admirable initiatives but do not make a dent on the growing number of unemployed graduates.

Based on my own research and analysis, many graduates start in jobs not related to their qualifications, while many more remain unemployed until ending up in the informal sector.

In PNG, the government is one of the biggest employers but its manpower needs must be better coordinated and managed. This requires individual government departments to develop appropriate policies and take their responsibilities for job creation and career advancement seriously.

Government action must be must not be sustained, strategic and coordinated in key growth areas, not piecemeal and ad hoc.

To this end, PNG requires a National Employment Policy in which the need to accommodate graduates – and not waste their 15 or more years of education – must feature prominently.

The policy could be subsumed within, say, the Department of Labor and Employment, in association with agencies such as National Planning and Monitoring, Community Development & Religion, Labour & Employment, and Higher Education, Research, Science & Technology (DHERST).

The National Employment Policy will mandate the development of:

— a communications function including a dedicated website amongst other information channels

— tailored training to prepare graduates for the challenges and demands working life

— provincial job centres in in partnership with donor agencies and the private sector to connect job seekers with available jobs

— strategies to mobilise resources and personnel to create a more effective jobs market

Relevant legislation will be required to realise the policy and it is a responsibility of government to seize the initiative for such a reform, and imperative that other actors support and contribute to such a forward-thinking and necessary plan.

JOHN KAMASUA is a qualified career counsellor with a certificate in life coaching from the University of Cambridge (UK). He has a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (UPNG) and a Masters in Social Development and Sustainable Livelihoods (University of Reading, UK).
John has extensive experience in community and social development in the Asia-Pacific region.  In 2017, he established PNG Career Development Inc. He can be contacted by email (pngcareerdev@gmail.com) or phone (675) 73682178

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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