One-third of post-school graduates face employment struggle

Two-thirds of graduates from post-school education and training programmes have found employment while about one-third remain unemployed, a new study from the Samoa Qualifications Authority (S.Q.A) has found. 

The S.Q.A on Friday released the results of research into post-school education, primarily a 'tracer' study into the career trajectories of graduates. The Authority also launched the 2018 Post-School Education and Training Statistical Bulletin and new standards for education programmes in water and sanitation: the National Competency Standards and Samoa Qualifications Levels. 

The most recent tracer study was conducted in November last year and concluded its findings this April. The survey sought out graduates from training programmes between 2015-17 to determine whether their education had proved relevant to their professional lives. 

The study also examine the reasons why some graduates are encountering difficulty finding employment and how education providers could improve their offerings. 

The S.Q.A.'s Acting Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O) in charge of its professional qualifications division, Lealiifano Easter Manila Silipa, said the majority of graduates hold paid jobs and a small proportion are self-employed.

This is the fourth graduate tracer study since 2013 and the second study to include all formal post-school graduates.

The survey had a  response rate of 51 percent, or low relative to the S.Q.A.'s starting benchmark of 80 per cent. However, the Authority said this iteration of the survey was plagued by issues stemming from training and education providers not providing accurate contact information for graduates. 

“There’s a lot of mobility [among] graduates: those that move from place to place, like when we go to Savai'i, they move to Upolu and when we come back to Upolu with the contact and location of the family, he has gone back to Savaii or [moved] somewhere else and so those were the difficulties that we found that took us a long time to finish the survey," Lealiifano said. 

The S.Q.A found that, of the 1207 students surveyed 742 found full or part-time employment and they typically waited between one week to six months to do so. 

The private sector only accounted for 19 per cent of graduate employment opportunities, the research found, meaning that public sector jobs accounted for the majority of graduate employment for Samoans. Between them, ministries and corporations accounted for 70 per cent of graduates' employment opportunities. 

The level of a graduate's qualifications correlated strongly with their income. Female graduates tended to earn more than $1000 while males earned only about $700. 

Using classifications from the International Labor Organisation, the survey also asked graduates whether their qualifications matched their current job. 

“[We] wanted to get the feedback [about] our providers’ education [programmes],” Lealiifano said.

“So we asked them to rate between 1 and 5 - 5 being the highest.”

The majority of providers were scored between a 4 and a 5, the S.Q.A. found, suggesting that their programmes were viewed as helpful. 

Graduates nominated providing more up-to-date resources for learning and more internationally recognised qualifications among the areas for improvement. 

The Authority's recommendations included prioritising programmes with better employment prospects but also to look at the continuation of valid programmes without employment outcomes.

“Another thing with the assessment of the students is for them to understand the quality and the relevance of our programme, so another important recommendation here is for our providers to try and bring in accurate [and complete graduate contact] information to lift up the response rate," Lealiifano said.

The study will continue as a source of graduate feedback while attempts to raise its statistical validity continue. 

Another study launched on Friday was the Post-School Education and Training Statistical Bulletin 2018. The Bulletin collects data on graduates and the qualifications of lecturers and trainers throughout the 2018 academic year across formal and non-formal education providers. 

Lealiifano stressed that data quality also presented a challenge to this research. 

A third document released on Friday was the National Competency Standards and Samoa Qualifications Levels 1-4 in Water and Sanitation. 

The documents will now enable providers to adopt new national standards when delivering education programmes. 

Lealiifano acknowledged the continued participation of and support from providers and stakeholders for developing the research and new standards and graduates for participating. 

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