I still remember Mahbub Shaheen, a fresh geography graduate from the University of Dhaka, who took his own life.
His friends later confirmed that he had been growing frustrated over the years for not being able to secure a job after completing the post-graduation from the most renowned public university in the country.
Another graduate named Tanjina Akter Shukti from Jahangirnagar University ingested poison for the same reasons.
I witness such frustration on social media posts, or through direct articulations from my own students, on a near regular basis.
They all have the same problem, which is, to say, that they are unsure of what to do next after achieving their academic goals, where to look for a job, or if there are even any jobs available for them to begin with.
To that end, we need to ruminate over certain crucial questions on this issue:
What are the reasons behind such frustration?
How can we keep them up-to-date about the job situation in Bangladesh and that of abroad?
What should be our approach to communicate with these young grads?
How feasible is it to offer some sort of career counselling to them?
But, most importantly, we need to ask ourselves how we can make our graduates more “employable.”
Whenever I try to inform my students (most of who come from a Humanities backgrounds) about the different ways of searching for a job after completing their graduation, I always observe an intense sense of, for want of a better word, “curiosity” in them.
This indicates that they do not have the adequate information about career paths, and how they diverge. Surprisingly, none of our public universities run careers services for students to enable them to develop their employability. Right now, only a handful of private universities in Bangladesh offer such services. In public universities, the faculty of business occasionally arranges careers fairs for letting certain students meet with potential employers whereas the other faculties, for instance the faculty of science or humanities, do not engage in such initiatives.
I would say that careers and employability services for students in public universities are essential, especially in a country like ours, where establishing a link between education and skill-based professions are expected.
Graduates who do not possess any sort of support find themselves lulled into frustration and depression, which often leads them into taking drastic actions such as committing suicide
Careers and employability services in universities are very common in more developed countries. Those services generally include conducting various workshops to train students on how to write CVs, what sort of skills they might need to apply for various jobs, how to build up specific skills for specialsed jobs, and so on and so forth.
It is amazing that students in developed countries have enormous support programs offered by their universities in preparing them for the job market, whereas students in Bangladesh merely depend on their own initiative to find a job.
Consequently, graduates who do not possess any sort of support -- for example from family and friends – find themselves lulled into frustration and depression, which often leads them into taking drastic actions such as committing suicide.
An urgent situation
This is why it has now become all the more urgent for our educational institutes to offer career-related services.
It is possible to develop our students to make them more employable through such services, since they will be able to identify their existing skills and strengths, improve on them, and learn to match their skills with specific jobs. They will be informed in advance about any alternative opportunities which would result in organizing themselves better to start their careers initially.
Teaching staff, especially new faculty members, can also benefit by being able to access career services through participating in workshops.
Of course, this may raise additional discussion on whether it is the responsibility of universities to inform their teaching staff about relevant service rules or train them on the latest teaching methods, or if it is the responsibility of young teachers to collect information on such issues in existing, conventional ways: By asking senior colleagues point by point.
However, it is undeniable that careers services can work to benefit both parties. On the one hand, university teaching staff would be able to comprehend work-related issues based on evidence; and on the other hand, universities would be able to point the finger at their staff justifiably for any violation of rules.
The tenuous connection between higher education and skill-based profession appears as a hole in our entire education system -- and offering career services in public universities could be a practical step to fix this hole.
Asmat A Islam teaches philosophy at Jagannath University.