Aligning tertiary programmes with job market demands

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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Dear Editor,

Local universities offer a wide range of majors and that is a creditable thing because doing so adds to the academic diversification of the institutions. However, there is a concern that perhaps there are too many programmes. In other words, one begins to wonder if universities are offering some programmes for the sake of raking in more money to fatten their pockets rather than focusing on the practicality of applicants pursuing those programmes.

If you take a detailed, scrutinising look at the tertiary majors offered locally, you will see that some majors are not very marketable. There are some degrees that make me ask one question: Where will someone work after graduating with such a degree? This is a question that some people will find themselves asking when viewing the offerings by a particular prominent university.

It is not fair that a student should struggle to pay high tuition fees for years, go through the hassle of student loans, put in numerous hours of study time, and at the end of the day he/she graduates with a degree that does not provide much job opportunities because the degree is not high in demand, if at all.

There are two ways to approach the revision of how local universities decide what degree programmes to offer. The first option is for the University Council of Jamaica to produce a public report every four years (typical duration of a full-time undergraduate degree). This report should indicate a 'marketable rating' for each tertiary programme offered by each institution and should be based on (in this order): the job market demand in Jamaica, then the job market demand in countries that record the highest levels of Jamaicans working overseas. Programmes with a low rating should be discontinued. The tertiary programmes that are not marketable locally but are in demand overseas should be limited to international students only so that they can seek employment in their home country when they return.

The other option is for all local institutions to produce a regularly updated student handbook that outlines each tertiary programme offered and the corresponding local employers for which job opportunities are available after graduation. This will encourage some level of transparency within each institution and will allow potential applicants to make informed decisions regarding their future career.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information should look into the matter.

The Writer




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