Pandemic puts hurdle in Jordan's fresh graduates’ career path

By the end of 2017-2018 academic year, a total of 56,466 students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Jordan


AMMAN — Armed with new degrees, fresh graduates are facing a myriad of challenges brought on by the pandemic, mainly an economic downturn, to enter the workforce.

Several fresh graduates have told The Jordan Times that the pandemic has “thwarted their hopes” of landing their first job. They said they were added to the waiting list and have not heard back from recruiters.

By the end of 2017-2018 academic year, a total of 56,466 students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Jordan.

The largest number of degrees was conferred in the fields of business and marketing, 10,485; medical professions 8,492; humanitarian studies 7,201; and engineering 6,160, according to the Higher Education Ministry’s 2017-2018 annual statistical report.

According to the Department of Statistics (DoS), the unemployment rate in the first-quarter of 2020 stood at 19.3 per cent.

When contacted by The Jordan Times on Monday regaring the unemployment report for the second-quarter, the DoS said that the report would be available within the first 10 days of September.

Ala’a Rateb, 22, who was a med student and decided to switch majors after finishing her third year, told The Jordan Times that the challenges she faced while considering changing her specialty was “daunting and nerve-wrecking”, but she had to decide once and for all a major that ensures a stable job in the post-pandemic era.

“Medicine has always intrigued me. I have always had passion for it. But in order to build a career and to fulfill my mission, I decided to become a pharmacy student.” Rateb said.

Rateb said that the main reasons for switching majors were the “confines of specialisations” in Jordan.

“Our generation has showed initiative even in times of a pandemic, but also we need support from the authorities to help us jumpstart our careers and not allow our first job plans to go haywire,” according to Rateb.

Bayan Al Hourani, a computer engineering graduate from Al Balqa’ Applied University, said that she has been applying for jobs without success since graduating.

“Every job that I apply to requires prior experience, but how do they think I will get any if no one is accepting on-site trainees due to the ongoing situation,” Hourani added.

Many companies in Jordan accept interns, promising them jobs after a certain period. However, when the internship period is over, they either say they do not have vacancies or that they are cutting costs, which eventually conveys the same message: “I am not accepted,” she said.

However, some managed to find jobs despite the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

Noor Al Manaseer, a fresh medical laboratory sciences graduate, said that even in these “unfortunate times” she was able to secure a job that is not directly connected to her major.

“I used to help out some friends back in college and they saw that I am good at teaching. Later I was hired in an educational centre near my house,” Manaseer said.

In pursuing advanced education, workers may expect to be better prepared for the labour market. They may expect to find a quality job without much delay. But this is not always the case: Highly educated workers can find themselves unemployed, sometimes even for a long time, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

In low-income countries, workers who struggle the most to find suitable jobs are those with an advanced educational level, while in high-income countries, it is those with a basic educational level or less, the ILO said.

Unemployment rate among Jordanians who are above 15 years old stands at 6.9 per cent for males and 7.4 per cent for females who completed the General Secondary Education Certificate Examination, according to 2020 DoS figures.

The unemployment rates among those who have graduate and post-graduate degrees stand at 24.9 per cent for men and 70.7 per cent for women.

Economist Khaled Zbaidi told The Jordan Times on Tuesday that the best choice for recent graduates is self-employment given that the public sector is almost closed and the private sector is struggling to survive.

Current job market requires nontraditional employment models, he said.

“Today’ youth needs a creative and innovative mindset to bring about a fresh idea to the local market,” Zbaidi added.

“Unfortunately, university curricula and courses in Jordan are not keeping pace with the rapid changes in the job market,” Zbaidi noted.

The government needs to undertake investments in public infrastructure, as well as, in other long-term projects that contribute to creating new employment opportunities.

“First-time job seekers have found themselves in an unpleasant economic climate, so this whole new experience would make them more resilient and creative,” he added.

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