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Graduate tracer study reveals employment prospects after UWI dim

Published:Monday | November 23, 2015 | 11:51 PMStaff Reporter
The most recent graduate tracer study released by the University Office of Planning and Development reveals that there has been a steady decline in employment rates across CARICOM countries since 2009, particularly in Jamaica and Barbados.

Even as enrolment numbers continue to climb at the University of the West Indies (UWI), the prospects for employment once graduates exit the premier tertiary institution in the region have never been more dim.

The most recent graduate tracer study released by the University Office of Planning and Development reveals that there has been a steady decline in employment rates across CARICOM countries since 2009, particularly in Jamaica and Barbados.

The tracer study which has been conducted since 2009 surveys first degree graduates one year after graduation.

The last cohort, which was surveyed in 2014, graduated in 2013, with results being complied in 2015.

In 2009 when the survey was first conducted the employment rate for a student that earned a degree from the Mona Campus is Jamaica was 91 per cent.

Fast Forward to the 2013 cohort, that employment rate has seen a precipitous decline to 73 per cent.

Following a similar pattern of decline the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados registered a 73 per cent employment rate for its 2013 cohort down from a 79 per cent rate for its 2009 graduates.

The twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago which hosts the St Augustine campus of the regional university saw employment rate for graduates slide to 80 per cent for its 2013 cohort compared to a 91 per cent rate enjoyed by its 2009 graduating class.

When assessed by faculty and area of study, students that studied Education, Medicine and Engineering continue to enjoy above average employment rates on an annual basis.

Below average employment rates were, however, recorded for graduates who pursued studies in Agriculture, Science and Technology, Humanities and Social Sciences.

For prospective students looking at which area of study will earn them the most income, the tracer study points to medicine, education and engineering.

These areas of study were rated in the  top tier of the initial earning levels of graduates.

At the lower end of the tier, earning below median salaries were students with degrees in Life and Physical Sciences, History, Literary, Cultural and Communication Studies and Economics.

Issues highlighted in the summary findings of the study include the fact that survey results suggest an oversupply of graduates in particular areas and high demand in other areas.

The data analysis also noted that young graduates are not prepared for the competitive and harsh labour market conditions due to lack of proper career guidance services.

Additionally the study noted that the absorptive capacity for the number of graduates coming out of the university is limited particularly in the private sector.

According to the study this is a structural problem and the UWI will need to expand its role in transforming Caribbean economies in order to adequately address the problem.