Earlier this June, over 9 million Chinese students took the gaokao, China’s university entrance exam. This is somewhat similar to the SAT in the United States. However, unlike the SAT and US university system, there is much fewer university selection to choose. By some estimates, this year’s high school graduates are competing for 6.85 million places at Chinese universities, according to Ministry of Education figures reported by China Daily.
For the lucky students, this means an opportunity to rise up in the social-econonic stratus, getting out of the country-side villages and into corporate jobs in China’s biggest cities.
However, getting top scores and graduating from university are not the only criteria for employers in China any longer. With increasing global competitive pressure, companies in China are looking for other criterion to be better position in the global market place.
Survey – Education Background Not the Only Criteria
Regus conducted a survey recently on employer selection criteria of Chinese students. According to the survey:
- Only 9% of mainland companies polled consider educational background their top hiring criterion.
- Companies value most is practical, on-the-ground experience—such as internships—something that nearly 30% of respondents listed as their top priority when evaluating potential employees.
- Personality and foreign-language skills were each cited by 21% of mainland employers as their key hiring criterion
Internship and Work Experience Important
The Regus study surveyed over 330 business executives concentrated in major Chinese cities in information technology, consulting and manufacturing industries. The emphasis on internship experience, not educational background, was even more pronounced among IT industry employers.
While 70% of the companies surveyed indicated they plan on hiring new grads, given the nearly 7 million jobseekers who will graduate this year, competition for jobs is fierce. Salaries can be meager and won’t earn enough to make a living in the big cities they once imagined. These groups of university have been coined the term “Ant Tribe.”
While China-based university students are facing stuff competition for limited employment opportunities. Their compatriots from overseas are returning competing for the same opportunities. Their international exposure, dual language skills and creativity competencies puts them ahead of their counterparts.
For example, in the an article by China Daily, the writer highlights Chelsea Hu, who will graduate with a master’s degree in communication management from the University of Southern California. Hu is anticipating she can secure roles other than entry-level, higher title and more pay.
China maybe at a cross-roads. If the Chinese university system are not producing the sort of students needed for the workplace of the future, companies may need to rethink how it prepares its workforce. Providing internship is a start. Securing top students early in their education life may be a start but, may not be sufficient to change the system – which is necessary for China to stay competitive in the global talent marketplace.