THE REVISION of the Employment Services Act, which became effective on International Workers’ Day, celebrated on May 1, will usher in changes that aim to help new graduates find jobs. According to the new rules, the state will contribute to the on-the-job training of graduates only if they work within their field of study or related fields, and if they have been registered with the local labour office as unemployed for at least one month. The state contribution has also dropped to 65 percent of the subsistence wage, Labour Ministry spokesperson Barbora Petrová told The Slovak Spectator.
The revision also provides more detailed definitions for job seekers who are eligible for the on-the-job training contribution. People younger than 26 who have finished their full-time study within the last two years and have not found a regular paying job will be eligible for the support, according to Petrová.
Even if the state’s contribution helps graduates find work, it is only a partial solution to their unemployment, Peter Mihók, chair of the Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SOPK), told The Slovak Spectator. Mihók suggested that weak links between the labour market and the education sector are among the most significant factors hindering the creation of new job opportunities for graduates.
“Insufficient interconnection between the education system and the needs of the labour market is one of the most significant and long-term unsolved problems, and has a negative impact on the unemployment rate, particularly with regard to unemployed school graduates,” Mihók said.
For instance, around one third of more than 68,000 students who graduated from grammar school in the past three years are unemployed because they are not prepared for a job and are unusable on the labour market, Jaroslav Holeček, the head of the Slovak Association of Automotive Industry (ZAP) said, as quoted by SITA newswire. He added that only around 6.5 percent of job seekers with a secondary school education found jobs in their fields of study and almost 50 percent of those with secondary grammar school education enrolled in universities.
The purpose of on-the-job training is to allow graduates to obtain professional skills and practical experience that corresponds with the achieved level of education in the relevant scholarly disciplines or fields of study, according to Petrová.
“After a half year of on-the-job training young people will be able to show to employers that they have six months of real work experience in the field in which they studied,” Petrová said.
The reason for limiting the contribution only to job positions related to the graduate’s field of study is because the previous terms, which allowed people to receive on-the-job training in areas they did not study, turned out to be too broad, according to Petrová. She added that the ministry wants to give graduates the opportunity to receive training not only in the field in which they studied but also in related fields.
“It means that, for instance, a confectioner graduate may complete on-the-job training not only in confectionery, but also in related job [positions] in the food sector,” Petrová said.
Mihók says that offering support only to graduates working in their field of study or related fields is the right move. The previous practice was to re-qualify graduates from all types of schools, according to Mihók, adding that re-qualification was relatively expensive and did not yield the desired results.
Despite a decrease in the amount of the state contribution, the Labour Ministry does not expect graduates’ social situation to worsen significantly, arguing that it is mainly intended to cover graduates’ expenses related to travelling for work, Petrová said, adding that the state also pays for graduates’ accident insurance during the period of training.
Work and education
The low level of interconnectedness between the education system and the labour market also has an impact on employers, who struggle to find proper employees as a result, which will also discourage potential employees from coming to Slovakia, according to ZAP vice-president Július Hron, SITA reported.
“Which firm will come here if it has no one to work with,” Hron asked rhetorically, as quoted by SITA. “Even we [Slovak employers] are decreasing our production because we do not have people who will work in our firms; and we are not speaking about labourers’ professions, but peak vocational professions.”
However, there are other reasons for the low employment rate among graduates, for example, a high number of schools offering education of minimal use on the labour market, and a decrease in the quality of education at high schools and colleges, according to Mihók. He also pointed to barriers that slow business development and lower the quality of the business environment.
Considering the long-term unemployment rate, the number of unemployed vocational school graduates reflects the economic cycle and the crisis, Education Ministry spokesperson Michal Kaliňák told The Slovak Spectator, adding that the problem is also connected to a low level of employer participation in vocational education.
To help people who lack an education find a job, Peter Goliaš, director of the economic think tank INEKO, proposes extending compulsory school attendance from 10 years to 12, SITA reported. Citing Slovak Statistics Office (ŠÚ) data, he said that the unemployment rate among people with basic education, without factoring age, reached 44.5 percent in 2012, while only 17 percent of people who had a basic vocational education but did not pass secondary school final exams (aka maturita) were unemployed that year.
Extension of compulsory school attendance may decrease the unemployment rate among young people from 15 to 18, Kaliňák said in response. However, without adoption of additional measures such as higher participation of employers in vocational education or job creation it may just shift those unemployed people to higher age categories in the statistics.
Who earns the most?
WITH AN average salary of €1676 per month as of February 2013, information and communication technology was the highest-paying career sector in the country. At the opposite end of the spectrum, people working in the restaurant and catering industry had the lowest salaries, averaging €367 per month in February, according to the Slovak Statistics Office (ŠÚ). Statistics also show that men and university graduates earn higher salaries, on average, than women and people without degrees.
In February, 2013, the average salary across all industrial sectors was €801 per month; in the building industry, €559 per month; in automobile sales and repair, €755 per month; in retail, €553 per month; in wholesale, €738 per month; in housing, €566 per month; in transport and storage, €683 per month; and in some chosen services, €829 per month. The average real wage, adjusted to inflation, increased most significantly in the field of auto repair and sales by 1.4 percent, while the most rapid decline in salary occurred in information and communication technology, by 9.5 percent in a year-on-year comparison.
The average gross monthly wage for women was 24.2 percent lower than that of men in 2011, according to the ŠÚ.
Starting salaries for university graduates were around €158 higher compared to those with only secondary school qualifications in 2012. Starting salaries varied considerably across sectors and regions, but for people with a secondary education but no university degree, the starting salary was €661 on average, compared to €819 for people with a university degree in 2012, Ľudmila Guerin, senior consultant at consultancy firm PwC told The Slovak Spectator, in reference to the 2012 PayWell remuneration study, conducted by the PwC HR Consulting team among 296 companies operating in Slovakia. By Roman Cuprik
12. May 2013 at 0:00 | Roman Cuprik