Character formation among young more important than academic results
There needs to be a cultural change that emphasises character-building to promote effective behaviour; without it, there will be many jobless young people in the country, warns Ronald Benjamin.
In the course of my work as the head of a human resource department responsible for recruitment and selection, I usually drop in at Jobs Malaysia Perak in Ipoh to check the files of potential candidates who could be recruited.
The positions available are usually for those with machinery and administrative skills. From the files handed over by the officers in charge, most of the candidates are Form Five school leavers, and there are also degree and diploma holders. The candidates come from two major communities, Malay and Indian Malaysians.
It is difficult to find Chinese Malaysian candidates who are not employed. This clearly reveals a distinct cultural orientation towards careers among the Chinese Malaysian community. I discovered they are prone to enrolling for professional courses that make them employable besides having an entrepreneurialspirit. Most of them are off to Kuala Lumpur, Penang or Singapore.
As I flip through the resumes given, I find quite a number of candidates who failed SPM. Their leaving certificates merely state their academic results and activities at school and whether their behaviour was good. There is no indication of their experiences in school that could potentially meet the needs of relevant industries; nor are there any character-based endeavours or any technical skills that would convince me to employ them.
Behavioural achievements that are ‘hands on’ are a sign of quality candidate, who would have an advantage in the recruitment process. On the other hand, there are candidates who are degree or diploma holders who have only had short stints in previous jobs, making them appear as unreliable for recruitment.
I have gone through the above experience many times over the years. I have found that there is a serious crisis in our education system, the family and the community – especially when there is too much focus on academic results rather than on developing the elements in the character that influence the probability of success.
There is little understanding among the youths, that the process of specialising in a career takes years of learning and perseverance. The ultimate success in a career is when one is head-hunted for one’s skills and the ability to meet human needs.
For example, in my workplace my tea lady earns more than any blue collar factory worker and white collar staff because she not only earns by cleaning the office, but also earns a side income by selling groundnuts (kacang puteh) and fruits. The staff and factory employees always look out for her for these food items.
Another example is the woman I buy fruits from at the market near my home. She has no academic qualification, but she has the skill to distinguish fruit of quality besides having a passion for interacting with her customers.
These two examples show that one can be considered successful even in humble jobs if one has passion, discipline for hard work, and a willingness to persevere.
Our ability for us to reach this stage depends on parents, the community, and the schools to not marginalise or look down on academic under-achievers but rather discover their inner talent and help them nurture elements of character that contribute to a successful career. In this way, a chosen profession becomes a way of life rather than a job.
The emphasis on character is far more inclusive and it can cater to more students. Schools need to invite private citizens – who do not need to be from elite groups but may be ordinary people – who are committed and successful in their chosen professions – to share their diverse experiences with young students.
There needs to be a cultural change that emphasises character-building to promote effective behaviour; without it, there will be many jobless young people in the country. An abundance of knowledge is discovered only by the character that searches for it.
My experience in Jobs Malaysia is a clear proof of this as I have had to reject many job applicants who do not meet behavioural standards that are rooted in character.