Galina Akhmerova: ‘A business looks for professionals in one area, while there are few or no applicants’

An expert in career guidance about how universities manage to reform and adapt to new requests of the labour market

Last week, Minister of Labour Anton Kotyakov claimed that tensions were increasing in the labour market in Russia, while the number of registered unemployed people has risen in June. The minister associated this with the sanctions pressure on our country. In this situation, the staff market dictates new conditions, but Russian universities don’t have the time to adapt to graduate sought-after specialists. The author of Round mobile app for teenager career guidance Galina Akhmerova writes more about the problem in an op-ed column for Realnoe Vremya.

“The students pay all the attention to getting good state exam scores”

Statistically, only 30% of adults in Russia work by trade and only half of them do this with their first university degree. Most people understand what they see themselves in life only with time and retrain themselves to learn the professions they are interested in.

This happens because an important decision has to be made at the age of 16-17. At this age, students have managed to understand little about future specialities and try something. Moreover, in high school, the students focus all their attention on getting good state exam scores, which leads to a situation in which the choice of a speciality is based on what subjects they can sit the exams better on and get the necessary scores. Because the last thing is an important factor when qualifying for a government scholarship and choosing the future profession.

According to the statistics of RBC in the country’s universities in 2021, these are the key areas university entrants choose:

  1. IT

    This sphere is in the top areas of training in many universities at once — Higher School of Economics National Research University, Saint Petersburg Polytechnic University, ITMO University, Saint Petersburg State University, Bauman University, National University of Science and Technology, Novosibirsk State University, Far Eastern Federal University.
  2. Engineering
  3. Applied maths

In most cases, traditional specialities for every university share second and third places in most cases: for Tomsk Polytechnic University, it is oil and gas, power engineering, at National University of Science and Technology it is materials science. At HSE, marketing and market analytics take the lead, and foreign languages round out the top 3. Economics, management and jurisprudence also remain popular.

Now we offer to have a look at the statistics of, what spheres are in demand from employers and in what areas applicants look for a job.

Statistics of in 2021
Statistics of in 2021

“University entrants will pursue other degrees”

So what we see: a business looks for professionals in one area, there are few or no applicants, in this area, while university entrants pursue other degrees.

It is pleasant that IT is in the top 3 for the three dies (employers, applicants and entrants). I have noticed that university became less conservative and try to talk with their would-be entrants more. They Doors Open Days not only offline but also online. They cooperate with supplementary schools that train teenagers for entering a university. Many have had marketing departments working with the audience of parents and teenagers. It is important that they not only tell them about the university and the educational programme but also give them to understand how the faculty is related to real professions.

“I have noticed that university became less conservative and try to talk with their would-be entrants more,” noted Galina Akhmerova. Photo courtesy of Galina Akhmerova

The second bright side is that there appear cases when a university becomes not only a platform to get an education but also a place when the student meets his or her future employer. Higher School of Economics, for instance, creates some faculties in partnership with a business from the beginning. At a recently held forum EdCrunch in Khanti-Mansi Autonomous District, I had a chance of talking with the educational management of this region, and I was surprised that all students from year 3 are already integrated in the work in enterprises and consequently better understand where they will go to work after graduation. Of course, these are examples to follow. We communicate with businesses a lot, and unfortunately, not all employers understand the importance of correct and early career guidance. They come to compete for “ready” graduates and are involved in school and collegial events little, therefore they have almost no influence on the formation of future specialists.

What we can see at best is one-time meetings with high school students, the creation of specialised classes oriented to a company’s staff requests and competitions. Such a picture can often be seen: 80% of entrants in a geological university’s faculty related to exploration and production are girls. Most of them won’t work by trade in the future because of the remoteness of the work from home, long-term business trips and other nuances.

Photo courtesy of Galina Akhmerova

Where do these 80% of girls come from? The case is that chemistry is one of the subjects to enter the university. It is a tough exam boys rarely choose at school. I always talk about the long link school — college — business — parents.

If we don’t want disproportion between applicants and the professions a business really needs like it happens now, it is important to do a work together with the school, clubs, online platforms from the years six or seven. This is the goal of our app Round.

The absence of cooperation leads to a staff shortage in some sectors and a surplus of candidates in others. This system can be brought to a balance if each member of the process realises they are a link of the chain and see the full picture. Not only what is taught at university matters but also what experience a student received before university and what awaits him or her after. The employer must be the main interested party. Universities, in turn, should establish partnerships between every faculty and some partner employers and organise students’ on-the-job training not to tick a box for an educational report but students’ self-fulfilment in the workplace.

*according to a survey of the Public Opinion Foundation

Galina Akhmerova

The author’s opinion does not necessarily coincide with the position of Realnoe Vremya’s editorial board.