In today’s competitive job market, it has become imperative for graduates to not only have the right qualification, but also industry knowledge  in order to gain an edge over the competition, leaving us with the all important question: What qualities do employers look for in prospective hires?

“We’re looking for bright, talented, enthusiastic employees who can grow and develop… Primarily future leaders,” said Donald MacLeod, Amec Foster Wheeler’s country director for Brunei.

A fair understanding of the current market situation, good communication skills, competency and willingness to learn were some of the key attributes which rated high on the list.

Having recently recruited 16 graduates from Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB), MacLeod added: “We’ve been so far impressed with UTB graduates. They not only show technical capabilities, but also teamwork. I find them to be extremely skilled, especially in their presentation and communications skills.”

Sharing the same sentiments, Hjh Siti Rozana Dato Paduka Hj Md Yunos, head of Corporate Services at BAG Networks, added that resourcefulness and practicality are among qualities employers look for.

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Currently, BAG Networks already employs 16 of the university’s graduates and also has an academic partnership with UTB. These include graduates from various disciplines such as communications and computer systems, internet and multimedia development as well as business and finance.

“We find that UTB is focused in producing industry-ready graduates… Another aspect which we have experienced with hiring UTB graduates is the passion and the drive to deliver,” she said.

She noted that the exposure gained as a result of their work attachment with BAG Networks and other organisations helps UTB graduates ease into the work environment faster.

GIVING GRADUATES A HEAD START

While it’s true that fresh graduates are commonly at a disadvantage in terms of experience, UTB has taken measures to ensure its students are well equipped for the reality of work life. These include recruiting experienced, industry-background professionals to provide first-hand knowledge to students.

Dr Morteza Jami, a visiting professor teaching Petroleum Geology and Engineering, during an interview. Photo: The Scoop

“When students graduate and go on to find jobs, they find that problem solving has to be done more efficiently. The theories we learn in university do not teach them tricks of the trade, and there are no lecturers there for them to ask questions at work,” said Dr Morteza Jami, a lecturer who teaches petroleum geology and engineering at UTB.

With over two decades of experience under his belt, he believes that sharing anecdotes with his students can help them develop a way of thinking and problem-solving which is relatable to the field.

Prior to taking up his post at UTB, Dr Morteza worked on projects for oil and gas companies all over Southeast Asia, Australia, China and even South America. The Australian national said getting back into teaching after being in the industry for so long has changed his views.

“Returning back to being a university lecturer after so many years has changed my perception. You are no longer repeating other people’s opinions; instead [you are] passing on all the trade, tricks and responsibilities that you cannot learn theoretically,” he said.

Sharing his experience can help students become less intimidated when they enter the workforce, Dr Bernard Lock said. Photo: The Scoop

Meanwhile, Bernard Lock — founder of Singapore-based GM Concepts and also a visiting associate professor at UTB — said that practitioners like himself bring the realities of the industry to the classroom.

“They [students] don’t have the years that I went through [in the financial and investment market], but I can share… I try my best to share in hopes that when they go out to face the real world, they will not be too intimidated as this may delay their learning curve as an employee,” he said.

Sharing industry tips certainly has an impact in producing work-ready graduates. At UTB, students are also given the opportunity for work attachment and internship through UTB ExperiencePLUS.

AN EDGE OVER THE COMPETITION

In 2016, Cynthia Foo Su Xin graduated from UTB with a Bachelor of Engineering. Despite the saturated job market, she clinched a position as a civil engineer at a local company shortly after her graduation.

“Besides the knowledge gained from lectures and textbooks, I also learned practical skills from laboratory experiments as well as the short term internship assigned during our third year… I found the lecturers and professors at UTB are very supportive and helpful,” the 25-year-old said.

Nurhazirah Johari at Weatherford Training & Technology Centre, Houston, Texas. Photo: Courtesy of UTB

Not one to pass up an opportunity, Cynthia applied for a Chinese government scholarship and is currently undergoing a masters degree course in geotechnical engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China.

“Before leaving to Shanghai for my studies, I worked as a civil engineer for about a year. I was involved in several projects such as structural design and analysis for residential buildings using computer software and design of drainage… Basically, I have applied what I studied in UTB to the projects that I was involved in.”

Also beating the odds by being offered a job shortly after graduation was Nurhazirah Johari. Having completed her degree in mechanical engineering in November 2016, she joined Weatherford International as a field engineer just one month later.

According to Nurhazirah, she was able to hone her skills and knowledge at UTB and found the university’s programmes and activities beneficial for character-building.