Education standards need to improve to solve Papua New Guinea graduate employment problems, says human resources expert


The education of Papua New Guinea graduates needs to improve, says Scott Roberts, General Manager of human resources firm Rubicor Technical. He tells Business Advantage PNG that it will help address the problems of unemployment and under-employment of graduates.

Rubicor’s Scott Roberts. Source: Rubicor

Roberts says many graduates enter the market without the right skills to do what employers expect.

Roberts says his firm recently advertised for graduates; he was surprised when about 500 applied.

‘I was astounded that we had this significant number—400 plus, either unemployed or under-employed recent graduates in the market. They were wide-ranging graduates from all the universities across all the disciplines: chemistry, physics, engineers, business, HR.

‘Many of the students struggle to cope with tertiary class content.’

‘There were large numbers of people whose verbal skills, reasoning skills and numerical reasoning skills were quite poor relative to international graduate comparisons.

‘It suggests there may be a real mismatch between what the qualification suggests a person can do and what is actually required in the working environment.’

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Roberts says he would like to see more work done to identify, screen and select better students.

‘I have anecdotal evidence, from most of the universities that have selected people based on grade point average from grade 12, that many of the students struggle to cope with tertiary class content. They almost need remedial courses before attempting their tertiary studies.

‘Big companies do their own development and training, but small and medium enterprises usually lack the resources.’

‘We can and should invest in assessment tools to identify these deficiencies. That way, people who do go to uni can participate in tertiary education from day one.

‘Sure this will cost money, but they can’t continue putting out a product that is not appropriate to market needs and expectations. Eventually, it will be just a piece of paper unless they can address the standards.’


Roberts says that big companies do their own development and training, but small and medium enterprises usually lack the resources to invest in development.

‘Businesses are always looking for people who can lead others and, of course, the standards that are applied to that are high.

‘There are in some cases internal cultural reasons that also work against appointing local talent.’

‘There are concerns about leadership across the country. The Public Service is investing in a values-based leadership development program; they are really having to start at basics. It has merit, and should be supported, but it will be a slow process.

‘Over the years, I have heard many senior execs in the private sector justifying expatriate appointments on the basis that PNG graduates lack the ability to lead and manage in the manner they require.

‘But there are many examples of success over the years and there are plenty of Papua New Guineans who seem to do quite well internationally in technical, professional and leadership roles. There is no doubt there can be extra external pressures on PNG leaders or managers operating in PNG which may impact on performance, and or the desire to lead.

‘I also suggest there are, in some cases, internal cultural reasons that work against appointing local talent.’

Roberts says there has been something of a brain drain in PNG, especially in the resources sector. But he does see some returning home.

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