Current Career Guidance of Higher Education in Taiwan
by Shu-Chen (Jean) Wu
Taiwan, the island in the northwest side of the Pacific Ocean, is located in the eastern part of Asia and close to Japan and the Philippines. The total area of Taiwan is about 36,000 square kilometers. Based on the latest information retrieved from the Department of Statistics, Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Education, Taiwanese population is about 23,433,753 people. There were 159 universities and 1,037,062 undergraduates in 2014, which means that there are 4.4 undergraduates among every 100 people. In Taiwan, except for the 7-year study period of medical colleges, most of the undergraduates should take their diplomas for 4-year programs, though a few of those may extend their study periods to the 5th or the 6th year. Chuing Prudence Chou did a survey in 2007 which pointed out that each student may cost 1 million New Taiwan Dollar (NTD) for a 4-year program of a public university and 1.3 million NTD for those of a private university. The CommonWealth Magazine extended Chou's survey and indicated the average annual disposable income of each family was $908 thousand NTD in 2011. In other words, a child who was an undergraduate may cost one fourth of the annual disposable income of her/his family.
The Taiwanese government has been investing huge resources in higher education. However, according to the Taiwanese Executive Yuan data, the unemployment rate of college graduates remains high. The average unemployment rate of college graduates from 2011 to 2013 was about 12% compared to the overall unemployment rate of 4.18%. The rate of graduate unemployment is nearly 2.9 times the overall unemployment rate. Recently, the development of Taiwanese industrial structure has shown an explicit polarization pattern. The skills required for many job openings are inconsistent with the competencies of recent graduates.
Low wages are another issue. According to the website of the Taiwanese company, 104 Human Resource Bank, the average monthly salary of college graduates is approximate $26,610 NTD (equivalent to $887 US dollars). The publication further shared that there was a great gap between the skills of recent graduates from university and those needed in industry. The gap not only causes youth to have difficulty in finding jobs, but also many enterprises experience difficulty finding qualified talent. According to a 2013 Taiwan Council of Labor Affairs survey of reasons for employment difficulties for Taiwanese youth, "lack of experience," was rated highest at 36.6%. Other major reasons are listed as follows: "Inability to understand their most suitable jobs" (33.6%), "lack of skills" (18.8%), and "lack of interview skills or resume writing ability" (16%).
Currently, each Taiwanese university sets the goals for the employment or career guidance unit. Although their administrative organization level may vary, they focus on similar tasks to assist the undergraduates to practice self-exploration, career development, career preparation, employment promotion, employment tracing, and so on. In the following discussion, methods commonly used by universities will be described.
1. Investigate Employment and Career Requirements
Each university traces the employment of its graduates every year. In 2014, the government promoted 2 policies for higher education: the graduates' insurance mechanism and graduate tracking. In Taiwan, all employees have insurance, such as labor insurance, farming insurance, public employment insurance, military personnel insurance, and other insurance in accordance with their type of work. The first policy instructs graduates' insurance to estimate the rate of employment. The second policy provides a common questionnaire for all universities to use when investigating the employment of their graduates in the first, third, and fifth years after graduation. Each university should upload collected data to the education department of the government within the stipulated time period. Then these units can trace the employment situation of the talents cultivated in higher education. Moreover, each university conducts regular employer satisfaction surveys to understand employers' satisfaction with graduates. In addition, each university conducts a career requirement survey for its undergraduates, faculty, and staff. As a result, each university collects career and employment data from the viewpoints of its graduates, employers, undergraduates, faculty, and staff to facilitate planning by its career guidance service.
2. Provide Free Test Platform to Assist Undergraduates' Self-explorations
The financial tsunami in 2009 had a great impact on the increased rate of unemployment among Taiwan graduates. The government contributed capital to invite experts and scholars to establish the Career & Competency Assessments Network (UCAN). It adopted the career interest survey, competency assessment, and competency development plan to enhance the employability of undergraduates. Then many universities established online platforms that included quantitative assessments, qualitative explorations, department introductions, and industrial information, such as the Chinese Career Net (CCN), Career & Vocational Helping System (CVHS), KIP Regional Resource Center for Teaching and Learning, and so on. These platforms are free for each university to assist undergraduates as they explore career choices and preparation.
3. Develop Educational Materials of Taiwan Career Development and Prompt Each University to Offer Career Courses
To promote career exploration by undergraduates and to reduce the gap between academic and real employment, the government invited experts and scholars to develop career educational materials for undergraduates and create career curriculum with local characteristics. These curricula cover personal and career development, academic development, vocational preparation and education outcome. Each topic consists of a number of course units. Each university can offer these curricula as general education courses, or required or optional courses within specific departments. Moreover, all universities are allowed to adjust and modify the educational materials in accordance with their students' characteristics and requirements. They also can invite enterprise managers to provide collaborative education. Since 2013, according to these educational materials, the government has conducted a series of teaching/training workshops to enhance the course experiences and assist the professors' and assistants' course preparations. Nowadays, more and more departments of universities are embracing these educational materials and offering career curriculum to cultivate Taiwan undergraduates' career literacy, competency and employability.
4. Promote Diverse Career Guidance Activities and Attend to Students with Different Requirements
In addition to formal courses, Taiwan higher education also plans many kinds of career guidance activities in tutor time and free time to serve students who have different career service needs. Besides the individual career counseling available to students, there are other common career guidance activities, including:
5. Establish the Information Platform of Practice and Employment and Provide Students with Opportunities of Practice and Employment
The government and each university conduct recruitment orientation and practice for job and advanced study expositions. The government also sets up many free websites about the practices, employment, and stating a business, such as UCAN, ICH, Taiwan Jobs, Youth Dreams, Employment Guidance, and so on. In addition, each university has established practice and employment websites for students to pick up employment news and competency training information, for example Chinese Career Net, Career and Vocational Helping System, and Mirs Network.
To promote the career guidance mission and specific career goals of each university, the career service of Taiwan higher education attaches great importance to multidisciplinary and cross-department collaboration and to professional career service personnel. Currently, career service personnel are classified into 8 primary categoies, including professional psychological counselors, employment service personnel, career consultants, teachers and mentors of departments, career mentors, industry mentors, peer service members, and alumni (Youth Development Administration, Ministry of Education, 2014). Although the functionality of each role may vary in accordance with the person's background, their associated organization, and their position within each university, they all treat each undergraduate as the primary and focus on her/his developmental path.