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Gov't aims to increase employment of high school graduates

The government working with SMEs to increase hiring of high school graduates. Graphics by Cho Sang-won

By Kim Hyun-bin

The government is working to increase the number of employed high school graduates and plans to provide college education opportunities for them after they enter the workforce.

Under the plan, "Employ first and college education after" the government is planning to vitalize high school graduates' employment, which in turn helps small and mid-sized (SME) companies with their manpower shortages.

The plan comes amid the high unemployment rate among college graduates and a shortage of manpower at SMEs.

The trend has inevitably created a labor "miss-match" nationwide.

Youth unemployment has been rising in recent years. In the first quarter of this year, youth unemployment reached 10 percent, up two percentage points from 2012, according to data from the Hyundai Research Institute.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor recently made a prediction on the next decade of the supply and demand for workers. It state that there will be an oversupply of 75,000 college graduates and a shortage of 133,000 high school graduates in the workforce within the next 10 years.

However, most Korean students are taking their chances and going for college right after graduation _ 69 percent of high school graduates moved on to college just this year alone.
On the other hand, only 51 percent of specialized vocational high school graduates went straight into employment.

To reduce the miss-match the government has been working with SME's to introduce a policy that helps high school graduates land a job and enable them to receive a college education, while employed at the firm.

"Employ first and enter college after" policy consists of ways to vitalize employment of high school students, innovate vocational education, reduce higher education costs for high school student employers and encourage a company culture to allow employees to receive college education, according to the education ministry.

"We will promote employment opportunities for students and we will work towards developing the young employees to grow into experts," Choi Su-gyu, vice minister at the Ministry of SME's and startups

Gather spot opinion

Education Minister Kim Sang-gon recently visited Seoul Robotics High School in the capital to hear opinions, while holding a discussion with vocational high school principals and students.

Dozens of government officials took part in the discussion including people from the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, Seoul Metropolitan Government and district administrative agencies.

Last March, the government introduced the "Employ first and enter college after" policy, which includes providing a onetime three million won ($2,800) payment to students that find employment to help them get on their feet, then they qualify for a full scholarship to a college if they work at the firm for over three years. It also expanded the number of universities that provide customized education from the current 13 to 21.

"To stimulate high school employment there needs to be good quality jobs and a reduction in the wage gap between conglomerates and SMEs," said the principals in a statement.

The students pointed out that there is a lack of information on high quality firms that hire high school graduates and the government needs to reduce social prejudice against high school employment. They also asked to provide easier access for higher education once employed.

The Seoul city government and district administrative agencies vowed to cooperate with the vocational high schools to enhance their specialties and find suitable professions for students after graduation.

"Central and local governments as well as district agencies and companies will all cooperate to find a solution. To help high school graduates find their dream, we will continuously enforce our vocational training policies," said Kim.

The ministry is currently ironing out the policy and plans to reveal progress to the public within this month, according to an official.