The Korea Herald


Major employers hire more high school graduates

By 양승진

Published : July 24, 2011 - 19:39

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Banks, major firms expand hiring of high school graduates

All eyes are now trained on the corporate sector amid high expectations that South Korean companies at large would hire more high school graduates following an unprecedented move in the banking sector.

Last week, Korea’s 18 banks said they would double their hiring quota for high school graduates, largely prompted by the government’s policy drive to put professional expertise over academic background for young job seekers.

The Korea Federation of Banks said Thursday banks would hire 787 high school students this year, making up 10.6 percent of their new recruits, in the banking sector.

“The new hiring plan by banks will help tackle such problems as high unemployment of high school graduates and over-investment in academic credentials,” said KFB chairman Shin Dong-kyu.

The banks are responding to the government’s call for more job openings for high school graduates not only in the banking sector but also in brokerage, insurance and state-run firms as part of efforts to eliminate prejudice based on academic background at the workplace and stress the importance of expertise and aptitude.

What the government is trying to accomplish through the banking sector ― a sector subject to the tight government regulation and supervision ― is a knock-on effect to the broader job market, particularly concerning major businesses whose impact on jobseekers is deemed far-reaching.

While major conglomerates are yet to unveil specific plans to increase the portion of high school graduates among new recruits, the banks are determined to go ahead with their new plans in the next couple of years.

Under the plans, the banks will raise the quota for high school students to 939 openings in 2012 and 996 positions in 2013. For the three-year period between 2011 and 2013, about 2,700 high school graduates will get a position at the banks here, carving out a 12.1 percent share of the total new recruits.

The proportion of high school graduates getting a job at banks averaged 5.7 percent between 2009 and 2010.

The banks also decided to provide support to high school graduates when they attend night school to obtain university degrees and modify personnel system so that they could sharpen their skills in the long term.

The efforts to double the quota came as President Lee Myung-bak stressed experience and expertise rather than academic credentials when he visited the Industrial Bank of Korea on Wednesday and met up with new employees with high school diplomas.

Korean banks used to hire more high school graduates, particularly as tellers, call center operators and similar positions. The practice came to a halt when the banking sector went through the grueling 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. As available jobs dwindled rapidly at banks, one of the most favored sectors for Korean job seekers, the average level of qualifications went up sharply across the board.

The average academic qualification of jobseekers has been rising in recent years on the assumption that the more advanced the education background, the better the chances of landing a job. Korea’s university entrance rate stood at 79 percent in 2010, far higher than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average of 56 percent. But local companies have complained that new recruits lack the necessary skills despite the higher average educational background.

Although experts welcome the latest change in hiring policy by the banks as a meaning momentum, they point out that it remains to been whether large business groups such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai will draw up a similarly forward-looking hiring plan for high school graduates.

POSCO, for instance, allocated 400 positions for high school graduates in recruiting a total of 900 employees last year, and the ratio is likely to remain the same this year.

Samsung Electronics, Asia’s top-ranked technology company, started hiring high school graduates, especially from the meister high schools ― a new type of vocational school introduced earlier last year to foster skilled technicians and curb educational inflation. In February, Samsung selected 100 first-grade students at those schools as employee candidates, who would receive a yearly scholarship of 5 million won for the next two years and attend job training courses during the holidays.

GS Retail, which runs GS25 convenience store chain, said it plans to hire 150 high school graduates this year, up from 100 last year. GS Retail’s new workers with high school diplomas are to receive the regular employee status.

SKC, which already hired 44 high school graduates in the first half of this year, plans to recruit additional 100 employees due to a fresh demand for skilled workers at the newly expanded factory in Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province.