Thu, Nov 19, 2009
The New Paper
Why give top students priority in networking event?

By Liew Hanqing

GOOD university grades can put you ahead of the campus queue to meet choice employers. You need a projected second-class (upper division) honours degree or better.

Related link:
» Grades aren't everything

That seemed to be the message at a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) networking event for graduating students and potential bosses.

When contacted, an NTU spokesman explained that the event was originally meant only for top students.

However, the university later decided to extend it to all students.

But the way the event was organised riled a number of undergraduates.

To their dismay, the talks and information sessions by the companies were over by the time they got there - simply because those with better grades got to go first.

At NTU's Super Networking Day on 29 Sep, students were split into two sessions based on their grades.

One student who attended the event, a 24-year-old undergraduate who declined to be named, told The New Paper he had been keen to touch base with prospective employers at the event, but felt he missed the boat.

He attended the later part of the networking event, assigned to him via e-mail.

He said: "By then, some of the participants were already packing up and ready to leave. I didn't get to attend any of the career talks."

The final-year engineering undergraduate said he realised later that the students had been split into separate sessions based on their grades.

He said: "Those who attended the first session were those with projected first class or second class (upper) honours. I can't say I was happy about it when I found out."

He said he felt disadvantaged compared with those who got to attend the earlier session, because he had received "a lot less information" and less material.

He said: "I wanted to ask (the company representatives) about their hiring requirements, and whether honours is really that important."

He also felt employers should consider more than just grades.

He said: "Results are not everything - there are people with good grades but poor work attitudes.

"Students should have been randomly allocated to the respective sessions - that would have been more fair," he said.

Though many students have criticised the university for the arrangement, some don't see any reason to complain.

Mr Poh Yan Zhao, 25, who graduated recently from NTU, said he didn't think students would be severely disadvantaged by the segregation.

He said: "Networking sessions are useful for students who want to know more about the various companies, but they don't really give anybody an advantage - it's not like participants get to rub shoulders with the 'right people'.

He added: "Sometimes, the arrangements depend on what the companies want - some of them are very fixated on results."

But a final-year chemical engineering undergraduate, who declined to be named, said he felt all undergraduates should be given an equal shot at meeting prospective employees.

Earlier time slot

He also attended the networking event, but because his projected grades were better, he had been allocated the earlier time slot.

He said: "A few days before the event, we were told via e-mail what time to attend the networking session.

"I only heard later from a friend that we were split into groups according to our grades. I didn't know there were two sessions...

"The employers make the decisions on who to hire. So, there's no need for students to be grouped according to grades."

Students who were invited to the earlier part of the event got to attend various company presentations, a networking session and a tea reception. Those who attended later missed out on the presentations.

A spokesman for the Economic Development Board (EDB), which participated in the event, said its jobs for graduates require candidates with "outstanding and consistent academic results", as well as active participation in co-curricular activities, who should also have held positions of leadership and responsibility.

The spokesman said: "EDB was invited by NTU to participate in the session and we did not have a say in the organisation of the event."

In addition, an online flyer on NTU's website showed the university had used its top students as a selling point to encourage prospective employers to participate.

It described Super Networking Day as "the best platform for (companies) to meet and recruit our top academic achievers from various disciplines".

It read: "If you are keen on recruiting our top 2010 graduates (expected 2nd Class Upper & above) across various disciplines for business and/or engineering positions, this is the event for you."

According to the flyer, prospective employers paid between $2,500 and $5,300 to participate in the event.

Companies which paid $5,300 were given booths at the Nanyang Auditorium foyer, an eight-minute presentation slot, and an e-mail circular to top 2010 graduates.

A total of 17 companies participated in the event, including Singapore Press Holdings.


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