Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Bhutan : Luck, not merit, gets job

Punatsangchu Hydroproject I10 August, 2009 - When Punatsangchu hydroproject I was finalised, the job prospects it offered came to the rescue of many unemployed vocational graduates from institutes around the country.

For Sonam Dema (name changed on request), it was a motivation to work harder and top the class so that she would be preferred when looking for a job. Sonam came fifth in her class and was confident that she would get the first job offer. On August 4, standing in a hallway of the labour ministry office in Thimphu, Sonam was ruing her fate.

She was not among the 10 “lucky” graduates selected.

The employment department had announced 10 vacancies for plumber to work for the Punatsangchu project, but the selection was done on a “lucky dip” system. Three construction training centre (CTC) graduates were selected along with seven VTI graduates.

There were 11 VTI candidates, who competed for the seven slots. “Four of us had picked up the wrong piece of paper. We were among the best students at the institute,” said another Sonam, 23, who graduated In July. “We had 16 students in our class and I stood 5th but that didn’t make a difference because I wasn’t lucky.”

VTI candidates told Kuensel that it took about 10 minutes for officials to choose the best suitable candidate for the job. The employment officer had asked us whether the selection process should be merit and interview-based or through lucky dip, said a graduate.

“A majority of the candidates, including those from CTC, voted for a lucky dip,” said a 24-year-old VTI graduate. “The selection process wasn’t only unpleasant but very unfair.”

“There were rolled paper with ‘Yes’ written on some. But I picked up a blank paper,” he said. “We’d worked extremely hard at the training centre to have a better chance in getting employed, but the officials didn’t even go through our mark sheets.”

Candidates, who never made the cut, said that they have never seen any organisation recruit people on a “lucky dip” basis. “We were the unlucky lot, who’d actually performed better than most at the training institute,” said one of them. “We had a lot of expectations.”

Employment officials could not be contacted for comment.

Meanwhile, the selected candidates will soon be leaving for Punakha to work at the Punatsangchu site. Singye, 23, said that the ‘lucky dip’ selection was fair. “I was lucky. We didn’t have to go through any process of interview,” he said.

Last year, there were about 1,500 VTI graduates in the market, most of who struggled to find employment. The unemployed VTI graduates said that they are exploring other options. “I hope I pick the right piece of paper next time,” said a girl, who was trained in plumbing.

By Phuntsho Choden

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