Professional pursuits

The Prague Post

Training and language knowledge are key to finding a job

That elusive first job. Or second. Or third.

Most would agree that starting or changing jobs ranks high in stressful life events. And, for soon-to-graduate students, leaving the comfort of university life and jumping into the “real world” can sometimes be a challenge.

“It’s scary, especially because I’m not sure what area I want to be in,” says Elena Halepova, a 21-year-old student at Prague College. “It’s tough thinking about the future.”

Halepova is from Kyrgyzstan. She came to the Czech Republic in October 2005 specifically to study at Prague College. She’ll soon be getting her Higher National Diploma, a two-year British qualification. She is also planning to get her bachelor’s degree from Prague College.

“I’m studying business, and I’d like to focus on management,” she says. “It is a big area, but I find management interesting.”

Practical, useful skills that demonstrate what the students can do seem to be key to getting that first job or a promotion, according to school administrators. The Institute for Industrial and Financial Management (IPFM) realizes the value in “real world” type activities and has arranged the curriculum for students enrolled in Master of Business Administration programs around realistic scenarios.

“We offer practice-orientated education,” says Ondřej Paclt, marketing manager for IPFM. “What the students learn, they implement in their jobs.”

Barbora Skoupilová will receive her MBA from IPFM in June. For her, it’s already had a big impact on her career. She started the program when she was working for Siemens, which sent her to IPFM as part of its motivational program.

“This has been a huge experience,” she says. “It’s fantastic when you can listen and discuss real-life issues with people who are experts in their field. It also gave me the confidence to apply for a job I always dreamed about and which turned out to be a great move.”

She went to KPMG Czech Republic, where she works in risk advisory services. Getting to this point, though, took a while for Skoupilová, who left her native Moravia because of a lack of job opportunities.

“I studied in London and had work experience, and my initial plan was to stay in Moravia,” she says. But, “after months I was unable to find a job that would allow me to be self-sufficient, and, finally, I took an offer in Prague.”

IPFM requires its students to have at least three years of professional experience before applying to its master’s program. The school was founded in 1998 mainly by a group of Czech subsidiaries of several multinational corporations. About half of IPFM students come from these partner companies, usually as part of the corporation’s educational or motivational programs, Paclt says. Corporate partners, including Škoda Auto, Siemens, Bosch and Allianz, meet regularly to discuss the curriculum.

“The sponsors discuss the program, where it can be improved and specifically what are the needs of today’s businesses,” Paclt says. “We try to integrate their ideas into the program, make our modules practical so students can use what they learn.”

When talking about the job market in the Czech Republic, many draw comparisons between Prague and the rest of the country.

“I think students are lucky to be in Prague at this time. For the most part, students of all nationalities can find a job here,” says Jeff Buehler, an academic adviser at Prague College. “In general, Prague is a growing place for jobs.” But, unfortunately, he adds, the same cannot be said of other Czech regions.

Skoupilová, however, says she does see things improving and believes the opportunities are still out there.

“Overall, I think the job market for graduates is better in the number of opportunities and choices these days,” she says. “This is [due] to a lot of international investors who outsource to the Czech Republic.”

Skoupilová says the country is still a hot spot for outsourcing production facilities and service centers and will remain so while labor costs stay competitive. But it’s not just costs that companies are scrutinizing these days. They are also taking a keener interest in the education level of potential employees.

“Lots of international companies come here looking for a highly educated work force,” Buehler says. “It’s not a lack of jobs but a lack of training, and the companies end up bringing in employees from abroad. That’s where we hope to come in.”

Prague College offers a range of programs in business, computing, interactive media and graphic design as well as specialized qualifications in areas such as advertising and information systems. They cater to students just out of high school as well as working professionals looking to further their education.

“We are a professional vocational institution,” Buehler explains. “The whole program is designed around projects. We are less academic in the sense of reading or studying theory, instead building skills so, when students make the transition to the workplace, it’s easier.”

Prague College hosted a human resources workshop recently that helped the school learn what employers look for, which administrators will try to implement into their future programs.

“What we learned [is that] there’s a large job market. But, in specialized markets, it’s hard for employers to find what they are looking for,” Buehler says. “It comes down to training in lots of different areas.”

So what can you do to find your first job or move to a better one?

“Learn languages, learn how to present yourself, know what you studied and be able to present it confidently,” Buehler advises.

“It’s important to learn and develop over time,” Skoupilová adds. “I don’t think it’s necessary to have the perfect job right from the beginning. … Any work experience is good, if one is able to learn from it.”