A frustrated local posted on a popular Cook Islands Facebook page about her frustration with the situation.
“It really irritates me when graduates spend years getting their degrees and choose to come home and can’t get a break because they ‘lack experience’… or are over qualified,” she said.
Having only been online for 24 hours, the post has accumulated over 220 likes, and 60 comments.
It is shared knowledge that for those lucky enough to obtain scholarships to study abroad, they must in turn bring their knowledge and skills home to the Cook Islands and work for a contracted number of years.
Though many found themselves returning to the Cook Islands, qualified and eager to work, yet are jobless and get little help from the government.
“After I finished (studying) I was cleaning accommodation for four months! I got nothing back from government agencies after dropping my CV around,” said one recent graduate.
Most people empathised with the plight of returning graduates, however they were unsure what could be done to ease the transition into the work force.
“I 100 per cent support graduates that return home. The value of the degree is that they are proven learners. We must harness this energy and guide it (not hinder it) with experience, and the experienced. I say give our graduates the chance to gain experience,” said a poster.
Many comments were directed to the Cook Islands Jobs website where job hunters are welcomed with the statement that the Cook Islands is suffering from depopulation.
The website highlighted that its company mission was to provide Cook Islanders a service in which they can apply for jobs back home.
However when looking at the reality of the jobs listed currently, 75 per cent of those that were examined required some form of in-field experience.
One social media user joked, “we’re looking to recruit someone 25 years and under with 10 years’ experience”.
The remaining 25 per cent of jobs that did not require experience or a degree, included trades such as butchery, occupying a check out, night fill merchandising, or being a barista.
Without degrading any trades, it was clear from the post these were not the jobs potential workers were hoping to acquire following three or more years studying and incurring a student loan of above $30,000.
Financial Secretary, Garth Henderson offered his take on the issue: “It’s a timing issue in the public sector. We can’t create jobs when graduates return, just to provide a job that may not contribute to growth and there are restrictions on size of public service. However many of us do keep an eye out for talent before vacancies occur.”
Nonetheless frustrated graduates continued reiterating the role the Ministry of Education plays in their dwindling employment.
With paid scholarships attracting Cook Islands students over to the big smoke, graduates found the ministry was extremely “hands on” and supportive in the transition to New Zealand or Australia.
Students were promised jobs upon their return to the Cook Islands, however individuals realised, when push comes to shove, the ministry employs a “hands off” strategy, offering minimal rehabilitation for students re-joining the work force and community.
University of the South Pacific (USP), Cook Islands Director Rod Dixon found students at USP did not encounter the same problem.
“Employment after university is not a major issue for USP graduates, as students are 99 per cent of the time are already in full time employment, and only studying to improve their job competitiveness.
We (USP) are in the process of establishing a small facility for students wishing to undertake university studies at other international universities, meaning that going offshore for many tertiary degrees is becoming less of a necessity,” Dixon said.