Report finds there’s a need to focus on soft skills and the ability of students to learn new skills
TODAY’S youths represent the country’s best educated generation, yet they face many challenges transitioning from school-to-work.
Launched on Wednesday, the Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) “school-to-work transition survey” (SWTS) found that education and training institutions aren’t producing graduates employers want.
Bosses prefer soft skills and work experience above academic or professional qualifications that are emphasised by schools and varsities. And, the supply of young workers with Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) qualifications, is far short of employer demands.
There’s a need to focus on soft skills and the ability of students to learn new skills, she said.
“There must be more work-based learning,” she said, adding that to promote STEM, policy makers could make these subjects more attractive and widely available to students from a young age; equip and train teachers well; and integrate STEM with Arts subjects (STEAM) to enhance student understanding and application of the sciences.
From the end of 2017 to early this year, education and labour market information on Malaysians aged between 15 and 29 was collected from some 24,000 students, job seekers, workers, and employers.
Here’s an excerpt of the SWTS report on youths in upper secondary and tertiary education.
STEM isn’t popular
TVET is not a popular education pathway, and neither is STEM. Only a third of all upper secondary students are taking science subjects and another 44% additional mathematics, and only 32% of all tertiary students are enrolled for STEM courses. Although girls greatly outnumbered boys in tertiary education, a higher proportion of total males than total females are registered for STEM subjects. The proportion of students taking STEM subjects is the highest for international and private schools. Surprisingly, the proportion of students in religious schools enrolled in science subjects and additional maths is higher than students of other national schools. Two-fifths of tertiary students are working towards degrees in social sciences, business, or law.
Students choose their own courses
Contrary to common perception that courses students take up is decided upon by their parents or school, some 80% say they make their own choices. But almost all receive advice on the education or training they need to get a ‘good job’.
Aspirations and job expectations
Girls are more driven than boys. They give greater importance to a clear career path, with good promotion prospects and success at work. Boys value good family life more. The main sector students prefer is education. The girls, especially, prefer professional occupations like teachers, engineers, and medical and health professionals. Few want to do the work of their parents, namely, in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and manufacturing. It’s more important to the boys to have interesting jobs and high income. They’re less concerned about job security.
All students prioritise professional qualifications. Upper secondary students are aware of the importance of TVET but would rather pursue academic education. They also identify communication skills as the most important competency for getting a job. They expect greater opportunities because of the Internet of Things (IoT). The majority want to further their education or training, with girls being more academically inclined.
Youth in tertiary education
There are 15% more girls than boys in upper secondary education. The gender imbalance increases in the transition from upper secondary to tertiary level. The growing cohort of boys who either leave school early or with low education attainment, is worrying. Almost half of all students are in private tertiary institutions. Their main funding sources are loans and their parents.
There’s a clear generational improvement in educational levels. Their preferred employment sectors are education, finance and insurance, health and social work, and IT-related work. Job preferences shift between upper secondary and tertiary level of education. Tertiary students aren’t as keen on public sector work and have a higher preference of starting their own business compared to upper secondary youth. The most likely reason is that young men and women tend to have clearer choices linked to their field of study in higher education and would be more aware of labour market opportunities.
Work-life balance is the most important characteristic of a job they would want. The job must be interesting, not just secure. And to get a good job, they do not consider tertiary academic qualifications adequate. They rate communication skills and creative and