FOR too long, HR experts around the world have been debating what to do about the pressing skills gap issue.
We are now at a stage where our HR profession needs to take the lead before this issue becomes a full-blown crisis.
About half of employers across the world are reporting difficulties in filling a variety of roles, with the fields of skilled trades and engineering high on the danger list.
The problems are not confined to entry-level roles by any means; the skills that many of us will have developed earlier in our careers can become obsolete a few years later. In highly technical roles, learned skills can have a lifespan of just two-and-a half years.
OECD data shows around a third of the global labour force, over a billion people, had the wrong skills needed for their particular jobs. The estimated cost is an annual GDP loss of US$5trillion (RM21.25trillion), bigger than the size of Germany GDP.
As a knowledge-based company, the necessity to have constant access to the right Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills made us come up with a solution: a talent ecosystem that is interconnected and ensures there is a constant supply of talent by nurturing skills as early as the kindergarten and developing those skills throughout school, university and during careers with the company.
However, as we and other emerging market corporations seek to become truly global players, such a talent ecosystem does not automatically ensure that we have the right type of culturally aware staff with an international mindset helping us expand effectively on a global scale.
Against this background, we need a global solution by which we share best practices on how to tackle the skills gap.
One solution could be a “human-centred” approach by which we as HR professionals ensure that nobody is left behind in the Industrial Revolution 4.0.
By human-centred, we mean putting the individual first, tailoring talent and skills development to personal needs of students and employees.
For a human-centred talent development system to work, there should be a set of guiding principles or a framework in place adopted by employers, governments and educational institutions as best practice.
We recently together with our partners identified five such principles which could be summed up as follows:
Skills of the future (everyone should be equipped with future proof basic skills – including cognitive, social, cultural and digital);
Self-sustainability (everyone has the right to follow a unique and individual career path during their entire professional development);
Skills liquidity (information on job vacancies should be easily accessible around the world; employees hired only on skills and experience, regardless of education, gender, race, social status or physical health);
Labour market transparency (labour mobility, flexible and remote ‘virtual’ employment should be available to all, regardless of current place of residence) and
Diversity of values (the workplace and working conditions should support the professional and personal development of each employee, regardless of their values and beliefs).
Not a single company, not a single state, not even the largest one in the world can change the labour market culture on its own.
That is why we believe that such a framework of human-centred principles is a good starting point for bringing about change in the way we see talent and skills development in the workplace.
Let’s start this change today before it’s too late.
THE world’s largest concrete machinery company is keen on training young Malaysians under the Fourth Industrial Revolution 4.0.
Sany Group Co Ltd managing director Keade Wang said China’s biggest construction machinery manufacturer exports to 150 countries, has three industrial building system (IBS) factories here, and is looking to expand. Plans are underway to develop a heavy machinery industrial plant in Kedah, and it wants to work with the Education Ministry to transfer its technology and train our students under the TVET programme.
“Sany Polytechnic College, which is over a decade old, is owned by the Group. We’re in talks with the ministry and a local Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institution, to train Malaysian students and place them in Sany Group branches worldwide.
“We’re hoping to get the green light from the ministry soon for our Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) aligned syllabus to be used. We need TVET workers and we want Malaysians because they’re multilingual. Those successfully trained by the Group can even work in our plants overseas.
Three months ago, Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said Chinese firms want to sponsor TVET students.
He had that said there would be more TVET scholarship and training opportunities for Malaysian students in education institutions and companies in China, The Star reported.
Sany was among the Chinese companies which met him and ministry representatives to discuss preparing Malaysians who graduated from technical and vocational education and training to face the challenging international industry.
A joint-venture with local property developers will see Sany needing more of “the right workers”, said Sany Construction Industry Development director Chang Bar Kuei.
He said its design, production, installation, education, and equipment, are in line with the country’s CIDB requirements.
“It doesn’t make monetary sense to replace the entire process with machines and automation because it would make homes unaffordable.
“So TVET graduates don’t have to worry about being jobless. But, we’re selective about who we train because the right attitude is important.
“No point transferring knowledge and skill to someone who isn’t serious about the industry.
“That’s why our potential trainees must all undergo an interview process,” said Chang.
Dr Maszlee, he said, had visited Sany Polytechnic College last year, to understand the college’s focus on both theory and practical.
“This dual focus is important because students must be able to communicate and interact with others when they start working.
“The TVET workers we’ve seen so far lack confidence because the skills they bring to the industry is irrelevant. So we’re facing a shortage of quality operators.
“We want to make sure that the students we train have sound technical, and soft skills, so that they can work anywhere in the world.”
Chang said a relevant TVET syllabus is critical in ensuring that graduates are paid fairly.
Instead of cheap foreign labour, Sany, he said, preferred to pay young Malaysians who are serious about their careers.
“A TVET graduate can earn between RM3,000 and RM4,000 if their syllabus is industry-relevant. For example, our troubleshooting is all computer-run so we can’t get someone who only knows hardware,” he said, adding that Sany is willing to work closely with the Government on its TVET policies.
Sany has also engaged with the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) to identify potential trainees.
NUTP secretary-general Harry Tan said TVET and varsity graduates must be given equal recognition.
“Our TVET graduates aren’t paid enough. But then again, for them to be hired and to get a good salary, they must be trained in skills that the industry want – not the current syllabus. If the Government is serious about TVET, it has to get its act together – fast.”
On Dec 28, The Star’s exclusive highlighted concerns over the outdated TVET syllabus, and plans by industry leaders to chart the way forward. The newly formed “Industry Lead Bodies” would ensure that Malaysia’s TVET was on par with developed nations like Australia and Canada.
Two months ago, the mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) – a five-year development plan for the country from 2016-2020 – was tabled at the Dewan Rakyat by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The report found that the intake of TVET students has increased and though classified as technologists, graduates are not recognised as professionals with the bargaining power to demand higher wages.
Comment: Yes, selecting the candidate with right attitude is VERY VERY important. A candidate with right attitude like passion in the subject matter and willingness to keep on learning (should be lifelong) other skills & knowledge is far more important than just being skillful in one particular subject matter but having a lousy attitude (in their work or their learning)
KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 ― Seven ministries. Two Malaysia National Plans. More than RM10 billion spent in a span of three years, from 2015 to 2017. And where is TVET now? Plagued by stories of thousands of stranded, unqualified youths, awaiting placement and promise of a better future.
Regardless the state of affairs, everyone who cares about Malaysia’s future should support TVET as a means to empower Malaysia’s young ― in line with our upcoming embrace of Industrial Revolution 4.0.
Yesterday, Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik announced my pro bono-related appointment as the head of the national taskforce on reforming our country’s Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme.
Today, the head of NUTP decides it was a non-starter, considering the mammoth powers required to structurally reform our TVET sector.
NUTP is certainly not wrong in raising concern on the viability of action pertaining to the Pandora’s box-filled TVET.
I recall a conversation with the Secretary-General of Youth and Sports Ministry, Datuk Lokman Hakim Ali, who filled with excitement, planned for our Institut Kemahiran Belia Negara (IKBN) to adopt IR 4.0 as part of its curriculum.
Clearly, to bear fruition, the new government would have to continue with worthier initiatives of its predecessor ― transparently, accountably and efficiently.
To succeed, we need all quarters onboard. This is our Malaysia. It requires all of us to make anything work.
Reforming TVET requires us to think bigger than just courses and institutions.
At its very heart, while we accept the fact that people come with different talents in this world, we have a system that only measures and rewards one, academic talent.
And students who don’t make the cut are thrown into a barrel we now call the TVET system.
This is a systemic problem. And we should treat it as such.
Few would dispute the necessity of TVET in a modern economy; through formal and informal learning, TVET seeks to train and equip individuals with technical skills for the purposes of employment within certain industries.
While conventional education obtained through completion of university remains relevant, the incorporation of TVET as a mainstream option is of equal importance for young Malaysians seeking technical expertise for the working world. TVET is also effective for developing a sustainable, inclusive and socially equitable society and thus should be central to plans for educational reform in Malaysia.
Although TVET has existed in various forms since the 10th and 11th Malaysia Plan, the reality is these efforts have been seriously disjointed in their implementation and are in dire need of thorough structural reforms.
TVET has almost been an afterthought, with incoherent policies often in conflict with each other. Current TVET efforts for example, are supply driven which sees individuals trained in certain skills first prior to any work placement, leading to a severe mismatch of skills and industry. Elsewhere, funding is usually wholly dependent on the government, a dependency which suggests a lack of focus on TVET should funds begin to dry up, as vocational training has not been a priority of the government in the past. Certification to this point has been optional for both individuals seeking work and businesses, which has led to a lack of standards in employment. Trainers involve in TVET have also lacked the quality required for those in their office, lacking clear industry expertise while usually poorly trained themselves.Additionally, synchronization with tertiary education has been found wanting, making it difficult for those with TVET skills and certification to pursue university degrees and higher learning.
Revamping TVET has always been a key goal for Pakatan Harapan, included in the manifesto where we have promised to develop technical and vocational schools to be on par with other streams making it a viable option or alternative to all. This includes setting up a full-board TVET school for outstanding students from all walks of life enabling greater access to opportunity for Malaysians.
Alongside these manifesto promises, significant overhaul is needed for TVET implementation both in the long and short term especially if we hope to make significant progress before by year end. We should look to adopt international best practices as has begun in Penang with the implementation of the German Dual Vocational Training (GDVT).
This scheme offers financial incentives to companies that offer industrial training and/or internships to TVET students. This is reflective of a demand-based approach, where industries are committed to offering apprenticeships based on their own requirements and TVET institutions meeting that demand.
This helps to ensure individuals are equipped with relevant skills and assured to a strong degree of employment, representing an efficient outcome for everyone involved.
Industries and chambers should lead the way as they are best positioned to know the needs of the economy, supported by federal and state governments. Reducing the dependence on the government for both financial and institutional support compliments an industry-driven approach with the state providing assistance as necessary.
Policy reform is thus the best approach for government, creating favourable conditions for TVET institutions and providing incentives to both trainers and trainees, while ensuring coordination between industries and training centres.
With proper oversight, coordinated by the Jabatan Pembangunan Kemahiran under the Ministry of Human Resources, work will be done to ensure proper certification at all levels of both training and business. Where certification was previously optional, it should now be made mandatory in order for those with TVET training to find employment as well as for businesses to be eligible to hire TVET graduates.
Such standardisation of qualifications is long overdue if we want to treat TVET with the same seriousness and respect accorded to tertiary education. Alongside this is better integration and crossovers with academic pathways to provide more opportunities for those who wish to further their formal education to enhance themselves as individuals or change their career entirely.
At present, a lack of integration and accreditation prevents TVET graduates from qualifying from degree programmes at universities. The Penang state government has sought to address this by introducing short term measures aimed at providing accreditation, measures that can further be improved with concerted federal support.
These policy suggestions barely scratch the surface of the potential of TVET, one that can be harnessed to the total benefit of Malaysia and Malaysians through an inclusive approach and better engagement with all stakeholders. These steps will go a long way to dial back on the stigma against TVET and its graduates through better integration in the economy, helping to increase their economic value and ultimately providing better wages.
A holistic improvement of education in Malaysia includes the recognition and enhancement of TVET, elevating it to a status equivalent or superior to traditional tertiary education.
We must demonstrate that a university education does not have to be the be-all-end-all goal for many Malaysians, that many alternatives exist alongside these options, while a system that has for so long practiced various forms of exclusion shall now be expanded to ensure no Malaysians are left behind.
The mandate given to me is to come up with a report on structurally reforming TVET before one year is up. I’ll make sure post engaging with stakeholders, we will have a clear operational step by step action plan.
I urge NUTP to be as loud and demanding as they are today. Time and tide waits for no ministers in implementing much needed reforms.
Malaysians, say hello to industrial revolution 4.0!
*Nurul Izzah Anwar is MP for Permatang Pauh, vice-president and co-elections director for Keadilan. Nurul Izzah wrote this for Malay Mail.
“WHAT do you want to be when you grow up?” This is one question we have all been asked at one point in our lives, whether the answer requires a 350-word essay or just one-word, usually referring to a job.
How does one answer this same question today with automation taking place and the fact that many jobs of the future do not exist yet?
A good example is social media jobs. It is hard to imagine a high-paying social media job a decade ago and this same job may be completely transformed in the near future, if it still exists at all.
Over one-third of skills that are considered important in today’s workforce will probably have changed five years from now based on research by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The young people today will need a portfolio of skills and capabilities to navigate the complex world of work in the future.
In fact, a report by Deloitte University Press on “Re-imagining Higher Education” predicts that 50 per cent of the content in an undergraduate degree will be obsolete within five years due to the impact of digital transformation.
While we talk about the future of work — which jobs will disappear and which will remain — we also need to shift the focus to understand the skills and capabilities in demand.
Another WEF report, The Future of Jobs, identified complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity as the top three skills out of 10 that workers will need in 2020.
Although active listening is considered a core skill today, the report said that it will completely disappear from being an important skill at the workplace. Instead, emotional intelligence is said to become one of the top skills needed by all in the future.
Linear careers, where the path begins with the choices you made in the subjects you studied at university before entering the world of work, will be far less common. There is a strong need to constructively engage employers in changing the education system in the years to come.
The allocation of RM4.9 billion for TVET (technical and vocational education training) institutions in the 2018 Budget is definitely more necessary now than ever before to prepare for the work of the future.
Malaysia plans to have 35 per cent of skilled workforce by 2020 to achieve a high-income nation status. The government has also set a goal to increase the country’s percentage of skilled workers to 45 per cent by 2030. It is about time the country upgrades its TVET system.
If there is one thing that TVET can do is that it could provide a means of tackling unemployment. Vocational education tends to result in a faster transition into the workplace and countries that place greater emphasis on TVET have been successful in maintaining low youth unemployment rates.
However, a negative social bias has often prevented young people from enrolling in TVET. Although vocational subjects are more varied, they are often poorly understood.
Many people associate vocational track programmes with low academic performance, poor quality provision and blocked future pathways that do not lead to higher education. Young people and parents shun vocational education, which they regard as a “second-choice” education option.
Academic subjects are valued more highly than vocational ones. Medicine, law and engineering are seen as career options with huge earnings potential. Several academic studies also caution against specialising vocational subjects at a young age because they are more specific and directly related to particular occupations.
For TVET to be valued as the equal of academic education, further education providers should not be overlooked.
The integration of on-the-job training and lifelong learning into TVET curriculum can ensure that graduates are job-ready yet adaptable to changing skills requirements. The funding is necessary so that TVET institutions can upgrade learning environments and invest in professional development. In return, it can raise teaching quality by increasing the qualification levels of the instructors and making pedagogical training obligatory.
Finland is one example of TVET success — a result of external and internal policy shifts — that we can learn from. The country’s systematic efforts since 2000 to upgrade the quality and status of TVET has lead to an increased percentage of application for the programmes from the Finnish youth.
TVET institutions in this country received the same basic and development funding as general education institutions. The curriculum has been restructured to include the national core curriculum required for access to university, as well as strong on-the-job training and lifelong learning components. TVET students are allowed to progress to further studies at university or applied sciences level.
Many parents’ worst nightmare is seeing their child aimlessly chasing dream without achieving anything. It is time that we should retire asking the young ones on what they want to be when they grow up.
Instead, we should provide accurate information and exposure to where future jobs will exist, including the skills to craft and navigate their careers.
It looks like learning and adapting will become more apparent in the future of workforce. As more students will find themselves doing work that does not exist, we should prepare them intellectually, socially and emotionally to continuously adapt to changes.