A world-class TVET will attract FDI
05 Apr 2023
ACCORDING to International Labour Organization (ILO), Asia is expected to account for two-thirds of the global workforce by 2030, with an additional 395 million people projected to join the labour market.
If Malaysia intends to be a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) hub in Asia, a world-class TVET should be put in place to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).
It is important for TVET to focus on developing the world-class infrastructure, industry-driven curriculum, relevant and futuristic knowledge, skills and talent needed for the jobs of the future in order to maximize employment opportunities and promote sustainable economic growth.
World-class TVET programmes should be relevant to the future industry needs. This could reduce skill mismatches and increase employment opportunities.
TVET is recognised as a critical pathway in the 12th Malaysia Plan. However, TVET in Malaysia lacks the aura of elegance. It is perceived as destitute choice of leftover students. The 3D mantra (Difficult, Dirty, Dangerous) lingers on the parents mind when asked about their children’s interest to enter TVET programmes.
In February 2023, TVET Secretariat, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister 1 (DPM1), Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, was established. It is expected to assist the Human Resources Ministry which spearheads the TVET council to oversee the implementation and enforcement of TVET policies and laws.
TVET, more than any other profession, has to deal with the future demands of the workplace. It is a constant struggle for the training institutions, or else, they would become obsolete.
However, with more than 1,200 TVET institutions in Malaysia offering about 6,000 programmes across 12 ministries, quality is difficult to sustain.
In 2021, a total of 73,497 graduates were produced by various TVET institutions but there is still significant unemployment among them. It is estimated that unemployment among youths in Malaysia is about 10 per cent.
Another critical issue is the low salary among TVET graduates. Malaysia should embrace “High Skills; High Salary” paradigm — practised in OECD countries.
For Malaysia to become an advanced country, entry-level Malaysian skilled/professional workers need to earn an average of RM4,860 per month. So, the suggestion of DPM1 on the entry level salary of skilled/professional TVET graduates of RM3,500 is reasonable. In Singapore, the entry level skilled/professional workers earn a monthly salary of between S$3,800 and S$4,200.
To achieve world-class TVET, education and higher education also need to be world class. Post-Covid era has rejuvenated higher education.
Based on new Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin’s address — a new model of higher education is focusing on flexible, diverse, digitised and hybrid education. In addition, B40 and at risk students must receive proper education and training in order to maintain an egalitarian and democratic equality society.
University ranking is not the only the index of excellence but the employability of graduates is more important. If a job needs a bachelor degree then we might negate more than 50 per cent of youth from B40 background and 90 per cent of indigenous background from employment.
Several large multinational corporations have already announced a shift toward skills-based hiring. The “skills-first” approach is the way forward.
However, it doesn’t mean we should close universities and colleges because four-year degree is still required for varied employment sectors and its quality is monitored by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency.
With 5G and metaverse technologies, a student or a worker can accomplish their tasks virtually everywhere without confining to physical boundaries. Nevertheless, human touch is priceless so hybrid mode of learning and working is more realistic.
In terms of skilled digital talent in Asia, Malaysia has 6 per cent as compared with 8 per cent in Singapore and 12 per cent in India.
Southeast Asia is expected to require an additional 18 million digital workers by 2030, with Malaysia projected to require around one million of these workers.
So, to be world-class TVET, Malaysia should: (a) focus on quality, (b) have an independent regulator to safeguard TVET quality across ministries, (c) emphasise on industry-driven curriculum, (d) invest in advance technology and infrastructure including AI, metaverse, and green technologies, (e) pass several Acts related to TVET including an Act that requires companies involvement in training TVET students in partnership with TVET training institutions, and (f) increase the salary of the entry-level technocrats.
Professor Dr Ramlee Mustapha – Head, TVET and Industry Cluster, National Professor Council and Senior Fellow, Malaysia Research Institute For Vocational Education & Training (MyRIVET)