Photo (above): Mustapa (fourth right), Azman (centre), Education Ministry industrial relations division director Assoc Prof Dr Arham Abdullah (fourth left) and Johan (third right) with employer and university representatives at the launch.
Employers and universities to address industry-specific talent needs
On April 22, the International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed launched the Industry-Academia Collaboration (IAC) initiative for the Electrical & Electronics (E&E) sector, at the SEMICON South-East Asia 2015 microelectronics exhibition in Penang.
A partnership between Talent Corp Malaysia Bhd (TalentCorp), the Education Ministry (MoE) and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida), the IAC for E&E sector has the objective to catalyse greater industry-academia collaboration across all priority clusters of the E&E sector, towards producing industry ready graduates.
The IAC initiative will be extended to cover other priority sectors, particularly those integral to the Economic Transformation Programme.
The pilot initiative will see 14 leading employers partner with 10 public universities to address skill gaps within seven key technology clusters in the E&E industry.
These are integrated circuit design, embedded system, wireless communications (radio frequency), wafer fabrication, Opto/LED, solar and advanced manufacturing.
The employers and universities will work together on both short-term and long-term interventions to cater to employers’ different hiring strategies and specific talent needs as well as universities’ challenges and gaps.
Some of the short term measures include industry led final year projects, short courses, electives, competitions and adjunct lecturers.
Meanwhile, long-term measures include Train-the-Trainers (lecturers) and curriculum embedment.
It is estimated that 53,000 graduates remain unemployed after six months of graduating.
More training is needed to address the apparent mismatch between the skills produced by the education system and those demanded in the labour markets.
To enhance the employability of graduates, the Government proposes that the curriculum and skill training programmes at public skill training institutions as well as institutions of higher learning be reviewed.
Under Budget 2015, TalentCorp will provide RM30mil to boost industry-academia collaboration where universities, government entities and industry will work together towards producing industry-ready graduates including developing sector-specific curriculums for short courses, electives and industrial training.
Matching talent to jobs
1. Main driver of graduate unemployment is the skills mismatch between recent graduates and employers’ demands. Employers cite soft skills as key factors in hiring entry-level graduates, and graduates from Malaysian universities seem to be lacking in these areas. From Figure 1, 81% of respondents identified communication skills as the major deficit, followed by creative/critical thinking (56%), analytical (51%) and problem-solving competencies (49%).
2. Greater involvement of the private sector in training and producing high quality graduates is likely to have significant payoffs. According to a TalentCorp-World Bank survey, only half of the companies that responded to the questionnaire offer structured internship programmes, which can help expose university students to a variety of career paths and help them develop requisite soft skills for any position.
3. Companies seem willing to pay for talent – when they find it. While pay levels could be relevant in specific sectors, many companies say they do pay premium wages for graduates with the right skills. About 75% of respondents have introduced premium graduate programmes to recruit top entry-level talent, in addition to their existing general graduate programmes. According to the survey, 43% of companies paid “premium” entry-level graduates between RM3,000 and RM5,000 a month (see Figure 2).
4. Universities cannot produce graduates who are ready for the workforce unless they develop a clear, accurate understanding of what firms are looking for in entry-level employees and incorporate these requirements into the course curricula, teaching and assessment methods, or other means. The skills mismatch is exacerbated by the lack of communication between universities and firms on how to develop employable graduates. Less than 10% of employers surveyed have had experience developing curricula or joint programmes with universities.
Key facts: Electrical & electronics sector
- The Electrical & Electronics (E&E) sector accounted for 32.8% of Malaysia’s exports in 2013, and 27.2% of total employment, according to Mida figures
- Malaysia’s E&E exports totalled RM231.2 billion in 2014, according to Matrade figures. That’s almost half of all Malaysian manufactured exports
- Major export markets include China, the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan
- E&E products were also the largest import group, worth RM175bil
Sources: Matrade and Mida
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Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 2 May 2015