Towards a competent workforce in M'sia


By LIZ LEE

WHILE it is the leaders who visualise the direction of a corporation, institution or society, it is the workforce or people involved who eventually transform that vision into reality.

In Malaysia's case, a workforce made of competent and competitive employees is key to the nation's high income aspirations.

In transforming the local workplace, the human capital development Strategic Reform Initiative (SRI) under the Strategic Reform Initiative (SRI) within the Economic Transformation Programme has mobilised agencies such as Talent Corporation (M) Bhd (TalentCorp) and Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) to put in place several programmes in partnership with the private sector to upgrade and upskill employees of various sectors.

These programmes have taken off well and even though the numbers may look small against the size of the industries, they have been progressively growing since implementation.

TalentCorp's FasTrack programme, for one, has brought a total of 98 engineering apprentices together with five host companies namely Motorola, Intel, Agilent, Altera, and SilTerra in the first phase.

The 12-month apprenticeship programme is targeted at high-achieving Malaysian engineering graduates, training them to be prepared for the industry by providing greater exposure via formal classroom training and real-life projects with the participating host companies in Penang.

Its second phase to be launched this month will see the involvement of six host companies Motorola, Agilent, Altera, SilTerra, Clarion, and Infineon with a targeted participation rate of 120 apprentices.

Aside from FasTrack, TalentCorp's other programmes have also recorded uptrending industry participation.

To recap, its Returning Expert Programme recorded 680 application approvals for the whole of 2011 compared with 313 in 2010 while the Residence Pass-Talent saw 482 application approvals last year for top management across priority Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) sectors.

“In addition, the Scholarship Talent Attraction and Retention programme, which aims to address Malaysia's growing need for world-class human capital through the optimisation of government scholars, placed 157 JPA scholars from overseas universities in leading organisations such as Petroliam Nasional and Khazanah Nasional throughout 2011,” chief executive officer Johan Mahmood Merican says.

“While we cannot afford to be complacent and more needs to be done, participation rates of our initiatives so far are greatly encouraging and indicate growing public confidence in the professional opportunities that have been created under the ETP,” he adds.

On another note, MDeC's MyProCert programme has been gaining momentum too.

The programme, catering to talent development in the ICT industry, has on board five new partners this year. It started with only SAP at the end of last year.

The new partners are Oracle, offering various Oracle certifications; Huawei, offering HCDA (Huawei Certified Datacom Associate); iTrain, offering iOS mobile development; SnT, offering business process outsourcing programme (BPO) under the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals and Scicom Academy, offering BPO British Technical Education Council certifications.

MyProCert has more than 150 participants signed up to date.

Head of professional development Maria Khor says the programme addresses the needs of the local ICT industry at large and does not only focus on MSC Malaysia ecosystem.

“More than 60% of the Entry Point Projects under the ETP are ICT-centric and requires ICT skills. Hence, the need for a more aggressive and inclusive ICT talent development approach is key,” she says.

She adds that the list of partners is not exhaustive yet and MDeC will continue to rope in more strategic partners into MyProCert which provides up to 70% discount on certification offered by partners.

Apart from focusing on participation from individual corporations, the ETP also has a programme to boost regional development through the private sector.

Designed to enhance employability of graduates in the electrical and electronics sector, the National Talent Enhancement Programme (NTEP) is spearheaded by six coordinating agencies namely Akademi Teknologi Hijau Sdn Bhd, East Coast Economic Region Development Council, Iskandar Regional Development Authority, Northern Corridor Implementation Authority, Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority and Selangor Human Resource Development Centre.

These agencies then engage the private sector to provide training for industry-relevant skills.

Director of the Human Capital Development SRI, Tengku Nurul Azian Tengku Shahriman, says:”Engineering graduates will also be exposed to international best practices as a number of the host companies are renowned multinational companies such as Pensonic, Western Digital, Texas Instrument, Infineon, Omron, Renesas and so on.”

She believes the programme should bear fruit in the medium and long term, making its participants marketable in the job market.

The NTEP gives engineering graduates the opportunity to hone their skills or even specialise in certain engineering disciplines, so that they are “job ready” to be absorbed by the host companies after the 12-month attachment. The training mitigates the risk of losing engineering hopefuls to other industries.

She adds that the programme will encourage engineering graduates to stay with the discipline as we require more engineering talent to meet the needs under the NKEA and City & Corridors initiatives.

“Presently, the nation loses a fair number of engineering graduates yearly to other sectors, with some of them ending up in call centre jobs, marketing and sales jobs, jobs at insurance agencies and others,” Azian said.

To date, there are 122 trainees on board with 21 hosting companies. Fourteen trainees have been absorbed by the host companies before completion of the 12-month traineeship.

Meanwhile, major private companies are also doing their part. IT giant IBM Corp Malaysia, for example, has partnered not only with corporations like Heitech Padu Bhd but also local education institutions to engage future graduates and gain insight into the young minds.

Thus far, it has launched the IBM Academic Initiative On Campus with Universiti Malaysia Pahang and Tunku Abdul Rahman College, signed an agreement with INTI International University to run its Software Career Training Programme and developed the country's first Executive MBA on Service Science Management and Engineering (SSME) alongside Universiti Sains Malaysia.

The SSME course is now also offered at Universiti Malaya as part of its Bachelor of Information Technology course and IBM is looking to start another such programme at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in September next year.

Managing director Ramanathan Sathiamutty says IBM's agenda is to share its knowledge and expertise to shape minds and talents for a sustainable future.

“We also aim to position Malaysia as a hub of skilled IT experts and software and hardware specialists in South-East Asia,” he says of IBM's role in the bigger picture.

Aside from fishing for new recruits, IBM also revitalises the skill set among current technical staff as “many are well-versed with the job but lack the qualification”.

“Furthermore, we are seeing more opportunities from the services side of the business and we end up importing the skills to meet our customer's requirements,” he says.

To address this, IBM has identified a group of technical talents to join a fast-track development programme who will go through an IBM profession certification and accreditation before graduating.

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