THREE new universities have been awarded the Premier Digital Tech Institutions status.
They are Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), HELP University and International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). They join the initial 13.
The initiative was developed by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and the Education Ministry in 2017 to produce a pool of talent and leaders expanding across fields such as digital technology, manufacturing and agriculture.
At the time of its launch, the ministry and MDEC awarded eight universities and five polytechnics with the Premier Digital Tech University and Preferred Digital Tech Polytechnic status respectively.
Digital transformation is human transformation, and talent is the heart of it, said MDEC chief executive officer Surina Shukri.
“Companies have to simultaneously fill today’s roles and plan for future ones, most of them non-existent at the moment.
“We are not alone in facing the digital talent challenge.
“According to Frost and Sullivan’s Digital Talent Report commissioned by MDEC in 2017, Malaysia’s talent demand is expected to grow 15% annually from 2017, and to require more than half a million jobs by 2020,” she said during the award presentation ceremony.
Surina cited a 2019 LinkedIn report on emerging jobs in Malaysia which highlighted the top five emerging roles; data scientist, full stack engineer, drive test engineer, user experience designer and content writer.
“Reshaping the workforce to thrive under digital disruption is a challenge, especially given that the digital future is a moving target.
“We need to ensure our students and their parents are future savvy, which is why initiatives like these helps to make easier decisions on what’s good for education.
“The work ahead of us is significant but in order for us to succeed, this spirit of innovation and incorporating a lifelong learning mindset is key,” she added.
The institutions, Surina said, were selected based not only on their global rankings, but on graduate employability rates.
“This initiative is to strengthen tertiary-level computer science curricula and the teaching has proved to be yet another milestone in our efforts to prepare and strengthen a more holistic and sustainable digital talent pipeline.”
Since the introduction of the initiative, Surina said there has been a 33% increase in student enrolment for computer science in IT courses in these universities.
MDEC vice-president of talent and digital entrepreneurship Sumitra Nair said the teaching and learning under the initiative must be hands-on, skill-based and must include certain components of industry content.
“Industry involvement is important.
“Courses offered in these universities are reviewed by a panel of experts. If they feel it doesn’t meet the mark, the universities will have to make the (necessary) changes.
“The university lecturers must also be attached to the industry for a certain amount of time to give them industry exposure,” she added.
Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said in 2017, ICT graduate employment was at 82%, making it one of the top fields where employability is concerned.
“Given this growing demand for digital tech talent and our ongoing partnerships with MDEC and the digital tech industry, I am confident that together, we can improve graduate employability and salary levels through these high value jobs.
“The Premier Digital Tech Institutions initiative is in line with our national aspirations in empowering human capital.
“My ministry is keen to work closely with other government agencies and industry partners to produce knowledgeable, skilled and values-driven talents,” he said, adding that graduate employment among the Premier Digital Tech institutions has increased from 88% to 95%. His speech text was read by Education Ministry higher education division deputy director-general Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Saleh Jaafar.
The recognition, said UTAR president Prof Datuk Dr Chuah Hean Teik, is an honour for the university.
“This is good for our undergraduates and their lecturers as well because it gives them more exposure to the industry, which will help in designing curricula and real life applications.
“As a country, we need to seriously look at how we can increase the number of students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“We hope through efforts such as these, we can promote STEM education and educate people on how studying science does not mean you will only work in labs,” he added.
HELP University vice-chancellor and president Prof Datuk Dr Paul Chan said: “Our vision is to create the A*Gen (Analytics Generation). We are the first university to make it mandatory for all our staff and students to study our Data Analytics Certificate course, which includes diagnostic, predictive, prescriptive and cognitive levels,” he said. It is doing the transformation university-wide in its culture, people skills, process management and technology architecture, he added.
IIUM deputy rector (academic and industrial linkages) Prof Dr Isarji Sarudin said it ties well with the university’s ecosystem, which not only focuses on technology, but human values.
“This is important as the future is digital technology and our students should not be left behind,” he said.