THERE isn’t a better time than now to be a science graduate. There are more science jobs today than ever before, and really exciting careers are coming on stream as more and more new technologies are rolled out. As we ride the sharp curve to Industry 4.0 and beyond, opportunity lies in joining the dots between the diverse fields of science, technology and thought. Emerging breakthrough technologies in artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, quantum computing and the Internet of Things, to name a few, are expected to disrupt industry, lifestyle and jobs.
Today’s graduates who will take on tomorrow’s jobs are expected to face unprecedented disruptions and a fluid work landscape. It is estimated that a quarter of today’s jobs will not exist by the next decade and a good number of future jobs that have not been heard of yet will arise. “That’s why we have completely revitalised teaching and learning at Universiti Teknologi Petronas so that our graduates will be ready for a totally new world, ” says UTP’s Student Affairs and Alumni deputy vice chancellor Associate Professor Dr Nor Hisham Hamid. “We are preparing every graduate to fit into the dynamics of constant change, have an entrepreneurial mindset, and flourish amidst the disruptions with sound technical knowledge.”
From 2014, strategic moves have reshaped teaching at UTP, enabling self-directed learning, complex projects, challenging group work, and problem-based learning. These have brought layers of stimulating engagement to the entire learning process supported by at least one overseas experience and a mandatory seven-month-long internship. UTP students get exposure and immersion into real life situations of today’s workplace, much of which is characterised by new disruptive technologies.
Malaysians are already familiar with some of these. AirBnB, ride-hailing, mobile banking and online shopping are now mainstream but there is so much more, and new life is coming to old industries. Take rubber, as an example. For two generations, Malaysians saw no career options in this industry because as we evolved, rubber had devolved. Now, rubber infused with graphene by way of nanotechnology is poised to launch super tyres for all vehicles and disrupt the entire tyre industry. That is only one Malaysian example. “There are incredible new opportunities in clean energy, electronics, transportation, pharmaceuticals and agriculture under 4IR, ” says NanoMalaysia Berhad chief executive officer Dr Rezal Khairi Ahmad – a member of UTP’s Industry Advisory Panel who oversees the physics and chemistry programmes. “Every sector known to man will feature new jobs.
Many are still fearful of the newer sciences partly because they can’t see career prospects. So it’s understandable that parents still count on familiar choices like medicine and law for their children.” Even now, stereotypes dominate. Many do not realise that banks have always hired physics grads for analytical and modelling skills, and that law firms want chemistry graduates to scale up as patent attorneys. “Graduates with a strong science background can exploit the diverse employment opportunities which IR4.0 can offer, ” says Dr Rezal. In the job market, recruiters are looking for candidates who demonstrate analytical thinking, active learning and innovation.
“Employers are looking for those with a track record of continuous self-improvement, leadership roles and general life skills as they usually adapt well and are willing to reskill and upskill, ” says Schlumberger’s East SEA recruiting manager and UTP alumnus Chua Han Jim. “This is over and above having excelled in studies and mastering technical fundamentals and applications. Communication proficiency and advanced computer literacy are standard requirements for entry level jobs. They are no longer regarded as a strength.”
In just four new fields, these are some jobs to look forward to. The world is hungry for out-of-the-box thinkers who easily embrace new ways.
Data detective, analyst, ethicist, broker, trust officer, procurer
Blockchain architect, regulator, engineer, designer, analyst, product manager
Artificial intelligence integration specialist; thousands of jobs, especially finding new applications
Sensors System architect, curator, designer, installer, data modeller, signal engineer, troubleshooter
The best time to start on your future career is now, says Chua Han Jim, Schlumberger’s East SEA recruiting manager. Here are some tips:
Join campus clubs and groups which organise events, campaigns and other activities.
Learn communication, organisation, structure and etiquette.
Immerse yourself in internships; be seen and heard in your team.
Use online time to update yourself with news, training, new tech, concepts and trends. Educational and visionary podcasts inspire intelligent questions and will prepare you for interviews with future employers and engagement with colleagues.
Train yourself to look at the bigger picture. Have a good understanding of positive and negative things, the real and unreal, the good and the bad.