SINCE assuming the office of Human Resources, I have said many times that Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is the most essential aspect of training for our future human capital.
Malaysia today is in dire need of skilled construction workers, technicians, carpenters, painters, plumbers and electricians, to name a few, in order to become a developed nation. Towards this end, we need to increase the percentage of skilled workers by means of skilling, upskilling and reskilling our human capital especially among youths.
Malaysia has recorded a flat growth in the skilled labour market since 2016, which had prompted the country to raise the portion under the development plan. The Government has targeted skilled manpower to reach 35% of the total workforce by 2020 through the Eleventh Malaysia Plan.
The current percentage of skilled workers is only 28%. If benchmarked against the more developed countries such as Singapore, we are far behind.
According to the “Human Capital Report 2015” by the World Economic Forum, 54% of the Singaporean workforce is highly skilled which is relatively higher than the percentage in New Zealand and Australia.
In addressing the shortage of skilled manpower, the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) has introduced the B40 Capacity Building Scheme, which is targeted at the bottom 40% income group (B40), with an allocation amounting to RM15mil.
Understanding the root cause of unemployment
While the Government has taken the initiatives as mentioned, it’s vital to analyse further the root cause of shortage of skilled workers compared to developed nations. What do developed nations do differently to build the necessary foundation for the development of skill workers?
Looking at our education system, there is a lack of a concrete early skills education that would ease youths towards TVET education, which would result in helping them get employed. Based on a labour force report by the Statistics Department, the unemployment rate for 2018 stood at 3.3%, while unemployment among youths was 10.9% during the same period.
This reveals to a certain extent that our youths are suffering from a skills mismatch and lack of skills training which could have been nurtured during the earlier part of their education.
The nature of exams in government and private schools are still academic in nature with little hands-on experience that would enhance hard and soft skills. There is a need to review our primary and secondary education system and its syllabus to create a new foundation for the development of TVET education.
It’s becoming a trend for employers to have an internal skills training or on-the-job training at their work place.
Daikin, the popular air conditioning manufacturer, takes in students and provides training using a very similar model of the ministry’s TVET. The training is for a period of two years which is fully borne by the company while paying these students the country’s minimum wage of RM1,100 while they are studying. All this also comes without being bonded to the company which is truly admirable. This initiative by Daikin should be complimented and emulated by other industries in Malaysia.
The Government should also look into ways to inject some funds to assist these forms of private TVET initiatives.
Dual education system
One of the systems that have been instrumental in the TVET success stories of developed nations such as Germany and Switzerland is the dual education system.
Dual education is the combination of class room (school) and workplace experiential learning (industry apprenticeship) that would help the young with an early exposure to vocational training. The current internship system which is only two to three months is inadequate for students to be fully immersed within the fruitful real industry experience.
The Dual system has been proven successful in countries like South Korea where graduates were easily employed as they possessed relevant skills in demand in the South Korean economy.
The main characteristic of the dual system is cooperation between mainly small and medium sized companies and government funded vocational schools. This cooperation is regulated by law. Trainees in the dual system typically spend part of each week at a vocational school and the other part at a company. Dual training usually lasts two to three-and-a-half years. By being exposed to the industry while they are still learning in college would help our young develop valuable experience early on in their career.
Therefore, let us review our education system to see how we can build the right foundation for the development of TVET education, which would enhance the employment prospects of these youths.
Human Resources Minister