A recent survey found that nearly three-quarters of organisations in Malaysia plan to hire graduates from local public and private HEIs this year and in 2022.
The Talentbank survey – published in December last year – suggests that the country’s HEIs are producing graduates with skill sets that are in line with industry needs and desired by employers.
These skills are especially important when dealing with a Covid-19-ravaged job market which saw Malaysia’s unemployment rate hitting 4.9% in January.Its chief executive officer Prof Dr Elizabeth Lee said the Sunway Education Group has been equipping students with skills to compete in a challenging job market while encouraging them to be open to different forms of career opportunities such as extended internship, part-time work, project-based work, and self-employment as these lead to more exposure and experience.
Students, she said, are also trained on resume writing, grooming and attending hiring interviews, to prepare them for their first job.
It is essential for graduates to have a positive attitude, a willingness to learn and the ability to present ideas and thoughts clearly, she told StarEdu.
According to Prof Lee, students have to be trained to step up during the pandemic, if they are to make it out there. Covid-19, she said, has definitely impacted the economy across the board. It’s not just fresh graduates, but the overall workforce, that has been affected.
“We are also at a stage where fresh graduates are having to compete with experienced workers.
The landscape is changing but this also means that there will be new opportunities for graduates with the right disposition, ” she added.
Her views echo those of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economic Affairs) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed who said that Malaysian youths should equip themselves with multiple skills to remain competitive in light of the global economic recovery amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the Youth Economic Forum on March 5, he said it was important for youths to obtain the right skillset, since the country is increasingly focusing on the high-end manufacturing and services sector.
Prof Lee is optimistic about an uptick in employment this year owing to various government initiatives such as the wage subsidy, hiring incentive and creation of new economic digital space.
“Post-pandemic, we need to have graduates who not only seek employment, but who can help create jobs instead stressing on the importance of entrepreneurship, ” she offered.
Taylor’s University Faculty of Innovation and Technology School of Computer Science and Engineering Postgraduate Programmes (Computing) director Assoc Prof Dr Azween Abdullah said it is also important that graduates equip themselves with a professional qualification or industry certified qualifications in addition to their academic qualifications, especially in technology.
Azween said the 2020 LinkedIn Emerging Jobs Malaysia report shows that employers are increasingly expecting the talents they hire be savvy with digital tools to augment their non-digital skills, be it in finance, supply chains, journalism, customer experience or manufacturing.
The report also revealed that computing and information technology graduates could look forward to jobs in their field. Others include: accounting, business management, marketing, human resource management, mechanical, electronics and electrical engineering, mass communications, banking and economics.
“There is a strong emphasis on possessing tech skills to remain relevant in the future workforce with the information technology (IT) sector expected to continue growing.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that graduates of tomorrow will be navigating through an increasingly dynamic and volatile work landscape where they will need to be innovative and adaptable in order to meet industry expectations, ” he added.
Azween said HEIs must prepare graduates by adopting practical learning approaches where students can learn from best industry practices and pick-up skills that are most relevant.
This would mean moving away from traditional learning models while creating innovative degree programmes. The goal for HEIs, said Azween, is clear.
“Create graduates who are more agile and able to transcend jobs and sectors. They must have a solid understanding of the workplace and how their skills fit into it.
“As more and more educational institutions start building industry-ready models for graduates, we will not only be looking at better employability rates but will see an overall increase in productivity and a better outcome in terms of solutions and products, ” he said.
Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said to obtain “industry-ready graduates”, HEIs should collaborate with the industry because a reason behind a job mismatch is an outdated curricula.
“Academic teaching staff must undergo attachments with industry and industry staff must be embedded at educational institutions, ” he said.
This can be done by conducting more frequent industry visits and collaborations to find out the latest industry trends and to understand the industry’s expectations of hired talents.
“Jobs are being restructured to meet the fast pace of technological advances. With an increasingly competitive job market, new graduates need to be adaptable to weather the ever-changing work conditions brought on by uncertainty and disruptions, ” he said stressing that digital literacy, collaboration, agility, creativity, problem solving and data analysis make potential talents more marketable.