‘You need knowledge to be content creators’

Points to ponder: Prof Siti Hamisah (left) giving her views while Khairy (centre) and Shahril look on.

THE global digital marketing industry is said to be worth RM2.84tril.

Just last year, digital marketing accounted for 72% of total advertising revenue in Malaysia.

While a career as a digital influencer can be lucrative in bringing in advertising dollars, there is a need to ensure students do not skip higher education to become content creators.

“To be a content creator, you must have some basic knowledge and qualifications; otherwise, why would people listen to you?” said Khairy Jamaluddin.

Citing Malaysia’s top content creator Khairul Aming, the former health minister said the influencer may be known for selling sambal, but he is an engineering graduate from Vanderbilt University in the United States.

“His work now is very different from what he studied, but he has knowledge, and that’s why he’s successful,” he added.

Khairy, along with Shahril Hamdan, hosts the Keluar Sekejap podcast. The politicians were at UCSI University recently to record the 102nd podcast episode.

Titled “Belajar Tinggi-tinggi Nak Ke Mana?” (“Where do you want to go with higher education?”), the episode, recorded on May 8, also featured an interview with UCSI Group chief executive officer and UCSI vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir.

Khairy, who is also the varsity’s adjunct professor, said higher education, whether through the degree, diploma or technical and vocational education and training (TVET) certificate route, is still important.

“We cannot reject the role given to structured learning. It provides a rigour and a quality of knowledge understanding that we cannot get from unstructured learning,” he said.

Weighing in, Shahril said the process of thinking, arriving at a conclusion, and presenting an argument or finding in tertiary education, such as engineering, mass communication and economics, is transferable and helpful in adult life, whether working as an influencer or in other fields.

He added that tertiary education brings the advantages of social interaction.

“If you enter the world of work straightaway, there is social interaction but it occurs in the context of work. In institutions of higher education, social interaction is more open and takes place in a climate where each person wants to improve themselves and increase knowledge.

“That experience greatly leads to better self-reliance for adults at a later age,” he said.

He also said higher education provides optionality.

“Being a gig worker and an influencer may initially bring big returns but not everyone can maintain that level for a long period.

“The majority will drop out after a certain point. And at that point, what are your options? Having a certificate or degree is very helpful in the world of work if our main job is not successful,” he said.

Drawing attention to the title of the podcast episode, Khairy expressed concern over a deficit of confidence among the youth in higher education.

He noted that Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek had told the Dewan Rakyat that in 2021, 49% of SPM leavers chose not to pursue tertiary education, with the main reason being their desire to enter the labour force immediately.

Everything, Shahril said, comes back to the returns and options available.

“Most of the jobs that exist in Malaysia are semi-skilled or do not require a degree. The structure of the economy itself creates jobs that are not enough to accept graduates from various fields. “There are some areas with an undersupply over demand but overall, when you have an economy where 60% of jobs are semi-skilled, you will always have this problem. The big solution lies in how we will change our economic structure so that there are far more jobs that require skilled workers.

“This needs to be dealt with more fundamentally and structurally. That is the long-term solution,” he said.

The short-term solution, he added, may require drastic action by the government to intervene aggressively in the matter of wages.

Prof Siti Hamisah emphasised the need for universities to transform in response to the industrial revolution and artificial intelligence.

Drawing on UCSI’s approach to addressing current needs, she said the university provides both conventional education as well as courses where working adults can take microcredentials and collect badges along the way.

“Universities need to provide space for diversity in learners. It’s about the learners,” she stressed.

She also noted the significant gap in certain industries due to the limited number of Malaysian students pursuing science.She said some eight years ago, the feedback was that our graduates were not ready for the workforce.

“Now, what I hear from the industry is we don’t have enough graduates,” she said.

She asserted that universities should create opportunities for students to study sciences, highlighting initiatives such as the foundation programme designed to transition students from social sciences to science.

“Our job is to provide possibilities for them. It’s about being transdisciplinary, being able to acquire knowledge regardless of your background,” she said.

She added that to achieve 100% graduate employability, universities need to ensure students are equipped with knowledge, skills – both psychomotor and soft skills – as well as values.

“One of the purposes of higher education is for students to be responsible to society and become citizens who are devoted to the country,” she said.

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