THE nature of Malaysia’s workforce is changing. Youths need to prepare for a variety of roles in a future that is seeing rapid transformation in digitisation and automation.
Higher education plays a significant role in instilling knowledge and skills for the next-gen workforce – enabling them to make greater contributions to society and improve the country’s productivity and living standards.
While it is difficult to make accurate predictions about future jobs, current trends can determine the type of skills that young people need. In acquiring these skills, Taylor’s University curated a “Taylor’sphere” ecosystem that aims to nurture students’ intellectual, mental and emotional growth in an atmosphere of creativity and collaboration – with emphasis on entrepreneurship.
In this ecosystem, students will have the benefit of attending life skills modules conducted by specialised trainers, work on real-life industry projects, attend classes in hybrid mode, and mix and match subjects for broad-based learning, among others.
Notably, every student will also take up a social innovation module to find solutions to real-world problems, have the opportunity to realise their entrepreneurial dreams, and receive guidance with ideation, prototyping, funding and product commercialisation under the mentorship of Taylor’s Me.Reka Makerspace (TMM), BizPod and Research & Enterprise.
Final-year students also pursue cross-faculty projects and will be able to utilise labs or studios across the university – mimicking the collaborative way of working across departments in the industry.
Inspiration for a rainy day
Bernard Yap Kah Huan, 19, is one such student who found himself immersed in Taylor’sphere.
Upon embarking on the Taylor’s American Degree Transfer Programme, he quickly integrated into the institution’s Maker community, dabbling in many projects, such as creating a learning device to help underprivileged children access online education, and building an ‘umbrella borrowing’ machine.
Bernard’s inspiration for the latter came when he received an umbrella from a stranger on a rainy day and quickly paid it forward to someone else the next day. Realising the need for umbrellas on-the-go during unpredictable weather, Bernard approached TMM to help him execute his idea.
“TMM provided the tools and space to build my umbrella machine. They also gave close guidance and suggestions when I encountered technical problems. This is useful, because some problems are so specific you can’t always Google a solution, ” says Bernard.
He believes that having such skills and being in the right environment has put him in good stead for employment, or to start his own business.
“Network and environment are definitely important. You have more chances at succeeding in your projects, as more possibilities are open to you. If you are doing everything alone, you might not be able to solve many problems, ” he says.
Jizen Loh Iskandar Khairi Loh Abdullah who is currently a Bachelor of Mass Communications (PR and Marketing) student at Taylor’s University embarked on his sports brand Nex when he was 18.
However, he struggled to find his footing to build and market a “no-tie shoelaces” product. After much research, a failed 3D printing sample and even a visit to a plastic factory, the odds seemed stacked against him.
“The first two years were the toughest, as I was juggling between building the prototype and studying Foundation at Taylor’s, ” Jizen admits.
“At that point, the Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace had not existed yet. So I went to a 3D printing store and printed a sample, and it didn’t work at all. I thought, if I can’t even make a sample, how could I sell my products?”
The turning point came when his aunt gave him a book about Chinese business magnate, investor and philanthropist Jack Ma. Inspired by Ma’s entrepreneurial journey, Jizen pressed on and switched his business tactic – he procured his no-tie shoelaces from China and worked on product improvisation and branded it as Nexlace.
Jizen sold and manually distributed his Nexlaces to friends, family, schools and gyms. Still, it was an uphill battle for Jizen. He battled crippling anxiety, had to balance his studies and his punishing training schedule as a national fencing athlete, and struggled with managing cashflow for his business.
Applying what he learnt in marketing and branding, Jizen stepped back to assess his business model in 2018.
“I began to understand my market segmentation and value proposition of the product, and so I designed my ads to fill in the gaps, answering people’s needs, ” he says, adding that sales started rocketing when he marketed his products on a popular e-commerce app, and made tutorial videos on how to use his Nexlaces.
Along the way, the Taylor’s University start-up incubator team, BizPod, approached him to provide advice on his product and business, and also connected him to TMM. It was there that Jizen met a like-minded peer, Bernard Loh, who was instrumental in testing and experimenting with laser printing designs on his Nexlaces.
“As an entrepreneur, you cannot do everything by yourself. I’m not good at building things, I don’t know how to use the laser engraving machine. But I have the vision, I’m the kind that knows ‘A’ and ‘Z’, but not the ‘B to Y’ of how to achieve it. But Bernard knows the ‘B to Y’, ” says Jizen.
Jizen reflects that one’s environment and network can help entrepreneurs realise their vision.
“I started from the bottom. People always think that when you have a good product, you must keep your idea to yourself. But you need to share it and meet more people to get to where you want to be, as network speeds up the process.”
To support these projects, not only would students be able to access TMM, BizPod and Research & Enterprise, but the entire campus becomes their “makerspace” where they would be able to utilise any lab, studio or research facility at the university.
As Taylor’s continues to push the envelope in pedagogy and student-centred learning, these initiatives will give graduates the edge in the industry while helping them find their place and role in society.
What’s your gameplan? Join in the last leg of Taylor’s Digital Open Day on March 14,2021, by going to https://university2.taylors.edu.my/digitalopenday/.