PETALING JAYA: While a university degree is often sought after by school leavers, experts say Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is one segment to be explored due to the increasing demand for skilled labour.
Chief Statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said the demand for skills and TVET graduates is increasing in the labour market.
"This is especially (the case) with the focus by the government on the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0), digital economy and (other segments),” he told The Star.
"However, please take note, our labour force statistics show that we still have issues of underemployment (skill-mismatch),” he said.
According to the Statistics Department’s Labour Market Review for First Quarter 2022, skill-related underemployment showed a 36.9% mismatch between occupation and qualification.
Bank Islam chief economist Dr Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid said it would be better if graduates acquired some skills in the TVET space.
"This would certainly open up more opportunities for them to explore other areas or industries. I think the present world requires individuals who are versatile and agile,” he said.
"Gone are the days where someone should only be working within his comfort zone, for instance, the education that they’ve acquired while in tertiary institutions,” he added.
As for TVET grads, he said they should also look into developing their soft skills such as interacting with customers and understanding consumer behaviour.
"That means elevating themselves in terms of knowledge and not just their current expertise,” he added.
Additionally, Sunway University Economics Professor Dr Yeah Kim Leng said the country's TVET programmes have been relatively successful in meeting industry-specific needs for specialised skills.
"The critical success factor is the close collaboration with industry players to meet specialist needs such as operating sophisticated equipment and machinery, designing application software and conducting business analytics,” he said.
"Joint training programmes organised in collaboration with industry players and industry apprenticeships are key components of a successful TVET system that is able to produce skilled workers that meet industry needs,” he added.
However, researcher at Emir Research Nur Sofea Hasmira Azahar said that enrollment in TVET should be actively promoted and placed in the mainstream education among the secondary-school leavers as the courses offered are very much related to technology.
"To encourage participation, a change in mindset needs to be undertaken extensively by changing social perceptions toward TVET as a less prestigious choice of study to one that is a valuable platform to generate a high-skilled labour force for the nation,” she said in a research note in 2020.
A good yardstick to measure whether these efforts at changing mindset is successful is when employers are happy with the good performance of these high-skilled TVET graduates.
"In return, they will happily retain them by giving these graduates a good pay rise, which in turn, will help raise the starting salary of TVET fresh graduates in the future,” she added.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob had said that RM36.41mil has been allocated to sponsor 1,000 students from the below 40 income group (B40) to pursue TVET.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad said recently that the government is targeting at least 55% of Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) holders to further their studies in TVET by 2025.