Plan to revamp TVET lauded

THE establishment of the special Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) task force headed by Nurul Izzah Anwar is a step in the right direction. A revamp is long overdue in addressing the many shortcomings in the implementation of TVET courses.

From the reports that 208 out of 269 national schools offering Pendidikan Vokasional Menengah Atas (PVMA) have not been accredited as Malaysian Skills Certificate (SKM) training centres, leaving 5,504 school leavers last year in limbo, “PVMA programme put on ice” (The Star, June 21) and “TVET curriculum to be streamlined” (The Star, June 23), it is evident that the current TVET programme was not planned properly. Lack of coordination among too many agencies and ministries has resulted in the current predicament.

From now onwards, the Education Ministry and Human Resources Ministry should work closely to ensure that all TVET programmes are managed efficiently by one body only.

TVET is one of the 10 shifts embedded in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education). The blueprint states that there is an under-supply of TVET workers in 10 of the 12 National Key Economic Area (NKEA) sectors, and that under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), Malaysia would require a 2.5-fold increase in TVET enrolment by 2025.

The Education Ministry has outlined various strategies with industry involvement and partnerships to achieve the target. Unesco is also playing an active role through the UNESCO Strategy for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) 2016 – 2021 programme to help member countries implement their TVET programmes.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has created a myriad of job opportunities that need skilled workers to work in tandem with professionals. New courses such as mechatronics engineering will eventually replace the purely mechanical or electronics engineering courses which will in turn create jobs requiring the integration of multiple disciplines. This integration will require a pool of skilled workers, hence TVET is crucial in equipping youths with the necessary skills for 4IR.

The comment by former deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon that 90% out of 13,000 TVET students secured jobs before they graduated last year reiterates the growing demand for skilled workers in the country, “Vocational graduates in demand” (StarEducate, April 1).

The highly successful dual system used in Germany can be adopted here. In this system, a combination of employer-based and school-based training is used where young people seeking an apprenticeship apply to employers and enter an apprenticeship agreement with the employer.

Both the apprentice and the employer are subject to a training contract. These apprenticeships last usually between three and three and a half years.

Apprentices receive a training allowance and the employer bears all other training costs connected with the work-based element of an apprenticeship. The successful completion of an apprenticeship leads to skilled worker status. There are no government subsidies involved in this system.

In order for this system to work, TVET providers who are mainly vocational schools, colleges and polytechnics will have to work closely with the industry.

Technical courses offered by universities would normally require industrial attachment before graduation. Thus, universities are usually well linked with the industries and would be able to match the skills-based technical courses required by prospective employers.

With their vast resources and good industrial link, universities could also consider offering TVET courses to complement the conventional TVET providers. This will also be a good source of revenue for universities and will reduce their dependence on government funding while indirectly meeting the demand for skilled workers in the country.

Awareness must also be created among the public that skilled workers are no less competent compared to degree holders. In Western countries, skilled workers are in high demand and complement the professionals.

Those who are not academically inclined would excel in other ways, and skills based qualification is one of them.

TVET is a lifeline for those out of mainstream education. Parents should also change their perception that skills-based qualification are less acceptable.

With encouragement from all quarters, I believe we can implement a highly successful TVET programme for the benefit of our youths.