I LAUD Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran’s call on small and medium enterprises to hire those with technical and vocational educational training (TVET). Globalisation has made TVET more relevant as employers’ appetites for skilled workforce increase.
But as someone who’s been in the TVET business for the past 23 years, I think the government should not look at promoting TVET in isolation, eg building more training institutes or raising enrolment there. There’s a whole ecosystem that goes into lifting TVET education in Malaysia to the next level.
Firstly, most of those who enrol for technical and vocational courses are not academically-inclined, including a sizable chunk from the lower income group. While many enrol in publicly-funded institutions, where the fees are very cheap, if not free, a large number fall through the cracks. They cannot afford to enrol in privately-run TVET programmes, which is a waste.
Many private TVET providers offer quality programmes, some of which are mapped to international accreditation such as City and Guilds in London. And it does not cost a bomb to enrol a student there, given the immense economic returns upon the students’ successful completion of these programmes.
But sadly, even if these students are offered discounted tuition fees, I know for a fact that many will still attend classes on an empty stomach as they cannot afford breakfast.
Transportation costs is also a problem. Eventually, many drop out and end up working in places like fast-food chains or as despatch riders.
Tackling the problem is not difficult. The government or MPs can assist their constituents with transportation costs, such as sponsoring the Rapid My100 or My50 passes. Providing, or working together with GLCs to provide, meal allowances can also go a long way in ensuring these students do not quit midway.
Any costs in making TVET more accessible to the economically disadvantaged is negligible when weighed against the economic returns.
DAMIEN LIM BENG HOOI
Taman Puteri Puchong, Selangor