Marrying industry with education


“HARD work, discipline, knowledge, no short cuts and never give up”.

These are some of the success factors highlighted by Datuk Seri Syed Zainal Abidin (pic), former Proton CEO, to about 30,000 attentive Universiti Institut Teknology Mara (UiTM) students on June 10.

The talk at UiTM’s majestic Dewan Tuanku Canselor was packed with 4,000 students while another 26,000 watched via live-feed from UiTM’s branch campuses all over the country.

Now an adviser at various technology and automotive companies, Syed Zainal gave the lecture as part of the CEO @ Faculty Programme launch. The programme is a key initiative under the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) to enhance public-industry collaboration.

In his inaugural lecture, the trained engineer who was casually dressed in shirt and jeans, focused on leadership.

He shared with the audience his life growing up and studying at the Penang Free High School, going abroad for the first time to study at the University of Maryland, his first job as a furniture salesman, his time in Proton (where he introduced the Preve which, in my opinion, is the last solid car from Proton) and the difficult decision to quit the company he so loved.

And he ended the lecture with a tribute to his parents and family whom he described as the most important people in this world to him (aww…).

The lecture was inspiring and gave a unique insight into the life and experience of this well-known CEO. Syed Zainal's subsequent lectures will cover more technical areas, including management, international business and relations and the automotive industry. In total, he will cover 30 hours worth of lectures (he has about 27 left).

The CEO @ Faculty programme will see many well-known CEOs participating, including  Tan Sri Tony Fernandez of AirAsia, Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar of Khazanah and  Anna Braun, President of B. Braun Medical Industries. I’m sure their talks will be very interesting too.

Also recently, the Technical University of Melaka Malaysia (UTeM), in collaboration with Samsung, has started the Internet of Things (IoT) Academy.

The first of its kind in the world,this academy will expose local university students to emerging technologies and enable them to undergo training on software (cyber security applications for Android devices) and hardware development (for new Samsung IoT-enabled products).

For the techies, myself included, the UTeM-Samsung IoT academy is pretty cool. The ‘Internet of Things’ is seen as the next big thing in the technology world which focuses on enabling products to communicate with each other to make our lives easier. Samsung has pledged more than US$100 million for IoT-related efforts worldwide, and expects all its products to be IoT-enabled by 2020.

Imagine walking into the shower with the perfect water temperature and not having to toggle any levers.

The above are just a few examples of industry – academia collaborative efforts now taking place in Malaysia. There are many more happening.

For instance, the Education Ministry has started the Public-Private Research Network (PPRN) where universities act as solution providers to problems faced by the industry.

For instance, if Company A needs a new type of casing material for its safety equipment, University B could develop it through its materials engineering faculty. Company A would pay a certain amount, with the Government providing some support (matching grants). As at May 2015, 154 projects have been matched to researchers from 20 universities / research institutions, with 10 such projects having been successfully completed. 

Another major public-private collaborative initiative is the Industry Centre of Excellence (ICOE). This initiative aims to enhance R&D, encourage technology transfer and help industry meet its human capital needs. There are currently 10 ICOE clusters, each, led by a university and supported by industry. These include ICT (IBM, Motorola etc), construction (Sunway Construction, CIDB etc), biotechnology (Biocon, Orchid Life etc), automotive (Toyota, DRB Hicom), and wholesale and retail (MyDin, AEON, Giant etc).

So, why am I sharing all this information?

It is to show that the industry plays an extremely vital role in developing our education system.

Improving student accomplishments such as English proficiency, work attitude and skills, can be done with industry support and involvement.

The same goes for conducting relevant high impact research and the commercialisation of findings. In some institutions, industry members help craft the curriculum to ensure market relevance. And soon, industry experience will count towards lecturers promotions.

Industry-academia collaboration is now happening in Malaysia in a big way. More still needs to be done but the future looks positive.

The writer wishes all Muslims a blessed Ramadhan.

 

> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.

Danial Rahman

Danial Rahman

Danial Rahman has education close to his heart. He tweets at @danial_ari and welcomes feedback at danialrahman0330@gmail.com.