Steering Malaysia's workforce for a sustainable future

Sim (second from left) is committed to nurturing competent human capital to meet the evolving demands of the future job market.

MANPOWER has always been hailed as the backbone of any country, driving its progress, innovation, and economic growth. However, as the landscape of work continues to evolve rapidly, the future of employment is being reshaped by technological advancements, changing market dynamics, and the need for specialised skillsets.

In Malaysia, the Human Resources Ministry (Kesuma) plays a vital role in leading the development and management of the nation’s human resources.

Kesuma is tasked with the mission to develop and nurture competent, productive, responsive, and resilient human capital in the country’s labour market, ultimately enhancing national productivity.

The future of work

The future of work encompasses job sectors anticipated to gain considerable attention or prominence in the coming years, reflecting shifts in labour market dynamics and emerging priorities.

Emerging sectors such as sustainable energy, smart infrastructure, data analytics, and cybersecurity are poised to redefine the job market.

IoT experts specialise in designing and implementing interconnected systems to revolutionise everyday experiences.IoT experts specialise in designing and implementing interconnected systems to revolutionise everyday experiences.Roles such as new energy engineers, smart city and smart home architects and engineers, big data analysts, Internet of Things (IoT) experts, and cybersecurity specialists are becoming increasingly essential, promising to shape the future workforce and drive innovation.

The demand for skilled professionals in these sectors is driven by the urgent need to address global challenges such as climate change, urbanisation, and cybersecurity threats.

New energy engineers are tasked with developing sustainable energy solutions, while smart city architects and engineers design interconnected urban environments to enhance efficiency and quality of life.

Big data analysts extract valuable insights from large datasets, informing decision-making processes in various industries.

IoT experts specialise in designing and implementing interconnected systems, revolutionising industries and enhancing everyday experiences.

Meanwhile, cybersecurity specialists safeguard digital infrastructures from cyber threats, ensuring the security and integrity of data in an increasingly interconnected world.

With these evolving demands for the future job market, Kesuma continuously adapts its strategies and initiatives to ensure that the workforce is equipped with the necessary skills and competencies to thrive in these emerging sectors and contribute to Malaysia’s sustainable development and economic growth.

Importance of upskilling and reskilling

Amidst the promise of new opportunities, there exists a pressing need for upskilling and reskilling initiatives to bridge the gap between available jobs and the skills of the workforce.

Studies reveal concerning trends of underemployment and skills mismatch among young graduates. Many individuals find themselves in jobs that do not align with their field of study or skillset, contributing to high rates of underemployment.

According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), the underemployment related to skill utilisation rate until October 2023 was 37.4%.

Skill mismatch in industries correlates with this.

To address this challenge, the government and industries are ramping up efforts to enhance training programmes and educational curricula. They have collaborated to improve the situation by enhancing and building more relevant training programmes for the job market’s needs.

Upskilling and reskilling programmes for youths and graduates seeking employment are already underway, aiming to equip individuals with the competencies needed to thrive in the digital economy.

Malaysia continues to face the impact of increasing technology and automation on the job market. While technology creates new job opportunities, it also raises concerns about job displacement, especially in traditional industries. Reskilling and upskilling programmes aim to address these challenges, preparing the workforce for roles in the digital economy.

Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes play a crucial role in addressing unemployment and skills mismatch, providing individuals with practical skills that are in high demand in the job market. TVET is one method to help strengthen the labour market and enhance the country’s competitiveness in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and beyond.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, which emphasises technology-related skills and digital literacy, is garnering growing interest from industries, reflecting the increasing demand for technology professionals.

The government continues to support educational institutions to offer more programmes in this field to address the growing demand for technology professionals. It encourages development of comprehensive reskilling and upskilling programmes focusing on workforce adaptability and inspires individuals to acquire new skills and certifications in response to changing industry demands.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s mandate on March 1, 2024 to Kesuma to propose and implement new training initiatives to produce competent workers reinforces the government’s commitment to this cause.

Furthermore, to facilitate the transition of higher education and TVET students into the workforce, Kesuma through Talent Corporation Malaysia Bhd (TalentCorp) and HRD Corp, has been mandated to introduce the practical training incentive or ILHAM Kesuma, which was recently announced by Human Resources Minister Steven Sim Chee Keong.

TalentCorp, an agency under Kesuma established in 2011, drives the nation’s talent strategy towards making Malaysia a dynamic and market-oriented global talent hub.

As a think-tank for Kesuma, it is tasked with spearheading research on Artificial Intelligence (AI), digitalisation and workforce sustainability.

TalentCorp will also develop the Future Skills Framework for each of the 10 sectors and develop a Future Skills digital platform for workers, institutions, companies, and policymakers to utilise effectively.

The aim is to develop frameworks and platforms that support lifelong learning and skills development, ensuring that the workforce remains agile and resilient in the face of change.

In addition, there is mynext by TalentCorp, an all-in-one talent solution and analytics platform for students, universities, companies, and the workforce. It supports students and individuals of the workforce by providing access to profiling tools that help them discover their work value, and interests, most employable traits and connect them directly to ideal internship opportunities.

As of December 31, 2022:

> 233,556 students were profiled for the workforce with 10,656 companies;

> For the National Structured Internship programme (MYSIP), there were 111,326 internship placements;

> Under the Semester Break Programme (SBP), there were 5,670 registered students with 19,693 live views on Zoom and Facebook Live across the 89 sessions organised.

The SBP targets Malaysian students returning home for holidays, aiming to familiarise them with Malaysia’s key economic sectors through meetings with industry leaders, experts, and visits to iconic infrastructure projects.

Findings for future planning

The World Economic Forum report emphasises that the future of work landscape is influenced by dynamic and complex factors. Based on the 2023 trend study, the economy, health, and geopolitics have affected the shape of the global labour market.

According to an online job search and career development site, Zippia’s research indicates that by 2030:

> 85% of current jobs will not exist in 2030;

> The automation sector has the potential to eliminate 47% of jobs (in the United States), equivalent to 73 million jobs ;

> 37% of workers will work from home.

These findings lead to drastic changes in the education sector to produce graduates who can meet market demands.

The Critical Occupations List (MyCOL) 2022/2023 TalentCorp report also highlights several challenges that need attention. These include:

> Shortage of skilled workers; > Mismatch of jobs with fields of study;

> Difficulty in retaining talent.

Kesuma continues to monitor such findings for future planning and management of the workforce.

Labour Day celebration

The upcoming Labour Day celebration on May 1 will be officiated by Anwar and attended by over 3,000 workers from various unions, statutory bodies, public, and private sectors at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre.

Anwar is scheduled to present several Labour Day awards at the gathering as a gesture of appreciation for the contributions of workers to the nation’s development.

This year, 12 awards will be conferred to workers, employers, unions, media, and contingents.

In addition, the premier will also launch the Human Resources Policy Framework 2030.

About 20 activities have been planned in conjunction with the Labour Day celebrations, such as four Pocket Talk Series, Labour Day Run, Occupational Safety and Health Practitioners Gathering, Perdana Forum, and Career Carnival offering 10,000 job opportunities and exhibitions by government departments and agencies.

These programmes aim to raise awareness among the public about workers’ and employers’ rights and responsibilities, job opportunities, and technical skills courses offered to youths.

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