Never underestimate TVET and STEM in producing skilled talents

Workforce needs to be provided with suitable education and skills to ensure they are not at risk of displacement.

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Published by Business Today, The Star & Biztech.asia, image from Business Today.

In the journey of embarking digitalisation due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is an urgent need to beef up the skills of our local talents in order to reduce the risk of being displaced by automation and that is by providing them with the suitable education.

According to McKinsey & Company, approximately 50 percent of the work time in Malaysia is spent on routine activities which are likely to be automated – payroll officers, transaction processors (72 percent), legal support workers, mortgage originators (71 percent), and production workers and machine operators (71 percent).

The company also estimates that automation can displace up to 25 per cent of the hours and this is equivalent to 4.5 million workers in the country by 2030.

On the positive side, McKinsey also noted automation can create new opportunities due to factors such as rising incomes, higher spending on education, ageing population that will make way for creation of new occupations, increased spending on infrastructure, and increased investments in technology.

So, automation and jobs are not mutually exclusive.

However, this automation-driven labour demand comes together with the requirement of talents equipped with advanced skillsets in driving the innovation. Hence, the workforce needs an upgrade in order to narrow the skill gap and for them to move up the high-skill value chain.

But the important question to begin with is how skilled are Malaysian workers? The breakdown by skill levels are as follows:

  • Low-skilled: 1,862,500 persons (12.4 per cent);
  • Semi-skilled: 9,059,000 persons (60.1 per cent); and
  • High-skilled: 4,151,900 persons (5 per cent).

So, in total, the share of low- to semi-skilled workers accounts for 72.5 per cent, higher than the share of high-skilled workers.

Let’s take a step backward and assess the education levels of Malaysians to embrace the digitalisation journey. How is it doing?

Of the total employment, workers with secondary education hold the largest share at 55.6 per cent, followed by those with tertiary education (29.4 per cent), primary (12.1 per cent) and no formal education (2.9 per cent).

Another indicator that can be looked into is the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores of 15-year-old students released by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

For Mathematics and Science subjects, the PISA scores are below OECD average at 440 and 438 respectively. These are far behind students’ scores in the more advance economies such as Singapore, Japan, Korea, and even China.

Furthermore, the Malay Mail reported that the share of students choosing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in schools dropped to 44 per cent in 2018 from 48 per cent in 2012.

In the higher education institutions (IPTs), the number of students who enrolled in courses related to Science, Maths, Computer, Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction in 2017 was lower compared with enrolment in art courses because they want to opt for easier subjects and they do not place high values in science subject.

Even the SMEs noted that skilled digital talent is one of the main components to drive digital transition in terms of, say, the redesigning of business processes, but sluggish digital adoption is a result of the gap in digital skills among the employees, according to SME Corp-Huawei Survey Report.

Ameen Kamal’s article on “Does Malaysia have enough talents to be a high-tech nation” gave a deeper analysis of this issue.

So, in realising the digital transformation vision or the envisioned Malaysia 5.0 – a problem-solving approach to society’s challenges and problems through the deployment and implementation of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies – what can be done to address the skill gap challenge?

Above all, it needs to start from the education delivered to the students at schools and universities with a strong foundation, then it will be relatively easier for the future workforce in terms of getting employed and for them to adapt in the booming sectors post Covid-19.

Therefore, the enrolment in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes offered by the Education Ministry, Youth and Sports Ministry and MARA TVET institutions should be actively promoted and be placed in the mainstream education amongst 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 the social perceptions toward TVET as a less prestigious choice of study to one that sees it as a valuable platform to generate a high-skilled labour force for the nation.

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 that 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.

Alongside TVET, a similar approach of mindset change needs to be pursued for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning, in line with the objectives of the Education Blueprint (2013-2025) in order to tackle lack of students’ preferences for these subjects.

As advocated by Bill Gates, “Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event.”

So, these are the education-oriented measures which are the key drivers in producing high-skilled talents and one of the major walls that we have to break through to get to the vision of  Malaysia 5.0, while realising one of the targets of the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV2030) – 35 per cent of high-skilled workers.

Nur Sofea Hasmira Azahar is Research Analyst at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

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Diterbitkan oleh The Malaysian Insight.

Dalam perjalanan menuju ke era pendigitalan pasca Covid-19, terdapat keperluan yang mendesak untuk meningkatkan kemahiran bakat tempatan bagi mengurangkan risiko mereka digantikan oleh automasi. 

Salah satu caranya ialah dengan menyediakan pendidikan yang sesuai untuk mereka.

Menurut McKinsey & Company, kira-kira 50 peratus daripada waktu kerja di Malaysia digunakan untuk aktiviti yang mudah untuk diautomasikan seperti pegawai yang mengendalikan gaji pekerja, pekerja yang menguruskan hal berkaitan undang-undang, mereka yang terlibat dalam proses pengeluaran dan pengendali mesin.

Syarikat tersebut juga menganggarkan bahawa automasi boleh menggantikan sebanyak 25% waktu kerja pada tahun 2030. 

Ini bersamaan dengan 4.5 juta pekerja di Malaysia.

Namun, McKinsey menyatakan bahawa automasi boleh membantu mewujudkan peluang pekerjaan baru tetapi permintaan buruh perlu dilengkapi dengan kemahiran yang tinggi. 

Oleh itu, kemahiran tenaga kerja perlu ditingkatkan supaya mereka boleh berada di peringkat yang tinggi dalam rantaian nilai.

Persoalannya, bagaimanakah tahap kemahiran tenaga kerja di Malaysia? 

Berdasarkan statistik yang dikeluarkan Jabatan Perangkaan, terdapat 1,862,500 orang pekerja yang berkemahiran rendah (12.4%), 9,059,000 orang pekerja berkemahiran separa (60.1%) dan 4,151,900 pekerja mahir (27.5%).

Jadi, jumlah pekerja yang berkemahiran rendah ke separa menyumbang sebanyak 72.5%, lebih tinggi daripada bilangan pekerja mahir.

Dari segi tahap pendidikan, pekerja yang berpendidikan menengah merupakan penyumbang terbesar dalam tenaga kerja (55.6%), diikuti oleh pekerja yang berpendidikan tertiari (29.4%), mereka yang berpendidikan rendah (12.1%) dan mereka yang tidak mempunyai pendidikan rasmi (2.9%).

Satu lagi petunjuk untuk mengukur tahap pendidikan di Malaysia adalah berdasarkan Laporan Program Pentaksiran Pelajar Antarabangsa (PISA) untuk para pelajar berumur 15 tahun dikeluarkan oleh Pertubuhan Kerjasama Ekonomi dan Pembangunan (OECD).

Bagi subjek Matematik dan Sains, skor PISA untuk pelajar Malaysia berada di bawah purata skor negara Pertubuhan Kerjasama Ekonomi dan Pembangunan (OECD) – 440 untuk Matematik manakala 438 untuk Sains.

Bilangan pelajar yang memilih subjek STEM juga menurun kepada 44% pada tahun 2018 berbanding dengan 48 peratus pada tahun 2012.

Bakat mahir digital merupakan salah satu komponen utama untuk memacu peralihan syarikat kepada pendigitalan, menurut PKS. Namun, proses ini tersekat disebabkan oleh jurang dalam kemahiran digital di kalangan pekerja.

Jadi, untuk merealisasikan impian transformasi digital di Malaysia, apa yang boleh dilakukan untuk menangani jurang kemahiran dan pendidikan ini?

Perkara yang paling penting dan patut diutamakan adalah pendidikan yang disampaikan kepada para pelajar di sekolah atau universiti bagi memudahkan mereka untuk menyesuaikan diri semasa alam pekerjaan.

Pendaftaran untuk program Latihan Teknikal dan Vokasional (TVET) yang ditawarkan oleh kementerian dan agensi yang terlibat harus digalakkan secara aktif dan dibawakan kepada pendidikan arus perdana di kalangan pelajar lepasan sekolah menengah kerana kursus-kursus yang ditawarkan berkaitan dengan teknologi. 

Bagi menggalakkan penyertaan pelajar untuk TVET, persepsi negatif terhadap program ini perlu diubah daripada dijadikan pilihan kedua kepada pilihan yang utama bagi melahirkan tenaga mahir untuk negara.

Satu cara yang baik untuk mengukur sama ada usaha untuk mengubah corak pemikiran ini membuahkan hasil adalah apabila majikan menaikkan gaji graduan TVET kerana prestasinya yang baik. Ini dapat membantu meningkatkan gaji permulaan untuk graduan TVET pada masa akan datang.

Selain TVET, cara pendekatan yang sama perlu dilakukan untuk pembelajaran STEM bagi menangani isu kurang minat dalam kalangan pelajar, sejajar dengan objektif Pelan Pembangunan Pendidikan Malaysia (2013-2025).

Secara konklusinya, langkah-langkah yang berteraskan pendidikan harus menjadi pemacu utama dalam melahirkan bakat yang berkemahiran tinggi dan salah satu cara untuk mencapai wawasan Malaysia 5.0 dan untuk mencapai salah satu sasaran Wawasan Kemakmuran Bersama 2030 (SPV2030) iaitu 35% pekerja mahir.

Nur Sofea Hasmira Azahar merupakan Penganalisis Penyelidik di EMIR Research, sebuah organisasi pemikir bebas yang fokus kepada pencernaan saranan-saranan dasar strategik berteraskan penyelidikan yang terperinci, konsisten dan menyeluruh.

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