Upskilling needed before Malaysia can take advantage of Industry 4.0, say economists

Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz told Malay Mail that the old education format can no longer cope with the demands of Industry 4.0 which requires knowledge in all areas of related services as well as production and supply chains. — Picture by KE Ooi
Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz told Malay Mail that the old education format can no longer cope with the demands of Industry 4.0 which requires knowledge in all areas of related services as well as production and supply chains. — Picture by KE Ooi

KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 — A culture of continuous learning and constant upskilling is required before Malaysia can participate in Industry 4.0, says economists.

AirAsia X chairman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz told Malay Mail that the old education format can no longer cope with the demands of Industry 4.0 which requires knowledge in all areas of related services as well as production and supply chains.

“A ‘revolution in education’ is required to be in line with the dynamics of the marketplace domestically, regionally and globally.

“Education is the lynchpin to a Malaysia moving forward successfully in the highly competitive operating environment.

“Failure to revolutionise the education system, structure and software and content will render Malaysia unable to meet the new demands and imperatives,” said the former international trade and industry minister.

Rafidah was responding to observations made by academics that in the event of a trade war escalation between the Asian superpower and its Western counterpart, China would prefer to shift their industrial operations to Vietnam, Cambodia or other countries in the South-east Asian region.

Despite Putrajaya and various chambers of commerce saying that Malaysia can take advantage of the trade war, analysts pointed out that Malaysia is not among the top picks for China due to its lower skilled labour coupled with higher wages.

To address this issue, Rafidah believes that a revamp of the overall higher education spectrum is needed to effectively close the gap between the supply and demand for human resource in the new economic sectors.

“Firstly, a good proportion (of graduates) have done courses or studies that have very little or no relevance to what business and industry require in their operations.

“Many do no not reinforce their knowledge base by additionally adding on ICT related skills and competence. In the highly competitive knowledge-based industries and sectors, there certainly is no place for graduates of studies in the humanities courses,” she pointed out.

University of Tasmania’s director of Asia Institute Tasmania James Chin said the onus of training and upskilling Malaysia’s available manpower does not lie with the workers alone.

He said employers must also shoulder the burden and help train their workers so the nation as a whole can become more capable and by virtue of being skillful, climb up the economic ladder.

“The problem is not how cheap but how skilled your workers are. Malaysian workers are not that skilled and have low productivity. Malaysian employers don’t like paying for training and thus we have a problem.

“That is why we must move up the economic ladder, by producing higher-end stuff,” Chin observed.

Asian Strategic Leadership Institute (Asli) Centre for Public Policy chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam added his two sen saying that education efforts on B40 workers must be made part of the New Economic Model and a shift in that policy is urgently required.

Believing that in every crisis there is an opportunity, Ramon told Malay Mail that the nation should use this escalation to accelerate training processes and ensure that the nation’s workforce is capable for Industry 4.0 and the demands required by Chinese companies.

“If we look at it as a challenge and opportunity and accelerate the process of change and transformation, we can become more efficient. We must adjust our education fast enough so people can improve their domestic skills.

“We must share our growth with the poor. We must enhance our productivity through technology and have programmes where even farmers and fishermen can increase their yield through technology,” said Ramon.

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