Govt’s TVET push to brace for IR4.0 — Joshua Liew

MAY 1 — I am gratified to learn that the government has woken up to the importance of technical and vocational education training (TVET) as Malaysia moves towards a knowledge-based economy. Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran hit the nail on the head when he said TVET education ought to be the preferred choice among students and parents.

His directive to technical and vocational institutes to conduct night classes is also laudable. This will allow more working adults to upskill, when previously they could not due to working commitments.

With the after-office hours classes, working adults will be able to not just pick up skills related to their career, but learn new ones. This will help them transition to new career paths more seamlessly and enhance their personal value in the job market. 

The government’s recent decision to relax the admission requirement for orang asli into public TVET institutions will also help empower the community to break free from the poverty cycle and a positive step towards a more inclusive society.

Malaysia’s first TVET institution was set up in Kuala Lumpur in 1962. But ever since, our education system and culture favour the academic stream. Being Asians, parents encourage their kids to become professionals like doctors, lawyers and accountants. At the same time, blue-collar professions are considered lowly-paid, dangerous and sometimes, degrading.

But times have changed. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in its recently-released Employment Outlook 2019 report, said that the workplace landscape is changing rapidly. Almost half of all jobs could be wiped out or radically altered in the next two decades due to automation.

This trend will only intensify in the years to come as globalization, automation and Industrial Revolution 4.0 gathers steam. We are on the cusp of a technological revolution that will see employment rules being rewritten like never before.

Today, doctors are slowly seeing their roles taken over by cutting-edge medical laboratories; accountants have to contend with the plethora of widely available and cheaper accounting software and even bankers are facing stiff challenge from innovative products like peer-to-peer lending. Unless workers possess technical foundations and keep up with the latest technological breakthrough, they may be rendered redundant.

Kulasegaran has done the right thing by pushing for TVET, just as technological giants like Germany, Japan and Korea had. Students in these countries spend about 70% of the time on hands-on training, while the remaining on academic pursuits.

Armed with the technical and vocational skills acquired in schools and training institutes, school-leavers in those countries have little problem landing jobs. By contrast, Malaysia is saddled with the problem of unemployed graduates.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.