Tackle skills inequity through collaboration

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The Association for Community and Dialogue is concerned over a statement made by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) that it expects more local graduates to be jobless till 2020 which was widely reported in the press.

In its statement, it warned that more local graduates would be unemployed unless they buck up with skills needed by the industry.

MEF executive director Shamsuddin Baradan has basically revealed MEF’s own shortcomings in human capital developmental strategies, by stating that for every 100 jobs advertised, 89 are for lower-ranking jobs, which locals are not keen on. Four jobs are mid-range and only seven jobs are highly skilled jobs. The MEF leader has not clearly stated what lower-ranking jobs Malaysian graduates are not interested in.

This reveals structural skills inequity in the labour market, in which highly skilled jobs are scarce. This will impede Malaysia’s progress towards developed nation status in the long run.

A nation that seeks to move up the value chain requires a human-centric capital development strategy that benefits the largest number of people.

According to the Human Capital 2017 report: It is not through cheap labour nor through attracting a narrow set of the “best and the brightest” and winning a “war for talent” that countries can optimise their long-term human capital potential, but through building up deep, diverse and resilient talent pools and skills ecosystems in their economies that allow for inclusive participation in good quality, skilled jobs by the largest possible number of people.

There are four thematic dimensions of human capital development. They are capacity, deployment, development and know-how.

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  • The capacity sub-index quantifies the existing stock of education across generations
  • The deployment sub-index covers skills application and accumulation of skills through work
  • The development sub-index reflects current efforts to educate, skill and upskill the student body and the working age population
  • And the know-how sub-index captures the depth and breadth of specialised skills used at work

It is obvious that currently such efforts look vague – whether they are from the government or the private sector.

They question is: is there a conscious collaborative effort being undertaken by our education institutions, the MEF and unions to ensure the four areas of human capital development are realised to benefit the greatest number of Malaysians?

The high number of vacancies for lower-ranking jobs is clear evidence that there has been a failure in the collaboration among vital institutions to enhance our human capital development.

In this context, educational institutions must come up with practical training that resembles the actual place of work to create experience that could be fully or partially replicated by graduates when they are employed.

The current method (a duplication) of retraining graduates to meet industry needs is a waste of resources.

Modules should be created by collaborative efforts between educational institution, employers and unions to ensure real conditions and standards of any given profession – whether it is in service or manufacturing – are adhered to. With the current availability of advanced digital technology such efforts could be undertaken.

So it is time that the MEF plays a proactive role through collaborative efforts aimed at overcoming the challenges of a lack of skilled workers.

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The government and educational institutions should also ensure the largest number people benefit from human capital development. This would help reduce the skills inequity in the labour market.

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