TO avoid being left behind as the world strides further into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) must be a top national priority.
That message, offered in the context of a “Shared Prosperity Vision” for Malaysia, was delivered by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad last week — very fittingly on the eve of Malaysia Day.
The prime minister underscored how important it is to “upskill” workers to become more efficient and capable at more sophisticated tasks, which will help reduce today’s large income gap between the rich and poor.
Dr Mahathir’s cabinet is fully on board and “our (2020) budget would prioritise such areas”.
“If there is not enough money for all, we would have to lessen the budget for other areas with lesser priority,” he added.
This is the kind of commitment that the rakyat would like to hear more from our political leaders.
Too often we would see ambitious plans being laid out, only to be hindered in implementation due to lack of funding.
The comments echoed what the prime minister said at a TVET conference last July, where he called TVET a game changer in the government’s efforts to produce a more highly skilled local workforce, reducing dependency on foreign workers.
He said his government would strive to enable the local workforce to meet the demands of the high-tech industry, and that creating more high-skilled jobs with higher salaries underpins another government priority — to attract high-quality investments to the country.
Dr Mahathir called on TVET industry players to make optimum use of “Industry Forward,” the national policy on Industry 4.0 from 2018-2025, in enhancing their capabilities and competitiveness.
The future job market, he noted, will be filled with highly skilled, creative and critical thinking workers, whose job descriptions and scopes of work can be expected to undergo significant changes over time.
“Future workers should equip themselves with the latest skills set based on the future requirements of the industry,” he said.
High technology industries and TVET institutions, he noted, must forge a strong cooperative relationship to ensure a match between supply and demand.
Human Resources Minister M. Kula Segaran, who also attended the convention, said the percentage of skilled workers in the country’s workforce still stood at 28 per cent.
He said that to be on a par with developed countries like Germany, where skilled workers made up 50 per cent of the total workforce, Malaysia needs to be constantly aggressive, creating upskilling and reskilling programmes for the next five years.
“The ministry targets an increase in the number of participants in the trainings conducted for local workers under the upskilling and reskilling programmes to 1.2 million.”
Germany’s TVET system is renowned — a combination of theory and training in a real-life work environment and firmly established in the education system.
A key, legally mandated characteristic is the cooperation between mainly small- and medium-sized companies and publicly funded vocational schools.
Over a span of three years, trainees typically spend part of each week at a vocational school and the other part at a company.
The Vocational Training Act of 1969 (amended in 2005) introduced this close alliance between the federal government, the states and companies to train young people in priority occupations, with nationally standardised certificates issued by a chamber of industry and commerce, a chamber of crafts and trades, or another competent body.
Around 330 occupations today require formal training in Germany.
Employer organisations and trade unions take the lead to update and create new training regulations and occupational profiles, and employers place their trust in these certificates when hiring.
The shared responsibility between government, employers and trade unions also helps respond to emerging new challenges such as digital innovations like the Internet of Things, which will have an increasing impact on manufacturing and the way work is organised.
Businesses in the dual training scheme consider vocational training to be the best form of personnel recruitment.
Companies which provide training not only save on recruitment costs, they avoid the risk of a bad hire.
Investment in first-class training is a key factor for success in an increasingly competitive world.
Apprentices benefit from market-relevant training that improves their chances in a constantly evolving labour market.
Emulating the TVET in Germany seems straightforward for us.
The political commitment has already been given by the prime minister.
A revamped national policy on TVET, led by the ministries of education and human resources, is urgently needed, followed by a strict implementation strategy.
Finally, a national narrative that promotes TVET as a premier choice of education should be launched soon to dispel altogether and forever the wrong-headed notion of it as a second-best education.