OPENING REMARKS BY GUEST OF HONOUR DEPUTY MINISTER (YOUTH AND SPORTS) STEVEN SIM CHEE KEONG AT THE I-WORK NATIONAL LEARNING FORUM, 11 FEBRUARY 2020, DOUBLETREE BY HILTON, KUALA LUMPUR
Director-General, Department of Polytechnic and Community College, Ministry of Education, Ts Dr Mohammad Naim Yaakub
Director of the British Council in Malaysia, Sarah Deverall
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
It was said that Sultan Mansur Shah of Melaka was so in love with Tun Teja, the daughter of Pahang’s Bendahara (Prime Minister) that he was acting like a madman. That’s the power of love.
After failing to win her hand in marriage – she was polite at first, “oh his majesty is a great king I’m just a commoner” but when pushed further she literally said, “over my dead body”, perhaps the first feminist in ancient Malay literature – one of Mansur Shah’s advisors suggested, forget about the commoners daughter, why not go for the Princess of Majapahit, Raden Galuh Emas Ayu. The chronicler described her as so beautiful, the colour of her face like the full moon on the 14th day of the month, her body like gold of ten qualities. Her name literally means, Princess Beautiful Golden Jewel.
Upon hearing this, the Sultan of Melaka was excited, and almost immediately put the thoughts of Tun Teja behind. He instructed his officers to immediately construct a big ship, I want it to be done in 40 days, to sail to Majapahit, on Java island!
My speech on TVET actually begins from here:
Upon the instruction of the Sultan, the court artisans and carpenters quickly responded, No need 40 days, we will complete it in one month!
And so began the description in Hikayat Hang Tuah, the building of a great warship called Mendam Berahi – meaning suppressed passion. The interesting story here is, Hang Tuah and his friends were involved in not only designing but also building the ship. Hang Tuah designed the
deck of the ship and his friends, Jebat, Lekir and Lekiu did the carving works.
The reason why I tell you this story is clear; the legendary Hang Tuah and his friends were not only skilled warriors and fighters, they were also skilled craftsmen, carpenter, and engineers.
(I can also tell you the story of Hang Tuah being a businessman and an economist but that is for another day)
The human society, our Malay and Malaysian society no less, is built on skills of artisans and engineers. It was only the modern era, the early 20th century to be precise when the Ford assembly line alienated the artisans and craftsmen by reducing skilled works into many different small parts. The famous Model T had 84 small steps and each worker only had to do one job. The old skills became irrelevant. New skills were essentially non-skills, screwing one part, or soldering one part. The world changed.
After almost a hundred years we had to make do with a mass production world, today in the 21st century, things are beginning to change again.
There is now a greater appreciation for artisanal products. Customisation, individualisation and personalisation are once again the buzzwords. The world is changing yet again.
My fear is, are we ready? Are we still preparing students for the mass production world of the 20th century, or are we preparing them for the Industry 4.0 world of the 21st century?
There is a lot of research done on how our education is not preparing graduates for the marketplace. I am sure our speakers will also be citing them. Khazanah Research Institute in 2018 reported about skills mismatch. World Bank reports, Talent Corp, MDec, all spoke about this not only now, but years ago, again and again.
We have 22 TVET colleges under our Ministry.
This is what I want to do; and I hope it can provide some sort of framework for our thinking here and elsewhere when talking about TVET education.
Firstly, we want to make TVET cool again. Lets deal with the stigma. Promote TVET education, spell out the lucrative compensation packages, make promotional videos, highlight success stories as heroes. Imagine a video of a young person suiting up in his drysuit, saying to the camera, my friends drive to work every morning on the congested Federal Highway, this is how I go to work, and then proceeds to dive into the sea from an offshore oil-rig somewhere – he is an underwater welder earning RM20,000 a month.
Secondly, we want to build-in Industry 4.0 into our 178 certificate and diploma programmes. Essentially, Industry 4.0 is skill-based and technical-based. Building robots, data analytics, programming AI – these are essentially no longer university degree-programme courses. Many institutions already offer micro-certifications on these skills. A 2017 Linux Academy survey showed that 94% of companies strongly believe that micro-certifications give entry level job candidates a hiring advantage and 54% of employers think that traditional certification are not very important or no longer important when hiring a new employee. I have spoken to IBM, Deloitte and is in the midst of speaking with other technology companies to produce value-added short certification courses to complement what we are already teaching. Last week, Deloitte did a pilot on 50 selected students, an introduction to IR 4.0 conducted by one of its top consultants from Singapore. I want our students to be Industry 4.0-ready and future-ready.
Thirdly, we want to ensure all students in our 14 fields of studies will be equipped with not only the fundamental skills of their studies but also what I call essential skills – communication, critical thinking, leadership.
These are not soft skills – many employers complained about the lack of such skills. There is nothing soft about not getting a job because one lacks such skills. But more importantly, we want not only employability but also what I call, “prospectibility” – meaning, one will be able to progress in one’s job. Often, TVET students find that the lack of prospect to stay long in a job. We do not want our students to quit after a year or two and turn to Grab or FoodPanda. We want them to be able to progress, become a senior technician, supervisor, and so on and so forth. For this, essential skills are important.
Fourthly, we want to offer TVET as a choice to all levels of students. Think about a set menu with different price range. If you want to build robots, come to TVET, if you want to do data analytics, come to TVET but if you want more fundamental skills, come to TVET, if for whatever reason, doors are closed to you in traditional education, come to TVET. For this latter reason, my Ministry started a new programme called Skills Training for At Risk Youth or STAR@U in April last year. The programme aims to bring TVET to at-risk youths, youth from poor communities, youth who dropped out of schools, and even juvenile delinquents. For the pilot project last year, we trained 727 students, 30% whom are female in 70 different skill courses. Through this programme, the Minister and I have personally spoken to inmates in Henry Gurney School for juvenile offenders as well as Kajang Women Prison. I still remember the glow on the faces at Kajang Women Prison as we presented them with their certificate of completion for a programme on doing business online. We want to promote TVET as a life-changing and game-changing option to these young people. Perhaps I-Works can look into potential partnership here.
Finally, we need a more dynamic market to match the government’s TVET push. The government has increased our spending on TVET education by almost RM200 million this year bringing the total amount to RM5.9 billion. We are introducing a new programme called Apprentice@Work giving an additional RM100 monthly allowance for apprenticeship on top of the current allowance. A total of RM6.5 billion
will be spent in the next five years to generate 350,000 jobs especially for skilled workers. Income tax relief is given to those pursuing a vocational education and double tax deduction for companies funding TVET programmes for employees. In 2020, about RM3 billion will be spent on digitalisation, from aiding industry to digitalise to creating the necessary infrastructure. We need to deal with demand-side management from the perspective of job market to encourage more TVET takers. The signal cannot be clearer. Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir envisioned TVET as “game changer” in the Government’s effort to produce high value local talents. I hope the whole TVET sectors, administrators, stakeholders, industry players will pick up the challenge.
With that I declare open this 2019 I-Work National Forum, Improving Work, Relaying Knowledge.