LETTER | There has been a lot of talk about the new Malaysian TVET roadmap. However, there are plenty of unanswered questions in relation to the direction of TVET, although these programmes benefit the B40 segment the most.
Firstly, there is no single body in charge with TVET courses being provided by a couple of ministries and thus leading to different standards set by each of these ministries although the human resources minister is supposed to head it.
Secondly, what are the skills expected of a TVET graduate? Currently, students enrolled into the SKM programmes largely comprise of very low achievers at school. Some are hardly able to read and write but with the development of technology and the coming of Industry 4.0, the industry expects graduates with innovative and higher-order thinking skills.
But school-leavers with these skills do not consider TVET as a study option and go on to take up degree courses. These conflicting issues need to be addressed before students are counselled to take up TVET courses so they are clear on their expectations.
Next, it is getting very difficult to promote TVET courses to school-leavers because they perceive TVET courses lead to low-level and lowly-paid jobs thus equating these jobs with cheap foreign labour. The government needs to address this perception. School teachers also need to be educated on these possible high-paying jobs and what actually the skills entail.
Having addressed the above, the next biggest issue is what is the demand for skilled workers.? We understand that there are more than two million foreign workers who are either semi-skilled or unskilled working in this country. So what is the policy on foreign workers dependence and their subsequent replacement with a more locally skilled workforce?
Assuming these two million foreign labour are to be replaced with local TVET graduates over the next 10 years; wouldn’t that mean about 200,000 TVET graduates have to be trained annually? Now, the question is how do we do this?
Currently, skills training is provided by both public and private institutions. It is very important that the government makes clear the role of the private sector in meeting the above demand. The survival, sustainability and investments by private skills training institutions greatly depend on a clear policy by the government. Due to neglected funding, quite a number of private training institutions have ceased operations.
Surely the HR minister must realise that without proper funding it is virtually impossible for the B40 populace to afford education. Private training institutions have the capacity to meet the training needs of half the above demand. But the question is funding. It is a known fact that the majority of students who enrol onto the skills training programmes belong to B40 group and are heavily dependent on funding.
The government needs to allocate the required funds or loans to cater for these underprivileged students.
In conclusion, the TVET curriculum needs to be relooked to meet emerging technology changes. Developing local human capital should take precedence when meeting industry demands rather than being overly dependent on foreign labour. To make this happen, the quota system of funding must cease, thus enabling all qualified students to pursue skills training courses.
This should be taken as a national agenda rather than by just a specific ministry. If this is not addressed, we will have to face the consequences of national socio-economic problems affecting the future growth of the country.
The writer is president, National Association of Private Educational Institutions (Napei).
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.