kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

Skills … it’s all in the wrists

HAVING completed an automotive studies course in 2007, Afiq Hasan, a graduate of the Bukit Beruang Community College, worked at various car workshops, was able to save money and in 2010 opened his own shop.  He named his business Bavaria at Work Enterprise, after the city in which his favourite car brand, BMW, is based.

Now a relatively well known mechanic in Bukit Beruang specialising in servicing BMWs, the 26-year-old employs two mechanics to help him and takes in interns from the community college as a way of giving back. Later this year he will be getting married. His wife works with him at the workshop.

Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh and Ministry officials view an energy efficient vehicle engine at the
official launch ceremony of the Pekan Community College.

Davis Paul Lister, 24, has a diploma in fashion design from the Sultan Ibrahim Polytechnic in Johor. In 2012, with RM400 as start-up capital and a sewing machine gifted by his mother, he started taking tailoring orders from Facebook. Today, Davis, who hails from Jertih, receives orders from as far as Brunei. He recently moved to Gombak to start a boutique. His bridal dress designs are especially beautiful.

Mohd Syukri Mokhtar, 28, holds a Diploma in Wood Based Technology from the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Polytechnic. After gaining industry experience for about eight years, he started his own interior design company.

“The polytechnic gave me the skills and know-how. Beyond that, It's also about perseverance and hard work,” he said. According to Mohd Syukri, more young people are needed in the interior design industry as Malaysia develops and more buildings come up.

The above are just a few examples of successful polytechnic and community college graduates. Recently, I've been informed of a community college-trained chef who earns a five-figure salary, and that many youths with certificates in tunnelling are working on the MRT project.

Their starting pay is in the RM3000 per month range, which is considered good for non-degree holders. It is a fantastic recognition of the quality of our vocational and technical graduates and the work they are able to produce for the industry.

The employment rate of community college and polytechnic students in 2014 was about 93% on average. There are currently 33 polytechnics and 91 community colleges nationwide, which offer degree and diploma programmes as well as short courses.

So why am I sharing all this?

When I was in secondary school, a commonly heard phrase was “just take pure sciences. If you don't do well, you can always jump over to the arts, but not vice versa”.

You see, back then getting into the science stream was all that mattered. We strived for As to avoid the “embarrassment” of joining the arts-stream or having to enter technical schools (which were deemed of a lesser standard). It was an unfortunate perception, but certainly prevalent.

The post-PMR considerations were not always guided by interest, career-potential or inclinations but rather peer pressure, misconceptions and narrow knowledge of the career marketplace (let's all become doctors or lawyers cuz that's where the money's at).

That preconceived notion still exists. But it’s slowly changing. Stories like those above should open our eyes to the potential of TVET. And this change in mind-set is vital for Malaysia.

According to Pemandu, 1.3mil out of about 3mil jobs to be created under the New Key Economic Areas (NKEA), will be in the TVET sector. 82% of those jobs will be in five key sectors namely education, retail, greater KL development, tourism and financial services.

In the United Kingdom, among the most in-demands professions by 2020 include home-based healthcare providers, agriculturalists and construction managers. In short, there is immense potential to TVET.

This change is also vital to address underemployment and graduate employability. In China, for instance, the government has indicated that it plans to convert 600 universities into polytechnics to address the imbalance between the number of graduates in the market and the availability of jobs. A phenomenon known as “ant tribe” emerged from the situation in China (Google it for a better understanding of this interesting issue).

The above said, TVET is undergoing a renaissance of sorts in Malaysia. In 2013, almost 126,000 applications were received for about 20,000 spots in technical and vocational schools. At the higher education level, more than 200,000 application were received for about 35,000 places in the polytechnics in 2014.

In schools, the psychometric assessment which is administered as part of School Based Assessment (PBS) aims to help students and parents make informed decisions with regard to which educational pathway to take. In the future, straight As in the PT3 (the successor of the PMR) may yet see the student entering a vocational and technical school.

As for higher education, it appears that TVET will feature prominently in the soon-to-be-launched Higher Education Blueprint 2015-2025. Based on documents at the Education Ministry's website, TVET offerings will be placed at par with those of traditional academic pathways.

I support making TVET more attractive and giving it greater prominence in our education landscape. Without a doubt, it will be lucrative, but more importantly, it's a necessary step in the right direction.

Tags: assessment, skills, technical, vocational

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