MANY of us are familiar with the Government’s Vision 2020 aspiration to see Malaysia achieve a national per capita income of at least US$15,000, which allows us to be classified as an advanced economy.
But we must not forget that there are targets in several other areas that together form the platform on which the country stands as it rises to that income level.
Human capital development is one of these areas. People with the necessary knowledge, skills, ethics and morality are required to drive inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the last leg of the journey towards realising Vision 2020.
It is therefore fitting that one of the six strategic thrusts of the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) is the acceleration of human capital development over the next five years.
Within that thrust is the emphasis on expanding the country’s skilled workforce, comprising managers, professionals, and technicians and associate professionals.
For years, we have known that Malaysia does not have enough skilled workers, experiences lethargic productivity growth because its workforce lacks creativity and innovation, and relies too much on unskilled and low-wage migrant workers.
Such conditions stand in the way of us becoming a high-income nation.
The 11MP aim is to push the proportion of skilled jobs from the current 28% of employment to 35% by 2020.
Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is a cornerstone of these efforts. In fact, enabling industry-led TVET is one of the five-year plan’s six game changers – innovative approaches to development that can “fundamentally change the trajectory of the country’s growth”.
Of the 1.5 million jobs that are expected to be created under the five-year plan, 60% will hinge upon TVET-related skills. This involves increasing the annual intake of TVET students from 164,000 in 2013 to 225,000 in 2020.
It is not just about filling seats in schools. The TVET graduates must have the knowledge, skills and attitudes that employers look for.
As such, the Government is stepping up its collaboration with the industry to increase intake in TVET, improve the quality of programmes and institutions, and enhance the sector’s overall branding and profile.
Making TVET a more attractive pathway may well be the biggest challenge. The typical student turns to TVET only as a last resort. There is a perception and awareness problem here.
Few people see such education and training as a springboard to entrepreneurship and high-growth sectors where skilled workers are much sought after.
This is where parents can play an instrumental role. After all, most children rely on their parents’ guidance (and money) when deciding what and where to study after leaving school. And it is the parents who usually understand which careers best suit their kids.
Therefore, a key step in transforming TVET is to get the parents to appreciate the opportunities it offers. They must see that TVET is capable of helping people fulfil their potential, which is what all parents want for their children.
The STAR Home News Columnist 26 July 2015