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Technical Education and Vocational Training: An alternative path after SPM

ANOTHER OPTION: An essential foundation for a highly-skilled workforce in the country

AHMAD, 23, does not have a university degree. But he got a job as soon as he finished his education and earns up to RM4,000 as a ship welder, which is more than a fresh university graduate’s salary.

Many parents and students in the country do not consider Technical Education and Vocational Training (TEVT) as a pathway to a successful career. The perception is that TEVT is for school dropouts and the work is dirty and demeaning.

However, this is a misconception as TEVT is an essential foundation for a highly-skilled workforce in the country.

Students like Ahmad will now have a better career path and more job opportunities as the country has taken steps to increase investment in vocational education.

Tengku Azian Shahriman, director of education and human capital development at the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU), says that there is a need to promote TEVT as many of the national key economic areas in the services sector are expected to drive economic growth.

Technical and vocational education is no longer perceived
as a second-rate option.

“Take Iskandar (Development Region) for example. This region has seen phenomenal growth in the tourism, retail, education and healthcare sectors to name a few. Skilled workers are required in theme park management and operations, hospitality and tourism, and healthcare — the list is endless.

“At present, around 28 per cent of our current workers are skilled. We need to increase this to 33 per cent by 2015 and 50 per cent by 2020,” says Tengku Azian.

Previously, the Malaysian education system included Technical Secondary Schools (Sekolah Menengah Teknik or SMT) where 60 per cent of the syllabus was academic with technical/vocational studies making up the rest. The standard and skills of the students from the schools were less than satisfactory and they were not employable.

In 2010, the Ministry of Education revamped the vocational education system in the country. SMTs were changed to vocational schools (Sekolah Menengah Vokasional or SMV). Under the Education Blueprint, SMVs has been transformed into Kolej Vokasional (Vocational Colleges).

“The new curriculum places emphasis on vocational education while academic work makes up only 30 per cent,” says Ahmad Tajuddin Jab, director of the technical and vocational education division at the ministry.

At the end of their college studies, students will be awarded the Diploma Vokasional Malaysia and the Malaysian Skills Certificate (Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia or SKM) Level 4.

Now, the Malaysian Skills Certification System is gaining recognition internationally and the government has signed memorandum of understandings with top vocational education organisations such as the world-renowned City & Guilds.

Datuk Pang Chau Leong, director general of the Ministry of Human Resources’ Department of Skills Development, says that the country’s future economy is dependent on highly-skilled and competent TEVT graduates.

“More than 40 per cent of the 3.3 million jobs to be created under the Economic Transformation Programme are high-value jobs that require highly-skilled workers,” says Pang.

Encouragingly, the government’s efforts are beginning to pay off. Last year, more than 100,000 students applied to enter vocational colleges, exceeding the 21,000 places available.

“Many of the students who applied had good grades for SPM with five or six As. TEVT is no longer seen as an option for those who are academically weak,” adds Pang.

Despite the progress, there are challenges to TEVT Education in the country.

Getting enough quality trained teachers is one of them. “We hire qualified TEVT teachers on a contract basis. We are also recruiting people straight from the industry to be teachers,” says Ahmad Tajuddin.

Malaysia needs 33 per cent skilled workers by 2015 and 50 per cent by 2020.
There are many government agencies and ministries that offer TEVT with different certifications and pathways that can confuse students. Some have also questioned the quality of education at TEVT institutions.

“This is an area that PEMANDU hopes to streamline and harmonise. With the merger of the Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Education in one entity, steps can be taken to harmonise the education certification and pathway of students pursuing TEVT in schools right up to the tertiary level,” says Tengku Azian.

“Students are advised to sign up for courses at accredited training centres or technical colleges to ensure that they get proper training,” says Pang.

The Ministry of Human Resources has introduced the star rating system for its TEVT institutions. Ratings increase when students quickly gain employment upon graduation.

Human Resources Development Fund chief executive Ali Badaruddin Abdul Kadir is optimistic that the perception of TEVT among parents and students alike will change.

“The government has done a lot to promote TEVT and the importance of having skilled workers but we cannot just depend on the government. The community, the non-governmental organisations, the media and the politicians need to reach out to the people about this.”

SHARIFAH ARFAH | NST Channels Learning-curve 02/03/2014
Tags: technical, vocational

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