NATIONAL literary icon Keris Mas, in one of his seminal works Rimba Harapan (1986) told us: “What drives the progress of humanity is their understanding towards the constantly changing environment that they are in.”
What we encounter today will be drastically different from what our children will experience tomorrow. The future of the next generation is extremely difficult to predict. With the accelerated pace of technological advancements such as the digital revolution, artificial intelligence, and the domination of autonomous technologies, we can no longer afford to stay stationary and silent.
Recently, on Sept 26, we organised a historic gathering with the main stakeholders of our national industries to confer on and craft a better and more secure future for our children.
To revolutionise TVET (Technical and Vocational Education Training) nationally, we cannot remain in silos. TVET must be relevant, future-driven, and aligned with industry demands. Global manufacturing and service industries have entered into the 4th Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0). This revolution will connect the “real” and the “virtual” worlds together in what is known as cyber-physical systems.
Technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and 5G have completely changed the landscape of our lives. And let’s not forget the global geopolitical changes that have directly and indirectly impacted our lives. Ideas and innovations that have been accelerated by algorithms and smart systems will form the foundation for the new wave of economic growth.
The World Economic Forum has outlined several large-scale, global challenges: Food safety, inclusive growth, unemployment, climate change, and global financial crises. These challenges and changes will likewise impact the future of work. On that front, it is a certainty that new skills will be needed by the future generation of workers.
To me, students today must be equipped with the right attitude in facing these changes. Learning agility and adaptability in accepting these new technological changes is of paramount importance.
What is also certain is the clarity and commitment of our vision, that we want to make the TVET pathway a main choice instead of an alternative. We also want TVET to be seen as a national institution that is consolidated, coordinated, and comprehensive.
To realise this gargantuan vision, we established on Aug 14 the Jawatankuasa Kabinet Pemerkasaan TVET. Fundamentally, this committee will play the important role of being the national advisory body to the Malaysian government in all matters regarding the development and advancement of the national TVET pathway.
First, we have identified the previous challenges that we have faced in advancing TVET. From there, we have moved on to outlining the best strategies to address those challenges, including setting ambitious targets to be achieved together.
Five pillars of emphasis
In summary, our national TVET reform is sequenced into five pillars, which are:
The establishment of a National TVET coordinating body which will unify and align TVET under one roof to establish a single, more competitive system. This represents one of the most important components in our efforts to increase the efficiency of national TVET governance.
We will also place emphasis on the availability of funding models, as well as the development of a shared ownership model. We will additionally enhance TVET qualifications and certifications together with the industry, and move on creating a unified national TVET brand.
These five pillars are the way forward, and together, they will address all the challenges that held TVET back in the past, such as the issues of accreditation, facility shortages, redundant systems and many more.
What we need to do now is to make changes in our thoughts about work, and perceptions of work. We must consider many more industries to strengthen the dual training programme, and consequently move from a model of industry participation towards a model of industry partnership and end up in a model of industry-led TVET.
Seven focuses of reform
We have also developed seven strategies that we will use to achieve our targets for TVET nationally.
First, we will change the concept of traditional TVET education from “train and place” to “place and train”.
Second, we will introduce a co-ownership model between government and industry for equipment, technology, expertise and innovation.
Third, we will establish an industry-based centre of excellence to ensure alignment between all TVET institutions to optimise the use of resources and government funding.
Fourth, we will introduce a TVET valued industry partners (TVET VIP) programme to encourage industry to champion the TVET system.
Fifth, we will kickstart a flat mobility-of-expertise model to ensure that there is alignment between industry and TVET education centres.
Sixth, we will institutionalise an employment opportunities and wage level policy to ensure that our TVET graduates obtain competitive salaries and have a clear and defined career pathway in future.
Seventh, we will embark on an industry-led competency certification bodies approach (based on the German dual vocation training model). Accreditation will be led by industry to prevent redundancies and mismatches.
I call on every TVET training centre and education institution to work together with universities and innovation agencies to introduce new technologies that will benefit Malaysian industry.
This is how we can increase industry demand for TVET graduates. This is also how we can re-map our institutions according to industry demands instead of expecting demand to move according to our supply. We must realign the true north of all TVET institutions with the needs and direction of industry in heading toward IR 4.0.
Strategic collaborations with industry partners will be a great contribution to the effectiveness and the progress of TVET. Industry, after all, is the main driver of the growth of our national economy. We will continue to seek out and strengthen more structured partnership models.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank industry players that have already voiced support for collaborating more closely. We need partnerships of this nature so that we can enhance TVET together, and advance our nation at the same time.