Ask any youngster what he or she wants to be and the common answer will be a doctor, Engineer or Lawyer and the parents will say the same about what they want their children to be. For the past three generations or so we have been made to accept that for a person to have made it, he should be in one of the above vocations. We are familiar with the saying “Like father, like son”. A doctor’s son will become a doctor and follow his father’s footsteps. It is common to see families of doctors or lawyers. It is not easy to break this cycle which has been ingrained in us. There are also exceptions, where students choose other options.
From the article “Empowering Perak’s Workforce”, Ipoh Echo Issue 315 (November 1, 2019) it can be seen that the MB is going to let a third party handle TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training). The government is fond of setting up a new entity to carry out its wishes, whether it is relevant or not. The article does not say specifically what the Perak Government is going to do. MB Faizal is quoted as saying “With a holistic approach all TVET stakeholders will be gathered on an efficient and effective platform”. This sounds philosophical. What does this mean? What actions will be taken? What will be implemented? Who are the beneficiaries?
I visited most of the Skills Training Institutes in Ipoh to write about them. I was given VIP treatment; maybe I was the first journalist to visit them. Trade schools were in existence from before independence. The present vocational schools are in existence for quite some time and well established. Why does the PH government want a third party to get involved in education? What is the scope of their work? Who monitors their performance? I am not sure how much of taxpayers’ money it would cost. Let the educationalists do what is best for them. Politicians should not get involved in education. The present mess in our education system is due to this.
Basically there are only two requirements for TVET education. Firstly, the institutes and the manufacturers must talk to each other. The manufacturers should specify the skills the students should acquire. The institutes should produce students with these skills to enable them to work immediately.
When I visited the Perak Entrepreneur & Skills Development Centre (PESDC), they handed me a booklet and I noticed that many industrialists were on their panel. They know what the industry wants. I suggest that the Exco for Education together with FMM should set up an avenue for the institutions and industrialists to meet regularly and discuss their requirements.
The institutions should equip their workshops with state-of-the-art machinery. The instructors should be sent for training to upgrade their skills and learn about new technology and get ready for IR4.
The second requirement is for the institutes to recruit students. PESDC and Institut Latihan Perindustrian (ILP) have staff who go to schools and other places to give talks on vocational training and its benefits. When I attended a students’ programme, I met a teacher from ILP who had set up a booth. She said that it is an uphill task to convince students and parents on the importance of skills training. There needs to be a paradigm shift.
We have been brought up to believe that blue-collar jobs are for students who do not do well in their studies. Bright students go to university. Most parents tell their children to study hard and get a degree. Society normally looks down at blue-collar jobs.
This is where the government can come in and assist skills-training colleges. The State Excos for Education and Youth can organise campaigns for students and parents to take up skills-training studies. The students should be informed that with the advent of IR4, most of the traditional jobs will disappear. Students should be made aware that a degree will not get them a job.
The weakness of skills training centres should be eliminated. There was a report from TalentCorp published in NST, November 8, listing ‘Top Skills Required by Employers in Malaysia’. Top of the list was fluency in English. Most of the instructors I spoke to had a very poor command of English. They should be taught English and it must be taught as a subject. Students should be made to understand the importance of the language. The instructors and students should know that documentation and operating manuals of the equipment they are using are in English.
Other skills to be acquired include communication skills, teamwork, creativity and multi-tasking. These should be included as a subject. I know of a technician who does electrical and plumbing works and I call him for small repairs and he attends promptly. Nowadays it is difficult to find handymen who can do small jobs.
The state government can provide financial assistance for the institutions to recruit additional staff to teach the skills that employers require.
TVET education should be holistic as the MB says and not a source for people to make extra income. Leave education to the educationists.