The Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Malaysia (Samenta) recently shared in an article published by The Edge that Malaysian SMEs need between one million and 1.5 million workers.
Malaysia is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers, especially since some of the foreign workers trained by the industry have been sent back home. A lot of locals, on the other hand, have either found opportunities in the gig economy or switched to other industries to make ends meet during the numerous Movement Control Orders.
Malaysia is not the only country experiencing this problem, even developed nations are experiencing the same problem, as reported by the Virtual Conference Report on Improving the Image of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) by UNESCO.
In the UK, for example, participation in courses for advanced technical skills is declining, while German enterprises are having difficulty finding qualified candidates for apprenticeships. As a result, companies are competing to hire such apprentices. Even since 1998, South Korea has struggled to attract young people to the manufacturing sector that sustains its economy.
It has been suggested that we increase our reliance on TVET graduates, especially since their skills are required for operations that require automation and technological transformation.
It was also stated in the same article that fragmented TVET delivery, the stigma surrounding TVET as a second-class education reserved for academically weak individuals, and poor perception of the industry is hindering the progress to reframe technical work as a credible career.
We cannot continue like this, as Malaysia needs highly skilled workers to fill the current gap between supply and demand across various industries, especially as we prepare for an economic transformation towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In an age of technological transformations, TVET programmes also need to be restructured and futureproofed to prepare workers for the constantly evolving world of work.
We must ensure that quality graduates can meet the needs of the industry, earn a decent wage, and create jobs through TVET if we are to bridge the gap and meet industry demand.