According to the Graduates Statistics 2020 published by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), there were 5.36 million graduates in 2020, an increase of 4.4 percent from 2019 (5.13 million). 202,400 of them, or 4.4 percent, were unemployed, which is an increase from 165,200 (3.9 percent) in 2019.
Nevertheless, many recent graduates are still struggling to find full-time employment.
According to the graduate tracer study conducted by the Ministry of Higher Education, the marketability of Malaysian graduates in 2020 dropped by 1.8 percent to 84.4 percent compared to 86.2 percent in 2019. This was attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a recent article, Utusan Malaysia and the Malay Mail discussed this phenomenon, with some of the interviewed respondents citing inability to find opportunities that suit their chosen field of study and job compatibility issues. Often, these factors lead graduates to settle for part-time jobs, gig jobs, and even positions that aren’t suited to their qualifications, and sometimes with low pay.
In other words, there is a huge mismatch between the job market and the skills needed.
On 25th May this year, the Ministry of Higher Education has announced five initiatives aimed at addressing the declining marketability of graduates during the Covid-19 pandemic period, including the KPT-Career Advancement Programme (KPT-CAP), Teaching Factory Programme, TVET Transformation Programme, flexible and micro-credential programmes, as well as mobility programmes.
All of these are good starting points, but the implementation remains the key to their effectiveness.
Additionally, it is necessary to re-examine and future-proof the courses and syllabus in universities, focusing not only on the demands of today’s job market, but also ten or even twenty years from now, especially with the growing demand for digital and technical talents. Otherwise, we risk losing our talent as they migrate to other places for better opportunities.
We cannot afford to waste more time and risk being left behind in the race as we work to develop the economy of the country.