TVET, also known as Technical and Vocational Education and Training, has been hotly discussed in the print, digital and social media over the past 6 months.

Many have expressed concern over the lack of direction for TVET in Malaysia when in actual fact, it sets the foundation for the growth of an industrial nation. No matter the type of transformation we push on the pretext of Industry 4.0, its effects cannot be fully realized without the presence of a highly skilled workforce and multi-talented TVET graduates.

Much effort has been put in place to shift the fixed mindsets of parents who view TVET as a final option for those who are academically challenged. On the contrary, TVET should be one of the primary options for students, not because they scored lower grades and purely for the passion of the vocation.  

Public and private TVET institutions produce semi-skilled and skilled Malaysian workers mainly to reduce the country’s dependency on foreign labour and overcome the shortage of an expert and efficient workforce in various industries. While skilled workers are expected to be equipped with relevant industry knowledge and skills, it is equally important for them to hone their critical thinking skills, collaborative traits, and creativity and put on a multidisciplinary hat to thrive in an environment that continues to evolve.

 

The Way Forward

As a way forward, the TVET system must look at apprenticeship programmes, the national dual training system (SLDN) and German dual vocational training (GDVT) with a holistic lens. These programmes allow students to get a good grasp on theoretical aspects (30%-40%) at the TVET institutes and benefit from the practical job training (60%-70%) carried out by the respective industries. Industries get to decide whether it is to be day-released or block-released whichever is convenient to them. In addition, graduates will be offered employment upon completion of training.

Specific skills can be learned through repetitive practices on different equipment, machines, systems etc., and this will help address the skills gap that could potentially stunt the growth of the industries. One way to bridge this is through regular coaching/mentoring by selected institute representatives and close supervision by trainers from the hiring company during practical training. Such collaborations will result in efficient monitoring and enhanced performance.

Companies that are used to hiring foreign workers sometimes forget that local workers need to be approached differently. There is also a rising need for HR supervision and counselling support to manage critical issues like poor work performance, self-empowerment, and mental health issues.

 

Our Responsibility Towards Industries  

In this rat race to meet the requirements and expectations of the government and awarding bodies, the TVET community often neglects their biggest stakeholder – industries. And let me tell you, it takes a lot of hard work, resilience, and dedication to develop the ‘right’ TVET graduate for a specific industry mainly because a majority of students come from a 12-year education system that has failed to create ‘thinkers’ and provide support for students with different learning abilities.   

This is why TVET institutions must create a holistic and encouraging learning environment. We may provide state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, but if teaching is not carried out effectively, students will continue learning without interest or passion. Without passion and constant industry engagement that facilitates relevant training, technology, and knowledge transfer; we can place our dream of creating a high-value workforce on the back burner.

 

Developing the ’Right’ Attitude in TVET Students

Above all, companies want workers with the ‘right’ attitude. This has been a challenge for many industries. As educators, how many of us are actually addressing this? Are we looking at appropriate measures to ensure our graduates not only have the right skills but also the confidence, discipline, and positive growth mindset as they set out to work?

Yes, it takes commitment and passion to produce a good TVET graduate but with proper strategies, we can plug the loopholes that may affect their future. It may not be possible to transform students overnight but with proper planning and approach, we can change the system one step at a time.

Bear in mind that we too have the shared responsibility towards an inclusive, sustainable and empowered workforce to build a better Malaysia.