Malaysia’s pursuit in harnessing globally competitive tech talents

Addressing the issues on the language barrier, mindset towards night shift work and strengthening government-private sector collaboration through PRIDE.

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) has aggressively launched programs that aim to encourage young Malaysians to pursue a career in technology.  In a recent initiative, MDEC’s Talent and Digital Entrepreneurship Division (TDE) invited members of the academe, tech experts to business owners in a one-day session introducing Project PRIDE (Platform for Real Industry Driven Project Exchange).  PRIDE provides a structured engagement platform for industry players to collaborate with Premier Digital Tech Universities and Preferred Digital Tech Polytechnics in various capacities.

Read more about Project PRIDE, HERE

Forest Interactive attended the event and learned about how the Malaysian government has been pushing for programs targeted to produce talents that would soon become great assets in the tech industry.  Among the panelists were Rene Bernard, CEO of Lux Tag and President of ACCESS, Blockchain Association, Dr. Dayang Norhayati Abang Jawawi—an associate professor at the Faculty of Computing in UTM and Waran Govindarajah of IBM’s Shared Services and Telecom Expense Management.

The panelists at PRIDE
From left to right: Dr. Dayang Norhayati Abang Jawawi—an associate professor at the Faculty of Computing in UTM, Rene Bernard, CEO of Lux Tag and President of ACCESS, Blockchain Association, and Waran Govindarajah of IBM’s Shared Services and Telecom Expense Management

Mindset towards night shift

Waran of IBM shared that there are a lot of applicants in the company but the challenge includes mindset as some applicants won’t even accept night shift work. He continued to say that these individuals are missing out on the opportunity even pointing out that sometimes parents are involved in negotiating with the salary. Some of the audience found the quip funny. a leading job search portal cites Robert Hosking of Office Team that “some parents would involve in instances such as reviewing resumes and calling the employer to negotiate on the salary. It should not be the case.”

Waran further shared that because of this challenge, some companies are looking into hiring foreign talents more because they are the ones who are willing to accept jobs that would require time zone differences.  As for the academe, and in response to that, Dr. Dayang says ”some schools now have evening classes to help give students the idea of working at night, but that is still something that needs to be worked on.”

The language barrier

In an interesting take, one of the panelists Rene Bernard cited how language also became a barrier in Malaysian talents. In some cases, certain students are still unable to speak and articulate in English professionally.  Barnard shared that the readiness to be able to send emails has also become an issue. English is considered as a major factor on why some applicants do not get hired.

One of the audience also acknowledged how grammar would seem to be a struggle amongst the youth: “how do schools prepare students to go out of the interview?” Dr. Dayang of UTM recognized this challenge saying schools are preparing students to be ready for global work through numerous initiatives like getting students to practice and be accustomed to using English daily. There are also activities involving encouragement for students to do all school events in English and to “Think Global. “Mindset is the teacher’s responsibility hence will keep on trying to change the current situation,” says Dr. Dayang.

Some articles also point out how up-scaling language is the tested and proven approach. Countries like Japan to improve the marketability of their people and their businesses as a whole and that Malaysia has taken an approach for reform on tertiary education (“English in Malaysia: Current Use and Status,” Toshiko Yamaguchi, David Deterding, 2016).

Bernard, however, chimed in on the ”Think Global” mindset saying: “brain drain happens when we give individuals the mindset that one must leave its own country, that could be one issue.” Dr. Dayang replied with a personal perspective: “the ones here have limited flexibility as opposed to those who actually went to study abroad.  Two (2) years in University and two (2) years in the industry program helps expose the student to the industry.”

Statistics show that brain drain is rampant in South East Asia, in fact, the number of highly educated migrants continuously increase over the years due to higher wages, better working conditions, and benefits that come with the job offer overseas.

Share of highly educated migrants in OECD countries

Keeping the interest alive

All three panelists agreed that it is important to hire interns to experience real work scenario in the industry.  Lux Tag’s CEO said, “SMEs have a different approach on what can be done to help students get jobs in the company.” Adding that this is mainly because some do not always have the luxury of time and workforce to train students. IBM however, is a more established and larger scope and will have more options. Waran noted that every employer should: “treat the interns correctly, not allow them to do only photocopies or just give tasks like making coffee. To prepare them, one must treat them well. The apprentice should see how the work is done.”

There are also complexities with internship because interns have to learn how everything works in the real world. Mentors in IBM would allow interns to shadow executives for exposure on the job.  The scope of shadowing is dependent on how much work the intern will take on. Sensitive data and tasks that require accountability remain a caveat. But at the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to mold someone to become a globally ready professional.

About MDEC:

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation or MDEC (formerly known as Multimedia Development Corporation Sdn. Bhd.) is the lead agency in driving the digital economy in Malaysia under the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia. Since its inception 21 years ago, MDEC’s mission is to develop the nation’s digital economy. MDEC’s implementation efforts are centered on driving investments, building local tech champions, catalysing digital innovation ecosystems and propagating digital inclusivity.

About Forest Interactive:

Established in 2006, our headquarters is located in the center of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with global operations across 36 countries. Throughout its inception, the company has entrenched itself to play an important part within the vibrant mobile industry, working closely with Mobile Network Operators, Industry Regulators, Government Agencies, Consumer Groups and related associations in ensuring as well as enabling innovative solutions for the mobile ecosystem. We have established a competitive portfolio of end-to-end solutions for our telco, enterprise and content partners that reach out to more than 2.9B subscribers worldwide and has already partnered with over 100 corporate clients and 93 mobile operators across Asia, the Middle-East and the USA.

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Sheena Pimentel

The author Sheena Pimentel

Originally from the Philippines, currently working in Kuala Lumpur. Graduated at the University of the Philippines with a masters degree on Public Policy. Listens to the music of Billy Joel, QUEEN and The Beatles. Loves the great outdoors and believes that no winter lasts forever.

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