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A head start in their careers

THE University of Reading is a global top 200 university with a campus in Reading in the United Kingdom (UK) and a stunning new Malaysia campus located in Educity, Iskandar Johor (near Legoland).

The Malaysia campus offers students the best of both worlds – the opportunity to study for a prestigious UK degree, following the UK curriculum, at significantly lower cost compared with going to the UK.

The University’s Malaysia campus is focused on helping students develop their careers specifically in areas where graduates are in high demand – an important factor when choosing a degree programme.

Take, for example, the renowned, triple-accredited Henley Business School. Henley has partnered with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) to develop a programme that allows students not only to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Finance, but also gain the ICAEW Business and Finance Profession (BFP) designation, a full one-year internship, and fast-track to ICAEW chartered status, all of which gives them a flying start in their career.

In the School of Built Environment, the Bachelor of Science in Quantity Surveying has a long and well-established track-record of producing many of the industry’s senior surveyors. The QS programme is accredited with RICS, CIOB, BQSM and PAQS, providing students with a distinct advantage in terms of professional recognition and career advancement. The school is one of a handful worldwide to have a Building Information Modelling (BIM) lounge equipped with the latest technology.

There is a plan to launch a LLB Law programme in September 2019, subject to approval. A moot court is already installed on campus to provide students with experiential learning.

For SPM holders, the university’s International Foundation Programme (IFP) is the ideal route to an undergraduate degree.

In fact, students who complete the IFP on the Malaysia campus have the option to either transfer to the UK or stay in Malaysia for their undergraduate degree. There are intakes for IFP in April and September.

A key advantage of studying at the University’s Malaysia Campus in Educity, Iskandar Johor, is the environment.

The modern campus allows students to focus on their studies while still having fun and enjoying their social life without all the hassle of living in a big city. What’s more, with the UK mobility programme, students on the Malaysia campus have an opportunity to spend their second year of study on the UK campus.

Plan to improve higher education in the works

A PLAN to improve private higher education will be drawn up this year.

The joint effort between the Education Ministry and private higher education institutions (IPTS) will cover six areas including the harmonisation of the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996 (Act 555) and Universities and University Colleges Act (AUKU) 1971, internationalisation, administration, sustainability, and innovation.

Thanking stakeholders for their hard work, Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said IPTS provide students with an alternative access to quality education either within, or outside the country.

He, however, stressed on the need to improve the delivery of service, quality, policy, processes, and procedures, in IPTS.

He said this in a statement after a special meeting was held between the ministry’s top officials and IPTS heads and management in Putrajaya on Thursday.

The meeting was part of the ministry’s continuous efforts to increase the involvement of all stakeholders in enhancing the country’s higher education quality.

During the event, Dr Maszlee shared the ministry’s objectives and direction to develop the sector.

He also launched the 14-member IPTS Vice-chancellor Council. MAHSA University pro-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Khairul Anuar Abdullah was appointed chairman of the council for the 2019/2020 session.

The council, which provides a platform for discussions between private institutions, the ministry and the relevant agencies, represents 63 private institutions comprising 53 local varsities and 10 foreign campus branches.

TAR UC hopeful of gaining university status

KUALA LUMPUR: Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC) is confident of achieving university status in the near future despite facing many constraints, including the government not giving its RM30mil annual matching grant, said Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

The Board of Governors chairman said TAR UC had not wavered from its commitment of providing quality and affordable education to young Malaysians over the past 50 years.

The institution, he added, was applying to become a full-fledged university.

“Although we have many constraints, such as not getting the government grant, the institution strives to produce quality graduates and continuously provide affordable and quality education.

He said TAR UC, which turns 50 next month, was governed by a professional management team and supported by dedicated staff.

“Since its inception in 1969, it has carved its name in becoming a highly-acclaimed institution by the industry and academia for its strong academic strength.

“The success of our 200,000 graduates in every corner of the world is a testament to its education quality,” he said in his speech during TAR UC’s convocation ceremony here yesterday.

TAR UC, said Liow, had also built a strong profile with global recognition from renowned professional bodies and prestigious universities.

“It is the only institution in the world to conduct the Internally Assessed ACCA Fundamentals programme. We are also ACCA’s Platinum Approved Learning Partner, placing TAR UC among the world’s top 5% of ACCA tuition providers.

“TAR UC is the first – and currently, the only higher learning institution in Malaysia – to be granted the Graduate Gateway status by the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the world’s leading professional marketing body,” he said.

TAR UC, said Liow, was also conferred the Premier Digital Tech University status from the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation and the Education Ministry, signifying that it was the preferred institution for future digital talent.

The three-day convocation at TAR UC’s main campus in Kuala Lumpur beginning yesterday saw 3,470 students receiving their scrolls.

Liow said TAR UC’s Merit Scholarship, which provides a 100% fee waiver to academically excellent students, had benefitted nearly 23,000 students who received RM100mil in total.

“Last year, 2,105 students were awarded this scholarship worth a total of RM17.9mil,” he said, adding that TAR UC also provided interest-free student loans benefiting 8,703 students since 1979 with over RM34mil disbursed.

He also called on TAR UC alumni to join its 50th anniversary celebration on March 16 and 17.

Getting young engineers ready for the real world

ENGINEERS are crucial in helping the country achieve developed nation status.

To ensure that fresh grads stay in the field, and existing talents continue to upgrade themselves, the Electrical & Electronics (E&E) Productivity Nexus (EEPN) has been conducting several upskilling programmes since 2017.

This includes its in-base training for young unemployed graduates, and postgraduate studies, said EEPN chairman Datuk Seri Wong Siew Hai.

Supported by Human Resource Development Fund (HRDF), the six-month in-base technical and soft skills training programme resulted in 121 participants securing a job. Conducted by those in the industry, the programme was drawn up with industry feedback. Companies were asked about their needs and participants were trained accordingly. A tracer study was done after the programme ended to track the participants’ progress.

In its second year, some 400 unemployed engineers applied but training couldn’t be carried out as the HRDF had frozen its funds.

“We don’t guarantee placements but we try to get them interviews. One of our trainees said if it weren’t for the programme, he wouldn’t have gotten a job.”

Wong realised he had to do something when he saw a growing number of young engineers failing to make the cut in the real world.

“I prefer to term them as ‘yet-to-be-employed’ engineers rather than unemployed, because with the right training and guidance, they’re employable.

“The industry needs engineers so we can’t afford to have these youngsters going into insurance, marketing, or becoming a Grab driver, just because they keep stumbling at the interview stage. Imagine four years in university going to waste.”

The Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) president David Lai Kong Phooi said the engineer to population ratio for developed nations is 1:100. For Malaysia with a population of 32 million, the number of engineers should be 300,000.

Based on the Education Ministry’s statistics from 1997 to 2017, the average number of engineers produced per year by local institutions of higher learning – excluding graduates from foreign universities – is about 16,000. The cumulative total of all engineers produced from 1997 to 2017 is estimated to be about 341,109.

It may appear that the number of engineers produced are sufficient for Malaysia, but there are only 128,000 professional and graduate engineers registered with the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM).

This discrepancy could be due to various reasons. Many engineers don’t register with the BEM because their jobs don’t require them to make submissions to the authorities. Some choose to work overseas. Others leave the profession altogether. There’s also the possibility of a mismatch between the expectations of graduates and employers, which could result in unemployment.

While the number of varsity-trained engineers has been very encouraging in terms of meeting the country’s target, we’re still facing a shortage of engineers – perhaps not in terms of actual numbers, but in terms of employability, and retention of talents, within the engineering sector and with Malaysian companies, said Lai.

Based on Talent Corp’s Critical Occupation List, he said the highest demand for engineers are in the civil, mechanical, electrical, and chemical disciplines.

Lai said there are many reasons why engineers turn to other jobs. For some, it could be a lack of interest in the field or for career advancement.

“The entry level remuneration of engineers is among the highest compared to graduates from other fields. But it’s common knowledge that engineers don’t advance far in terms of remuneration, status, position, and job satisfaction, in the later part of their career.

“So career advancement rather than low entry-level remuneration is probably a more compelling reason why many leave the profession.”

But to be a country of technology and innovation, Wong said, you need engineers. Since there are so few engineering students, we have to keep them in the industry.

“You need to be very strong in mathematics if you want to do well. There are so few science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students at secondary level. So, obviously we’re getting even less students coming into engineering at tertiary level.”

It’s easy for engineers to switch careers at a later stage of their careers because they’re very analytical and easy to train. If they want to go into consultancy, planning, finance, or investment, they can pick it up with some training. But the reverse is not true. Non-engineers will find it hard to switch to this profession.

It’s unfair, he said, to say that our grads lack quality. Those who graduated top of the class go on to produce patents. Only a third or less have issues getting hired.

There’s a demand in every field of engineering but employers cannot find the right candidate, so they turn to foreign engineers, he said.

Fresh grads just need to get their foot in the door. Once they’re hired, they can improve their skills because the company will continue to train them and they get to practise doing the job everyday.

“The different standard between graduates from different varsities is among the reasons why we have this problem.

“Then you have grads who shouldn’t even be doing engineering in the first place – they probably did it because of parental or peer pressure, or simply got offered it. Some of them are smart but were distracted and didn’t focus on their studies. Still, they managed to scrape through with a pass. Then they join the working world and realise it’s not good enough to get a job,” he said.

Soft skills, he said, is very important especially in an MNC.

“Expect daily meetings to discuss projects with your counterparts from countries like the US. If you cannot express yourself, how are they going to understand you? You’ll slow the meeting down and waste everyone’s time,” he said, adding that all the literature, and instructions on technology, are in English.

Those who are weak in the language will take a longer time to read. This results in lower productivity.

“You can’t keep checking the dictionary or asking your colleagues.”

EEPN is in the midst of securing funding for its in-base training programme to be continued.

The programme may be shortened to four months but Wong said its quality would not be compromised.

“We’ll keep the basics because that’s important. The rest can be covered by the company that hires them,” he said, adding that financial support from the Government is crucial if Malaysia is to achieve high-income status.

Government scholarship holders should be released to the industry instead of being given non-engineering roles in the public sector.

“Developed countries like Singapore plan for its engineers’ future so that they can contribute to the country’s growth. Look at our country’s needs and offer scholarships in that area.”

EEPN’s other upskilling programmes include funding engineers to do their masters in E&E engineering.

“The response has been overwhelming. About 350 engineers applied but only 139 places were available. Of the 139 engineers that completed their Masters programme, 15 scored a CGPA of 4.0. This shows that our engineers are really smart. Eventually, we hope to provide opportunities for those interested in doing their doctorate.”

Posgraduate studies are important in light of Industry Revolution 4.0, he said. Technology is fast-evolving. Soon a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Engineering degree alone won’t be enough.

“Engineers have to specialise and get involved in research. They’ll need in depth knowledge to help companies break through the next level of innovation.”

Wong, who’s also the Malaysian American Electronics Industry (MAEI) chairman, and American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce honorary governor, said nurturing our talent pool to support state-of-the-art manufacturing and design and development growth, is a key factor.

He said junior engineers could earn between RM2,500 and RM3,500 depending on their location and qualification. High performers can expect promotions, a yearly pay raise of between 10% and 20%, and travel opportunities.

Based on its success, EEPN and MAEI hope that the HRDF and the Government would continue to support its programmes.

“Help us train more yet-to-be-employed engineers to pursue careers in engineering. We’ve written in to HRDF to review our request and hope to receive a favourable reply soon,” said Wong.

Welcoming EEPN’s initiatives, Lai said these could drive the E&E sector up the value chain, and prevent loss of productivity for companies. This is essential for Malaysia to remain competitive.

“If extra training through the EEPN helps graduates fill vacancies that might otherwise be left vacant or filled by foreign engineers, then it’s a good initiative.”

The IEM, he said, also has a structured training scheme that supplements the practical training and experience of engineers to help them develop their professional competency.

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Increasing competitiveness via branding

MALAYSIAN small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can now tap into Limkokwing Unversity of Creative Technology’s branding and marketing expertise.

Thanks to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) and the university, both parties can advance the competitiveness of Malaysian brands globally.

One of the most important ways of increasing competitiveness is through branding, says Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) Selangor branch chairman Jacob Lee Chor Kok.

He says this will help FMM realise their goals of making the manufacturing sector more competitive.

“We want Malaysia’s products to be seen and sold in every corner of the world,” he adds.

“We hope Limkokwing’s branding design expertise will help FMM Selangor members to better market their products to the world,” he explains. FMM has about 10,000 members to date, he says.

There are more than 900,000 SME establishments in Malaysia, cutting across all sizes and sectors, which contribute to about 36% of Malaysia’s gross domestic product.

The university’s senior vice president (Industry Empowerment) Datuk Raja Aznil Raja Hisham says: “The signing signals the beginning of a significant effort to address the gaps within the industry.”

“This is in relation to the use of social media as well as the tapping of our global network for market intelligence and skills enhancement as the mechanisms we will put in place to strengthen Malaysia’s penetration of the export market,” he says.

Raja Aznil says that the university is looking forward to sharing its expertise “so we can merge our resources as part of our mission to advance Malaysia’s global competitiveness.”

As part of the MoU, the university will provide branding, designing websites and online promotions training and support to FMM members. The training will prepare SMEs to face Industry 4.0. Students will take part in internship programmes and industry talks.

The university’s vice-president (brand, creativity and talent development) Datuk Tiffanee Marie Lim and FMM vice chairman Michelle Hah Mei Kian were also present.

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