Universities urged to realign courses with IR4.0

by HARIZAH KAMEL/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

JOB seekers are already finding it difficult to procure a stable job with or without a relevant university degree. But after the Higher Education Department’s announcement that 19 public universities are cancelling up to 38 programmes, the government requires them to come up with courses that are aligned with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0).

Most of the cancelled courses are from the science and engineering programmes despite having 20,130 and 26,706 graduates respectively, based on the Malaysia Educational Statistics 2018.

Jobstore.com founder and CEO Anson Wang said currently the most sought-after jobs are tech-related like programmers and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as jobs related to creativity and designing.

“There is a shift in the job market as it needs talents with excellent technological and creative skills, while many traditional jobs will be obsolete in the future due to full digitalisation.

“Our education system needs to be upgraded to prepare local talents for these future demands so that local and overseas graduates have equal employment opportunities, especially in multinational corporations,” he told The Malaysian Reserve recently.

Malaysia is traditionally a hub for electrical and electronics (E&E), where the industry alone provided close to 800,000 jobs in 2018.

Just as it benefitted from the rise of E&E, Malaysia can also expect to benefit from the global phenomenon of digitalisation.

Wang said jobs related to cyber security, big data, data protection, AI, robotics and creativity will see a huge surge in demand and having a degree in those industries is vital.

“It is easier for degree holders to get employed compared to those without a degree,” he said.

Academic qualifications will remain an important consideration when assessing candidates.

In LinkedIn’s 2019 Emerging Jobs in Malaysia Report, the professional networking site found that the top-five emerging jobs were all related to the tech industry.

The jobs mentioned are data scientist, full stack engineer, drive test engineer, user experience (UX) designer and content writer.

While tech roles are dominating the emerging job market, much is at stake for candidates with degrees unrelated to the tech industry.

In 2016, Malaysia established the world’s first Digital Free Trade Zone, a special trade zone which promotes the growth of e-commerce by providing a state-of-the-art platform for small and medium enterprises.

By 2021, the digital transformation will add RM41 billion to the country’s economy, while 45% of Malaysia’s income will be derived from digital products and services.

Malaysia Digital Economy Corp said the impact of digital transformation on Malaysia’s economy is expected to significantly increase by RM400 billion in 2025.

Job seekers must realise that they need to continually broaden their skills to stay competitive.

New jobs are emerging more rapidly, and traditional roles are evolving into new hybrids including full stack engineers and UX designers who run projects from the technical side and understand the customer-facing aspects of projects.

Higher learning institutions like International Medical University, Universiti Sains Malaysia, HELP University, Universiti Teknologi Petronas and Universiti Teknologi MARA are introducing data analytics curriculum into non-ICT related programmes including accounting, business, education, pharmacy and medical biotechnology.

This is to renew courses to be closely aligned with the IR4.0 and achieve Malaysia’s goal of becoming an e-commerce hub of the region.

The LinkedIn report shows that by leveraging on the Internet, AI and other technologies, Malaysia can increase productivity, spur innovation and improve livelihoods.

Demand for a diverse range of tech skills may dominate, but soft skills are significant to get the most from the digital world.