Source: MDEC files

‘Full time’ jobs are probably a thing of the past.

Besides accelerating digital adoption for businesses and individuals, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the nature of employment and how we perceive success through the jobs we have.

The reality is that workers need to be flexible and agile as the work structure has been disrupted and future jobs will either be on contract basis, part-time or temporary, according to a recent news report in Free Malaysia Today. It proceeds to state that among emerging jobs, 9 out 10 jobs are related to STEM learning, creating an evident shift in the skills demanded.

Creating jobs is the first step, not the last.

Pockets of relief have emerged job-creation wise, within the digital economy, as the norms of physical distancing seem to continue to play out amid worries of asymptomatic Covid-19 positive patients and new clusters.  

The CMCO was perhaps the first joint step between both government and private sectors, to restart the economy and preserve jobs. However, as we brace for eventual recovery, creating jobs alone, is not enough. Just as crucial is ensuring that workers are equipped to handle the shift in skill demand by employers and the overall job market.

Opportunities to digitally reskill or upskill are here.

With the need for greater digital adoption among businesses, governments and communities, major players in the digital ecosystem who are leading this change, have been the first to present opportunities to upskill and reskill, to ready talents for future jobs.

Huawei Malaysia for instance, just launched the Huawei ASEAN Academy, to empower digital talent in Malaysia. It is expected to provide more than 3,000 information and communications (ICT) courses, and groom 50,000 Malaysian talents over the next five years.

To address the issue of unemployed workers and presenting them with opportunities to digitally upskill or reskill, a partnership between MDEC and Coursera called ‘Let’s Learn Digital’ was launched recently. SAP Malaysia earlier also collaborated with MDEC as part of the latter’s #DigitalVsCovid movement, for SAP to nurture talent, build a future workforce and grow the digital ecosystem.

The pandemic bares the inherent limitations of training and placing.

Physical distancing also translated to effects on the education supply chain, affecting education systems and delivery as they were.

Technical and vocational education and training generally requires physical attendance.  The current limitations imposed by connectivity and access plague this process of upskilling. Also, once trained, placement is a separate process to training. There isn’t a guaranteed conveyor belt from education and training to placement.

The deeper issue of matching graduating talents to tech or digital jobs linger, needing urgent attention, that pertains to the over 300,000 graduates who enter the job market annually. These graduates come from every conceivable type of educational institution from the polytechnic and university, to the TVET institution.

The challenge is not the size or speed of the conveyor belt of education to employment, but its relevance. Training and placing workers has long been the proverbial ‘cart before the horse’ in the quest to create gainful employment.

Perhaps it is time to revisit and invert this approach, as we face pressures to respond quickly to business needs which are knock-on effects of the pandemic, to face the new global economy ahead.

Leverage strengths to meet demand for digital skills.

According to the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2020 (GTCI 2020), Malaysia has moved up two spots, to the 26th position out of 88 countries. The country outperformed high-income economy countries, such as China, South Korea, Spain and Portugal.

In a recent news report, MDEC’s CEO, Surina Shukri aptly stressed that these achievements reinforce the fact that Malaysia is on the right track to develop industry-ready digital talent as the global economy explores a new norm. Are we then, leveraging this advantage at a national scale?

Though Malaysia ranks well on the GTCI, another reality has to be considered as well; Digital business models and platforms are profoundly reshaping how businesses work. Even as far back as 2018, the World Economic Forum projected that while nearly a million jobs may be lost, another 1.75 million will be created. Is Malaysia preparing for this burgeoning demand?

In the local context, even in pre-pandemic times, SMEs had already been expressing a dire need for digitally skilled talent, which are not in ready supply. According to MDEC’s CMO Raymond Siva in a webinar by Marketing Magazine titled The Survival Guide for SMEs Post MCO-Lockdown (Focus: Agencies) last week, a quick survey conducted by MDEC on 5 job portals which included LinkedIn, SeekAsia and Jobstreet, showed that there were close to 5000 digital jobs vacant, pre COVID-19. With digitalisation and innovation in the new normal, these numbers could be far higher.

Place and train, not train and place.

As unemployment numbers in March rose to 610,000, the need to resolve the glaring gap between talents graduating and the digital skills sought, take centre stage.

“MDEC is currently assessing the demand and supply in the digital job market, specifically to identify the roles and skills requiring attention. Immediately evident are the businesses looking for coders, programmers, developers, designers and data scientists, to serve game industry, global supply chains, e-Commerce and cross-border trading. Job matching is top-of-mind for both the government as well as the private sector”, expressed Siva.

“MDEC will be organising a campaign next month to bring the talent supply and demand to a focal point and drive activities that will facilitate matching. The aim is to also explore ‘place and train’ as a new norm as it will better match the skills needed to the people already available or with a baseline skills that can be upskilled to requirements ”, said Siva.

COVID-19 may have created socio-economic vulnerabilities, but the digital economy and ecosystem offer an equitable remedy to relieve the economy. Full time jobs may be a thing of the past, but skilling, reskilling or upskilling an individual for new roles in employment is here to stay; and for those who are agile and adaptable, opportunities abound.

#LetsBuildTogether #DigitalVsCovid #KomunikasiKita #DigitalEconomy #KitaTeguhKitaMenang

by Shobha Janardanan

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