THERE is high marketability for graduates from polytechnic and community colleges, as data from the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Coordinating Body shows that more than 95% of such graduates obtain employment.
From 2018 to 2020, polytechnics and community colleges have successfully produced nearly 7,000 entrepreneurs among its graduates, with several breaking the mould to achieve five-figure incomes in addition to generating job opportunities for others.
Moreover, these students do not only excel in academia, but are also proud achievers at the national and international levels by winning medals and acknowledgements through various skills, innovation and sports competitions.
Among the platforms they have won in to make their alma mater proud include the FIRA RoboWorld Cup, WorldSkills Competition, Abilympics for differently-abled students, the Prime Minister’s Golden Hand Award, MySkills Competition, Institutions of Higher Learning (Sukipt) Games, Universiade, the Malaysia Games and the SEA Games.There are also polytechnic and community college graduates that have successfully built their careers overseas, which is something that TVET focuses on through its internationalisation programmes that expose students to global career opportunities and international student exchange programmes, as well as industrial training beyond Malaysia’s borders.
The advantage of TVET is that it not only educates students with knowledge and skills that can help them in their search for employment, but also equips them with the necessary knowhow to be self-employed entrepreneurs or freelancers.
The students are also exposed to entrepreneurship as early as the first semester through the Entrepreneurship Incubator at learning institutes with the support of MoHE and external agencies.
This is in order to encourage students to tap into the gig economy and become freelancers that can overcome the challenges of the new normal brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Another reason it is so successful is because of the academia-industry cooperation, where special programmes such as work-based learning and structured internship programmes help create industry-ready TVET graduates that are highly competitive and in demand.
Furthermore, TVET courses widen the collaboration between academia and industry, including with multinational companies through high-impact partnerships, such as Faculty CEO, Industry on Campus and Talent Enhancement Programmes, to name a few.
For those seeking to expand their skillset, TVET courses also offer reskilling, upskilling and cross-skilling programmes like those offered under the Ministry of Higher Education’s (MoHE) National Economic Reform Plan (Penjana) Career Advancement Programme (KPT-CAP), which ensures employment for students after the training.
The programme, which students can apply for through the Graduates Reference Hub for Employment and Training, was created based on the needs and requirements set by companies that commit to hiring the graduates. An example is the Smart Trucker course, in which the course’s content is designed based on skills required by logistics companies.
The Penjana KPT-CAP is not only an example of the importance placed on skills application, where students can practice what they have learnt – alongside other practical applications through workshops and laboratories, as well as innovative year-end projects – it is also responsive to the industry’s needs to ensure that students are ready to work in the real world.
“The Penjana KPT-CAP is not only an example of the importance placed on skills application, where students can practice what they have learnt – alongside other practical applications through workshops and laboratories, as well as innovative year-end projects – it is also responsive to the industry’s needs to ensure that students are ready to work in the real world, ” said Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad.
In addition, TVET students are given value-added training through the Finishing School programme that will complete their certificate or diploma with recognition and professional endorsement from official bodies and agencies.
That said, the TVET sector faces many challenges and requires the buy-in of all stakeholders to ensure its continuous contribution to the nation’s growth.
As with any initiative aiming for widespread impact, sustainable and long-lasting cooperation driven by the private sector is required, while better coordination among various government agencies and other stakeholders is also key.
Despite its results, there also remains a negative perception that TVET is for those who fail or do not excel academically, which is something that needs to change.
Another key factor is sustainable funding, whether it is for students’ studies at TVET institutes, or for the development and maintenance of institutions, facilities and equipment, as well as the readiness and adoption of policy, lecturers and industry players in line with the new normal and the fourth industrial revolution – such as online learning and massive open online courses.