Here is an interesting observation – parents today bend over backwards to ensure their children get the best of education because good education equals good employment prospects.
However, the World Economic Forum in 2016 reported that 65% of children entering primary schools will ultimately work jobs that have yet to exist.
It also predicted that over five million jobs would disappear by this year.
How then do parents prepare their children for jobs that don’t exist yet?
The Malaysian Education Ministry has made it clear that it plans to develop future-proof graduates with the right set of skills, abilities and humanistic values.
It has also acknowledged globalisation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) will change the future of employment with many current jobs no longer existing in the years to come.
“In the face of the IR 4.0 era, we have to deal with expertise which never existed before and many new fields. So we need to equip our children with IR 4.0 technologies,” Dr Maszlee Malik was quoted as saying when he was Education Minister.
However, he had said, education institutions were currently not offering the right skills and this has caused Malaysian graduates to become less marketable.
The ministry had engaged industry players to provide an annual evaluation of programmes offered at various higher education institutions to ensure they adhere to industry needs.
Industry 4.0 Malaysia Association president VKK Rajasekaran said the ministry should look into curating courses in line with IR 4.0.
“More than 60% of fresh graduates today remain unemployed even after a year. This is partly the result of the mismatch between the programmes offered and market demand.
“There has to be a parallel shift of what is being taught in schools and universities as they do not meet market demands,” he said, adding that this was necessary to prevent local talents from going abroad to find better-paying jobs.
Despite that, he said, local universities and colleges today are increasingly attuned to the needs of the industry and are curating courses that teach Internet of Things (IoT) architecture, robotic engineering, data science and cloud computing architecture, among others.
There is a growing fear that the shift to IR 4.0 would cause many to lose jobs. These fears are not totally unwarranted as a 2017 study revealed that up to 800 million global workers will lose their jobs by 2030.
The study by the McKinsey Global Institute on 800 occupations across 46 countries found that most jobs then would be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic automation.
It found, however, that jobs requiring human interaction and specialised lower-wage jobs would be least affected.
Rajasekaran, however, believed the loss of jobs due to automation would be offset by the creation of new jobs to meet the needs of IR 4.0.
“There will be a shift in demand for more semi-skilled and skilled jobs as routine and mundane tasks would be relegated to machines,” said Rajasekaran.
This, in turn, would lead to a rise in the need for university education as jobs that require less education shrink.
“As such, courses to prepare students for the future workforce should be introduced in secondary schools and in TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) institutions,” he suggested.
The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) Talent Development and Digital Entrepreneurship vice-president Dr Sumitra Nair said a lot could be done with the education system to prepare students for the challenges of IR 4.0, but other aspects of education need to be looked into as well.
“All countries around the world are racing against time to ensure the readiness of their future talent by using the multistakeholder approach, rather than solely focusing on the education system,” she said.
To bolster the tech talent life cycle, Sumitra said MDEC is engaging with school students, tertiary education students, the existing workforce and latent talent.
MDEC, under the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia, has been tasked with leading the nation’s digital economy forward. To kick-start the digital movement in schools, it launched #mydigitalmaker three years ago.
The joint public-private-academia initiative helps unearth digital talents in schools and consequently nurtures them to become digital producers.