Historically, Malaysia's automotive industry began as part of a grand industrialization plan envisioned by the administration of the day.
At the time, there was a huge influx of Malaysian graduates returning from their tertiary studies abroad with qualifications in various engineering disciplines. This spurred the need to place them in key technological positions so that their talents were put to good use.
More than three decades later, the industry has had its ups and downs but nevertheless has bloomed into an industry with more than 20 OEMs, 700 vendors, dealers and distributors, and hiring more than 600,000 workers throughout the automotive supply chain.
It is clear that the tables have turned since the old days - the industry has now come to a point where opportunities within the industry have outnumbered the talents we have to fill them.
The National Automotive Policy 2014 (NAP 2014) was developed with four pillars in mind - job creation, new business opportunities, career advancement and business enhancement. These pillars coincide with the policy's aim for Malaysia to produce 1 million vehicles by the end of this decade.
Since the announcement of the NAP2014, we have seen much traction from local players to strengthen their in-house capabilities in product design, manufacturing and after sales.
As cars and automotive components become more complex, the enhancement of the entire supply chain becomes vital for businesses to compete at the global level. The targeted expansion of market size will also require the participation of more business entities, both in the manufacturing and after sales sectors of the industry.
This drive towards higher value activities naturally creates higher demand for skilled talent, and this goes beyond those well versed with technical knowledge. As the automotive sector is vast and multi-disciplinary, opportunities exist not only for designers, engineers and technicians - but also for logisticians, accountants, procurement executives, salesmen, human resource developers, craftsmen, and computer programmers, just to name a few.
Furthermore, extensive expertise will be needed in jobs and businesses with a more "hands-on" nature, such as welding, machine controls, vehicle and component assembly, quality control, vehicle servicing, production maintenance and remanufacturing, also just to name a few!
To ensure that opportunities in the automotive industry reaches all levels of the country, MAI has established numerous activities and programs for individuals and businesses to enhance their capabilities in automotive specific disciplines. The Industry Professional Certificate (IPC) and Automotive Industry Certification Engineering (AICE) programmes train school leavers, fresh graduates and experienced workers in the knowledge and skills relevant to the needs of the industry.
The Design Engineering & Prototyping (DEP) program, coupled with the MAI Intelligent Technology Systems (MITS) will enhance OEM and vendor capabilities through an integrated technology solution for both the manufacturing and after-sales sectors, from product conceptualisation to vehicle after-sales support.
Programmes such as the Bumiputra Workshop Transformation Program (BWTP) and Dealers Entrepreneurship Enhancement Program (DEEP) are created to enhance the sales and after sales experience of the consumer.
In 2017, MAI aims to further strengthen the automotive industry to create 25,000 new jobs in the automotive sector.
This also comprises training for 10,000 existing workers, enhancing the competitiveness of over 400 local vendors, upgrading 800 existing workshops, and developing new entrepreneurs in sales, distribution, services, repair, manufacturing, remanufacturing and recycling.
"Development is about more than money, machines or good policies - it is about real people and the lives they lead"
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.