Thursday, 30 March 2017

GENDER EQUALITY - Rethinking the role of women in workplace

Statistics from the Ministry of Higher Education denote that in 2015, 54% of the total students enrolled in institutions of higher learning, comprising universities, polytechnics and community colleges - are female. Females also make up 43% of students enrolled in engineering or science and maths courses.
This is a clear demonstration of our nation’s progress towards gender equality.
However, this article is not about self praise, but looking at furthering gender equality at all levels of economic participation.
The statistics above can not be used as just a means of celebration for women, but an insight into our industrial future.
Although there are more than 1 million women entrepreneurs registered in Malaysia, there is no denying we need to see more participation of women in the higher echelons of executive or entrepreneurial ventures.
A significant percentage of females in universities today simply means that in the next generation, the female talent pool will be a significant economic contributor.
Therefore, in the immediate decades to come, one of the key national agendas will be the optimisation of talent utilisation in the industry - to allow the careers of women to flourish, and not be limited to domestic roles, wasting their talent halfway through their journey.
This means we must quickly look at means of allowing evenmore women to participate in the workforce, and overcome the barriers that create the "glass ceiling".
The barriers of female empowerment are not just a Malaysian problem, but a global one. Until today, even the United States of America has not found its first female president, although admittedly has come close in recent times.
European nations have seen more progress, while notable female leaders have achieved these historical milestones in Asia, such as in India, Pakistan and South Korea.
Reports suggest that while education opportunities for women is readily available, women still have issues penetrating high level careers, as they are expected to manage the domestic issues of the home.
This cultural acceptance may be a future problem when talent is in high demand.
Hence comes the conundrum of who takes the role of homemaker. It is admittedly still important, yet must be reinvented and managed for us to move forward with times.
This is where I believe with progress comes more opportunities. The advent of technology, if its penetration were managed, opens up the possibilities of working modes that allow both men and women to contribute their talents to the economy, yet share family responsibilities at the same time.  
There are many ideas to address this – flexible working hours, open office concepts, workplace nurseries, and immersive online communication tools.
All these have shown potential to meet the needs mentioned above and show more potential with the advancement of technology.
Most importantly, all players, be it government, industry or academia must be willing to address this future need. Discussion, dialogues and ideas must be allowed to thrive to create the flexibility for careers to flourish.
At the same time, opportunities do not bear fruit if women accept that their sole role of existence is to support the careers of their husbands. They must want, and take the opportunities as much as their male counterparts.
It will be a great loss to see half of our talent not be allowed to contribute to our great nation.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

AUTOMOTIVE SECTOR EDUCATION - Industry opportunities must be met with passion by everyone

As the agency tasked with enhancing the Malaysia Automotive Industry, one of the major challenges, we have to address constantly has been the issue of awareness of industry opportunities.
The ecosystem that makes up the industry is vast, with a wide subject matters and an array of specialisations, which requires mastery of technical, non-technical and creative disciplines.
It is not just engines, nuts and bolts – it is both an art and science that finds emotional attachment to both business and consumer alike.
Firstly, many equate the automotive industry with our national carmakers. While they are undoubtedly movers of the industry, there are hundreds of firms that supply components to not just our national brands, but the 27 other vehicle assemblers that operate within our borders.
There are thousands of dealers, distributors and service centres that sell these cars and keep them in good working order.
Secondly, automotive jobs are not just for those that work on the production line. The industry comprises design and process engineers, quality managers, repair & servicemen, salesmen, sketch artists, fabric weavers, tool makers, bankers and insurance agents, just to name a few.
Name your interest, there is a career in the automotive industry that is relevant to you!
As we speak, we are continuously striving to maximise access to quality education and skills certification. Since the National Automotive Policy 2014 was announced, MAI has worked with the Department of Skills Development (JPK) and other  industry stakeholders to develop competency standards in both manufacturing and after sales sectors, through the publishing of 27 National Occupational Skills Standards to date.
We have also certified around 1,300 trainees with the Malaysian Skill Certificate as at December last year. This certification opens up greater opportunities for those who prefer the skills route to success.
With that in mind, my experience has taught me that skills and knowledge opportunities are everywhere. The important question is simple – does the passion exist to make the best of these opportunities?
I believe that there is a need for whole-hearted participation from all industry players to put country on the road towards automotive success.
We must realise, and implant this in the generations to come that there must be a paradigm shift in our mindsets that the pursuit of education, be it academic, skills or self-learned is a life-long endeavour.
This mindset should be towards the end goal of a successful career, and not just to land a well paying job. While more opportunity is created, I’d like to call for more interest and passion in the work we do.
It all starts with knowing who we are, our strengths, weaknesses, and most importantly developing pride in what we have, and want to achieve.
Find out what they are passionate about. Find out what they love doing. Then, match their passion to the right opportunities that will turn their potential into tangible contributions to our nation.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

TOWARD NATION-BUILDING - Importance of academic and skill-oriented training

A quick scan of reports online shows that in the most advanced countries, the percentage of population with a bachelor degree or higher was between 21 and 47 percent in 2013.
Interestingly, car-producing nations such as Germany and Italy recorded university degree attainment at only 28 and 21 percent, respectively. Yet, these are nations with the most recognisable marques in the world - many associating ownership of their products as symbols of success.
While the values of the tertiary education system are undeniable, the technology breakthroughs within the countries mentioned above are not contributions of graduates alone.
There are various routes to success, and more importantly, they are required to ensure nation building is implemented successfully.
University education focuses mostly on deep theory and knowledge. Those that take this route expected to master not only fundamental concepts, but also a wide range of advanced subjects that cater holistically to a particular subject.
Due to time limitations, naturally there would less emphasis on hands on technical skills. For example, anengineering graduate may know the mathematical intricacies of welding, yet struggle when handling a welding gun. He or she will know what needs to be done, yet cannot be expected to perform the task at hand.
The job of completing this would be for the trained hands of the skilled welder. This person would not expect to be "bestowned" with a university scroll, but would need certification from a skills training institutes that would give him the hand, eye and body coordination as well as stamina to sew sheets of metal together while withstanding immense heat and flying sparks.
By now we should have realised that both academic and hands-on talent must co-exist to complete a job - leading to an actual sales transaction of high value.
Unfortunately, we seem to glorify the former and place less value on the other. It is time to change this perspective.
By the time this article is read, 434,535 registered SPM candidates would have received their results.
While we congratulate those who have done well, it is equally important to guide the morale of those who are less fortunate with their results. School exams should no longer be seen as benchmarks of success, but rather an alignment of career options.
No matter the results, it should at worst signal our career paths. Each individual has their own strengths and weaknesses, therefore be allowed to freely follow a path that maximises their strenghts.
Most importantly, we should not allow ourselves and those around us to kill our spirits in the face of failure. As mentioned in the previous article, labels of failure are only true if the individual accepts them.
In advanced nations, skills are revered and received equal, and sometimes bigger remuneration due to the years spent building and developing mastery in a particular skill.
These individual with skills are known as craftsmen and not just mere general workers.
As the automotive industry progresses further, I assure you that we will need more or both academics and skilled practitioners. Each day, new technologies are created, with products and processes of much higher complexity.
In the next part of this series, we will discuss the career opportunities that currently exist for both academically - and skill - oriented individuals
"It is fine to celebrate success, but at the same time head the lesson of failure".
The writer is chief executive officer of the Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT - Success is not definitive, neither is failure

One of the roles of the Malaysia Automotive Institute is the development of human capital for the automotive industry. As talent is an unmistakable asset to the economy, we have developed several programmes aimed at the different levels and skill sets - school leavers, undergraduates, fresh graduates as well as those already working.
Since our programs began in 2012, we have trained thousands of youths and executives who are now serving within the industry, creating new employment opportunities and enhancing existing careers.
I have had the opportunity to personally interact with many participants of our programs. Overall, we have tremendous potential amongst our youth, signifying the quality of our education system.
However, there is one particular aspect that requires reinvention – it is how, as a society,  we perceive qualifications.
The old saying goes, “Success is a journey, not a destination”. This simply means that success has no end point, it is what we do in life that defines success. For many, success is measured by the gains of their lifetime of work – the cash balance, house and car, and the provisions rendered to the family.
Although happiness, spiritual being and others are perfectly valid yardsticks, materialistic gain is a perfect measurement too, it is tangible and most importantly, realistic.
Academic qualification, on the other hand, is a tricky measurement to discuss. Every parent hopes that their children excel in their studies and achieve the highest merit possible. We are told in school that the university is the garden of opportunity and the start of a meaningful life. Yet, it is difficult to explain that the realities of life provide many routes to success, and these routes need not be “academic” in nature.
This societal perception is addressed in this series.
Various reports in high income nations show that the earnings gap between blue and white collar jobs are narrowing. This is due partly to the fact that in order for society to progress, not only must wealth distribution be fairer, but the emergence of the need for a skilled and “hands-on” workforce.
Despite improvements in production efficiency during the last three industrial revolutions, “unskilled” labor was very much in high demand, despite an increase in the  mechanisation of manufacturing processes.
As we strive through Industry 4.0, unskilled labor will soon be replaced with a high level automation, rendering them obsolete in future operations. However, the future labourer needs to be trained in a specific and highly specialised skill set, not in academic classroom theory, but in skills training institutions that recognise them for specialised job competency.
As I spoke to some of the participants of our programs, in particular the programs for school leavers, I unearthed an unfortunate truth – many of those who do not possess academic qualifications were labelled as failures by many. They are doomed for low earning, blue collar jobs with dead end careers.
More damaging, is that many of these people are showing signs that they believe it themselves. When asked about their qualifications, the common answer seems to be: “All I have is a skill certificate”. Is now time to change this, and realign their beliefs towards a successful career path.
As a progressive society, it is important that we work together to rebrand and reinvent this notion. We will discuss this reinvention in our next article.
“Success isn’t just about your life accomplishments. It also about what you inspire others to do”.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

BUSINESSES AND JOBS - Adverse impact of speculation and rumours

IT is easy to paint a picture of businesses as mere capitalistic entities with the sole aim of maximising profit for shareholders.
We are often exposed to the happy endings of business stories; the ones that end up with the glamorous and luxurious lifestyle of the owner. However, we must realise that more often than not this is usually at the final chapters. In truth, behind every major success is a huge amount of struggle, blood and sweat.
Most entrepreneurs start as small entities. Moving foward requires massive amounts of risk, and each day is a struggle to ensure that business operations, client and most importantly, the employees, are given due attention.
They may not tell their side of the story, but rest assured that most entrepreneurs can relate to the fact, in growing a business, the owner is usually the last person to reap any profit. They may not say it openly, but they know deep inside that the growth of any organisation depends on the strength and sustainability of their employees.
As business grow, they start the rely on strong relationships with other business entities. This relationship creates the large supply chains we see in the numerous industries that exist within our economy.
As these relationship expand, they create massive supply networks that are dependent on each other. The failure of any entity within this network may affect business operations and the jobs within the supply chain.
The above clearly exemplifies the realities of the business ecosystem. Which is why it is important that while competition is encouraged, it is good to rid the system of elements that can affect the daily operations of the supply chain.
Among these unnecessary elements are the ones that can destroy productivity. Most toxic of all is the element of speculation, in particular the form that predicts the future of any business based on "clues", half-baked information or unreliable sources.
Previous articles in this column have focused extensively on the need for maturity among the society to distinguish real and fake news, while this articles focuses on the intent to create them.
It is one thing to create rumours, and it is another to further spread them.
Whether or not speculation and rumours derive from malicious intent, or the innocent process of sensationalism, the businesses and the individuals working within them end up with devastating effect.
Imagine the uncertainty felt by an employee, with a family under his or her care, when an outside source tells of the impending retrenchment due to a possible ownership transfer.
While behind closed doors the management is ensuring the job security of its employees, current productivity is affectedby unnecessary speculation. The same speculation then leads to trust degradation of existing business relationships with both supplier and customer.
Capitalism is not just about profit, but rather the freedom to perform business. Businesses depend on people to survive and the last thing it needs is unnecessary elements that may jeopardise the talent and relationships it holds with such high value.
Let the news come directly from the source.
The writer is chief executive officer of the Malaysia Automotive Institute