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Malaysia 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Given that upskilling workers is one of the most important aspects of human capital development, the ministry is launching a host of initiatives to prepare the Malaysian workforce for the future.

M. Kula Segaran
BIOGRAPHY
M. Kula Segaran has been serving as Minister of Human Resources since 2018. He is also the National Vice-Chairman of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Member of Parliament for Ipoh Barat. He was first elected to Parliament in 1997, holding the seat of Teluk Intan. Segaran was admitted as Barrister-at-Law at Lincoln’s Inn in London in 1982. Thereafter he was admitted and enrolled as an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court in Malaya in 1983.

Could you elaborate on your plans to boost productivity by reskilling and upskilling workers?

All employers from 63 sub-sectors within three key economic sectors (services, manufacturing, and mining and quarrying) are obliged to register with the Human Resources Development Fund (PSMB) and pay a 1% Human Resources Development (HRD) levy of their total Malaysian employees' salary for human capital development (HCD) initiatives. As of October 31, 2018, the total number of PSMB-registered employers is 24,627, and these employers hire 2.24 million Malaysian employees. The agency offers financial assistance and training schemes that are driven by its registered employers' training demands, encompassing technical and soft skill trainings in domestic and international courses, setup of training rooms and relevant facilities within an employer's working space, as well as facilitating training for disabled and future workers. Recently, PSMB established a full-fledged customer engagement team tasked with identifying the training demands and challenges among its registered employers. More recently, in the 2019 budget announcement under the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) initiative, the government will allocate PSMB a MYR20-million matching grant for the implementation of two TVET driven programs: an Apprenticeship Program and the Graduates Enhancement Program for Employability (GENERATE). These programs are targeted at school leavers and graduates, respectively, helping them to become job-ready while simultaneously ensuring higher productivity levels. From 1993 to October 2018, over 19.7 million local employees of PSMB-registered employers benefited from these schemes, and in 2019, PSMB targets approximately 1.2 million people. Boosting productivity by reskilling and upskilling workers is one of the most important aspects of human capital development.

Is there a skills mismatch between university curricula and professional requirements on the labor market?

Though we need graduates, there seems to be an issue of a skills mismatch in terms of university curricula and the professional requirements from the labor market. Universities in Malaysia fall under the purview of the Ministry of Education, and it is taking steps to address this issue. On the part of the Ministry of Human Resources, there are several initiatives to prepare local workforces for the future. Among these are conducting a TVET Master Plan Study that encompasses the issues of TVET's demand and supply toward addressing the issues of skills and industry needs, including the challenges of Industry 4.0 and ensuring high employability among TVET graduates with better pay. In order to enhance the quality of TVET and in line with the needs of Industry 4.0, this study will address the aspect of curriculum restructuring, upgrading of facilities and training equipment, professional development of TVET instructors, and other related matters. Another of our initiatives is the review of the National Occupational Skills Standard (NOSS) to meet the current knowledge and skills in the era of digitalization, automation, or Industry 4.0 required by industrial players.

How will the government enhance the participation rate of women in senior positions?

The 11th Malaysia Plan emphasizes on anchoring growth on people, focusing on empowering human capital, including women talent. The 2019 Budget clearly reflects the government's concern on this matter, and the government is taking the lead in encouraging women to contribute to the economy and pushing for more women in leadership roles. Further to this, there is also a push to increase women on boards to 30% by 2020. To support this agenda, the government also announced tax exemption on employment income to be enjoyed by women on who return to the workforce. Furthermore, the Career Comeback Program under TalentCorp aims to encourage employers to recruit and retain female talent in the workforce. To date, we have placed 694 women in the workforce since the launch of this program with an average monthly salary of MYR7,000-8,000. Moving forward, TalentCorp is highly committed to advancing this initiative forward with the support of the Ministry of Human Resources.