By Kathirasenar

The government has set aside RM5.9 billion under Budget 2020 to provide skills training to youths through the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme.

This substantial amount, an increase over 2019’s allocation of RM5.7 billion, is to train youths for a changing work environment.

But how many youths are taking advantage of this opportunity made available by the government?

According to Khazanah Research Institute’s “School-to-Work Transition of Young Malaysians” survey, undertaken last year, TVET is not popular with youths.

The survey report said: “Only 13% of all upper secondary students are pursuing TVET courses, while at the higher education level less than 9% are in polytechnics.”

What is puzzling is that the survey also found that “young job seekers and young workers, especially the males, identify TVET as the most useful qualification for getting a good job”.

In closing the 2019 TVET Conference on July 9, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said: “TVET will be the main driver or game changer in the government’s effort to produce highly talented local talent.

“TVET has an important role in helping our efforts to become a developed nation of equal status with other developed countries. It is not too much for TVET to be regarded as the key to the country’s future development.”

Education Minister Maszlee Malik said last year that the government aimed at making TVET certificate holders proud of their specialisation and skills. “TVET skills are no longer viewed as second-class specialisation,” he said.

In July this year, Maszlee said more TVET graduates were being employed, and that in 2018 a total of 13,740 TVET graduates found jobs compared with 12,803 the previous year.

Indians and TVET

The question is whether Indian youths are making use of these opportunities.

According to a news report, the Human Resources Ministry revealed that as of July 1, 356 Indian youths had enrolled for short-term courses under TVET and that the ministry expected another 218 to join later that month.

This is obviously too small a figure.

According to the same report, when the training was under the Youth and Sports Ministry, 671 Indian youths enrolled for TVET courses between 2013 and 2015.

Again, this is too small a figure. There is a need for Indian youths to enrol for TVET courses so that they can have the appropriate skills to get employed.

We live in a fast-changing world, especially when it comes to technology. Technological changes and changes in the way the economy works are having a deep impact on the type of jobs available and the type of workers who are in demand.

TVET is one area where students can learn industry-relevant skills so that they can find jobs upon graduating.

There is so much talk of the 4th Industrial Revolution and how it will make certain jobs irrelevant and create new jobs. There is, therefore, a clear need for a well-trained and resilient technical workforce with industry-needed skillsets.

It is time, therefore, for Indian students and their parents to give greater attention to TVET programmes. Any perception that TVET is second-class education needs to be dropped.

TVET is a good option for those who feel more comfortable using their hands and those who may not be academically inclined.

Also, we hear so much about Indian youths being unemployed or being drawn into gangs. There should be an effort, especially on the part of parents and teachers, to direct school leavers towards opportunities for gainful employment, such as by taking up TVET courses.

The Human Resources Ministry has made it attractive for Indian students by offering courses for free. The ministry said recently that TVET for Indian participants at a Johor training centre was being funded by a trust for Indian Malaysians.

School leavers should consider enrolling for TVET programmes and then work their way up the education and career ladders.

Kathirasenar is a veteran editor and columnist

Photo source: The Star, Facebook