Thousands of people lost their jobs over the last two years. Malaysia’s unemployment rate rose from 3.4% in 2015 to 3.5% last year, which means about 14,000 people lost their jobs between 2015 and 2016.
Although the jump of 0.1% may seem too small, in reality, it translates to nearly half a million Malaysians being unemployed. Was this due to the country’s economic downturn, or the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Studies show it’s both. Due to these external changes, there have been escalated demands for certain skilled talents that are capable of positively impacting business operations, especially during times of uncertainty.
It is common to see an acute talent shortage, skills gap and recruitment challenges during this volatile period and if we look at the state of skilled employees in Malaysia (refer to Figure 2), 62% are medium-skilled and only 25% are highly-skilled.
Percentage of skilled employees in South East Asia (SEA). Source Future of Jobs Survey, WEF.
The statistics in Figure 2 demonstrate that Malaysia has a lot of skilled talent in relation to other countries in the region. Whether or not we are effectively utilising these skills in the right manner, and whether there are plans to upskill the workforce remains to be seen.
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There are several future workforce and change management strategies such as job rotations, mobility support, foreign expertise and reskilling exercises, that can be employed particularly for SEA nations including Malaysians. See Figure 3.
Future workforce and change management strategies SE Asian countries expect to undertake. Source: Future of Jobs Survey, WEF.
On reskilling, Johan Mahmood Merican, the deputy director-general at the Economic Planning Unit of Prime Minister’s Department, says Malaysian employers have the tendency to underinvest in training and development. This is consistent with data from WEF which states that 40% of employers claimed that resource constraints was an obstacle to embracing industry changes.
An idea Johan put forth is the introduction of “coopetition”, which is cooperation between competitors. This is especially important with the increasingly niche and specialised skills needed today.
The concept is that competitors could work together on skillsets required by their sector either through industry-academia collaborations (e.g. helping to develop academic curriculum at universities) or through an industry-wide continued professional development training programme, supported by a body.
He says in Malaysia, we can already observe ‘coopetition’ being integrated into workforce planning. An example would be the Industry-Academic Collaboration (IAC) initiative launched by TalentCorp in cooperation with the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) and Malaysian Investment Development Authority, which observed 14 employers from the electronics sector working with 10 public universities to close the skills gap.
In the WEF report, rethinking the education system is listed as one of the long-term priorities that will help address the issues we face. Safe to say that the few local sectors already practising this are heading in the right direction and this will hopefully set an example for the rest to follow.
The above is merely one example of how we are already preparing our nation for the future. However, looking at the state of our economy, corporate landscape and employment, a lot more needs to be done and the key to achieving this is good leadership.
“It is important to appoint the right leaders for ministries, agencies and enterprises to ensure that transformation happens.” — Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, Permodalan Nasional Bhd group chairman, during the 2017 Global Transformation Forum
Leaderonomics chief executive officer, Roshan Thiran advised professionals, to look to leaders for inspiration and directions.
Therefore, leaders cannot be overwhelmed by the complexities and anxieties surrounding them; rather they must have clarity of goals and vision.
“Proactively working to understand the challenges and fixing each piece one by one is critical for success in both the near term and long term,” he said.
So, dear leaders across all sectors, age groups and levels, the time is now to initiate and create a change. The rest of us will be with you every step of the way, embracing the tough economy and this new revolution.