Building Talent for The New Economy

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The new economy is about emerging industries. I have been deeply involved in developing new and emerging industries that have been earmarked to create wealth and spearhead our nation’s vision of becoming a developed nation for almost a decade now.

Biotechnology was a field I was involved in and passionate about. Why? Because of its pervasiveness.  Biotechnology traverses many fields, many aspects of the human life and daily living. It can rejuvenate as well as strengthen matured industries and spin-off new ones.

During my tenure of developing this industry in Malaysia, we convinced several global players to invest and set up manufacturing and R&D facilities in the country, most notably Biocon in the biopharmaceutical and CheilJedang/Arkema joint-venture in the biochemical space.

The presence of these global players will have a reverberating effect on the technology, chemical, pharmaceutical industries in Malaysia; creating opportunities for our services industry.

What drives the business, besides innovation and IPs, what guarantees the success and sustainability of the business is human talent. At the crux of any industry, it is human talent that is the engine of growth. This is what drove me to set up Manipal International University (MIU).

Through our constant dealings with captains of industry, one question was always asked: Does Malaysia have the human capital to sustain a robust technology industry?

Malaysia produced more than 180,000 graduates through our various Institutes of Higher Learning in 2011 (MOHE statistics.) Of this, more than 24,000 are studying Science, 14,000 studying ICT and 50,000 in the Technical industries.

Yet, graduate employability in Malaysia remains an issue. It is not the numbers but the quality of graduates that is the concern. In my view, it is not so much head knowledge that guarantees success in the workplace. It is more about attitude, passion and hunger that, when complemented with communication skills and sound technical knowledge, will see a person succeed.

It is a growing trend and quite alarming, that government and agencies have to come forward to bridge the skills gap through the provision of specialised training for graduates to make them employable in job market. It’s a great step and inevitable for now, but it can’t be a long-term solution. It should be the strategic intent of any university or institute of higher learning to deliver graduates that are employable, not merely knowledgeable.  That is why at MIU, we focus on developing our students to be industry ready.

It is not enough that students are trained in their areas of specialization alone, students need to be exposed to how people in the industry think, resolve and operate. This is beyond what text-books and theories can deliver.

At MIU, we have identified Engineering, Biotechnology and Management as key areas that will deliver competent, innovative professionals, capable of engineering the future and revolutionizing the enterprise. These are the talent, which will ensure the success of our National Key Economic Areas.

As a Higher Education Institute, we take it our duty to ensure that we produce quality graduates who are able to handle the demands and pace of the emerging industries. We inculcate strong academic knowledge combined with soft skills and professional values in striving towards ‘first day, first hour productivity’.

Hence, at MIU we are dedicated to forging industry linkages that not only provide opportunities for internships and work placement, but also opens up opportunities for industry experts to play an active role in shaping our curriculum and interacting with our students.

Our recent agreement with Biocon Ltd – Asia’s leading biopharmaceutical company that will be setting up their RM 500 million manufacturing and R&D facility in Iskandar, Malaysia – will allow both parties to work closely together so that MIU graduates will be sensitive to the technological and operational needs of Biocon and the biopharmaceutical industry at large.

We know that quality breeds quality. Our faculty members at MIU are recruited based on their academic qualifications and also experience in the industry.

As we accelerate towards our goals for 2020, we need to bear in mind that the right foundations need to be in place in order to drive the strategies and sustain growth.

It is the Malaysian talent that cements this foundation. The Malaysian talent needs to grow apace as we move further and further into advanced industries.

As the saying goes, everything starts with 1.  I have the opportunity and I am in a position to make a difference.  I want MIU to graduate ‘first day, first hour productivity’ talents.  Hence, my venture into the education sector.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Photo credit: Flickr users William J H Leonard

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