DOES the responsibility for preparing graduates for the workplace fall only on universities?
Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management vice-president and chief operating officer Geh Thuan Hooi said the industry must know the work-readiness competencies it looks for in fresh hires and communicate with institutions of higher learning.
“Practitioners and academicians must constantly meet to exchange ideas. Once healthy communication is achieved, the tertiary institutions can incorporate the requirements into their curriculum,” added Geh.
“It must also be remembered that by the time students enter university, their characters have more or less been moulded.
“Competencies such as completing homework on time, open communication as well as teamwork must also be integrated into the curriculum at primary and secondary school.”
Human resource practitioner Rizleen Mustafa believes that labour market skills should be nurtured in the early education stage.
The syllabus covering such skills must emphasise both hands-on assignments and classroom learning. Rizleen, who has 16 years of experience in talent recruitment, added that effective communication is the most important skill for young graduates.
Employers also value the ability to adapt to an organisation.
“The skills mentioned in the QS Global Skills Gap in the 21st Century report are important to advance a career.
“Customised training and internships for young graduates provided by employers, however, must go hand-in-hand with on-the-job training.”
Amir Hakimi, a planning and commercial head at an oil and gas company, said while the university provides the environment and opportunity for the student to acquire skills and knowledge, it is up to him to develop himself.
“At the very most, the university can offer an updated syllabus that matches requirements of the industry.
Undergraduates should focus on public speaking, art of presentation and analytical and critical thinking,” he added.
Alayna Razak, a regional manager at a financial institution in Terengganu, said students should have good communication skills.
The ability to interpret data goes together with the skill to communicate the analysis to stakeholders.
“More and more companies are looking at equipping their top management with public speaking and communication skills. As more firms do business across borders, leaders must be able to communicate and are sensitive to culture.
“Our students must be equipped with such skills too.”
GETTING READY FOR THE WORKPLACE
UNIVERSITI Tunku Abdul Rahman undergraduate Muhammad Shafiq ‘Izzat Zarudin values leadership skills above other abilities in the work– place.
“I want to be a good leader with analytical, critical thinking and communication skills.
“Both problem-solving and communication skills can be learnt at university to prepare me for the real world,” said Muhammad Shafiq.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Bachelor in Social Sciences (Media Communication) student Ummar Othman Mohd Arfah did his internship at a marketing communications company.
His stint reinforced his belief that students must have the confidence to communicate and be able to work in a team to gain experience.
“I was assigned to manage events and handle paperwork. Trainees are expected to make connections and learn but some prefer to be spoon-fed.
“My department organised events almost every week and teamwork is key but some colleagues preferred to work on their own rather than communicate with each other.
“In fact, they chose to make mistakes rather than ask questions beforehand,” he added.
Sunway University communications undergraduate Raja Sofia Raja Cholan believes that soft skills such as problem-solving, teamwork and communication should be developed by students at school and the university.
“I learnt soft skills such as communication at secondary school by joining clubs and societies, and did volunteer work to mould my character for the workplace,” she said.
Raja Sofia added that universities should have equal focus on theories and practices, and employers need to update tertiary institutions on their expectations of fresh graduates.
“There should be two internships during a degree course so that students can put theories into practice at the start of year two and return to improve on qualities or skills they may lack.
“The second internship serves as a way of fully preparing for the workplace, allowing them to truly grasp the experience.”