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Is Malaysia’s future workforce IR 4.0 ready?



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Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0) is set to transform the workplace from task-based characteristics to human-centred characteristics, powered by artificial intelligence.

While IR 4.0 has dominated the news in recent years, a whitepaper by INTI International University & Colleges and International Data Corporation has revealed that students, graduates, and parents still lack clarity about what it entails.

Of the more than 560 respondents (comprising students, graduates, and parents) surveyed,  63% of the students and graduates were unable to articulate what IR 4.0 entails. Similarly, 54% of the parents lacked a clear definition and ability to discuss IR 4.0 and why it was relevant to organisational transformation.

In that line, 30% of students believe they are completely unprepared for an IR 4.0 enabled workplace. A similar percentage 28% cited that their academic experience at university was the only exposure they were receiving about IR 4.0, and that they had not undertaken any other training or work experiences to enhance their understanding.

Despite academic experience being their only exposure to IR 4.0, every group of respondents ranked academic training as not being applicable to the workplace among the top three challenges faced by graduates (58% of students, 48% of graduates, 53% of parents).

In spite their access to technological resources, only 11.6% had leveraged additional courses on top of their existing academic programmes to develop their long term competitiveness. Top reasons against pursuing additional certifications include time constraints and a lack of value.

The bright side is – with students today predominantly from Generation Z, more than a third have already gained some experience in included IoT (47%), Cloud Computing (38%) and AI (34%).

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • 62% of parents felt current courses did not prepare students for IR4.0, as academics could not keep pace with industry changes.
  • More than three quarters of students (78%) and graduates (79%) agreed that tertiary education is still important, but added that its value was tied to the ability to negotiate better salaries when pursuing jobs.
  • All respondent groups (67% of students, 71% of graduates, 56% of parents) emphasised critical thinking as the most important skill needed in the workplace.
  • Technological skills ranked among the top 3 skills needed by students (41%) and graduates (42%). Parents on the other hand ranked decision making among their top 3 skills (47%).
  • 52.7% of students and 57.3% of parents believed organisations are ready to adapt to a new generation of talent.
  • More than half (56.2%) of the graduate respondents felt organisations were unwilling to adapt to a new generation of talent, stating legacy issues and an unwillingness to adopt new processes as the key challenges faced in the workplace.

The whitepaper was launched last Thursday at an event which also saw a panel of industry experts to weighing in on the survey’s findings and sharing their recommendations on preparing graduates for tomorrow’s digital future. Panelists include: Tan Lin Nah, INTI’s acting Chief Executive Officer; Jensen Ooi, Research Manager for IDC Asia Pacific; Salika Suksuwan, Executive Director, Human Capital, PwC Malaysia; Amran Hassan, Head of Innovation, Maybank; and Wong Chan Wai, Head of the Research Unit, Research & Development Department, Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) Malaysia.

Lead photo / iStock
Panel photo / provided

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