A government agency formed to convince Malaysians living abroad to return home to live and work is now being tapped to improve the job skills of the country's perennially unemployed.
As the number of unemployed graduates continues to rise - to 44,000 last year, up from 43,000 in 2010 and 41,000 in 2009 - the agency, TalentCorp, has unveiled a pilot programme to help them help themselves.
Known as the Graduate Career Accelerated Programme (GCAP), it provides six weeks' training by two private education centres, Scicom Education Group and MyPartners, for unemployed graduates with cumulative grade point averages of between 2.0 and 3.0.
After the training, these firms will help graduates find jobs in the services sector, including banks and multinational companies. TalentCorp chief executive officer Johan Merican said the six-week programme will be effective because employers are involved.
"With industry input provided by the partner-employers, it will enhance the industry relevance of these graduates," he said.
Malaysia defines graduates as those with degrees awarded by about 50 public and private universities, as well as those with diplomas from 200 private colleges and polytechnics.
Some 150,000 people graduate from these institutions every year.
But for many of them, the euphoria of receiving a degree scroll is fast giving way to the frustrations of a long job search.
Despite millions of ringgit poured into government training programmes to help graduates find jobs, the number of unemployed people is still rising.
The GCAP aims to ensure at least 75 per cent of graduates land jobs shortly after graduation. Last year, only about half of them found employment while the rest either pursued further studies or could not get jobs.
The results are critical as the country needs a skilled workforce to move up the income ladder by the year 2020, a government goal.
TalentCorp believes its programme will work as it comes with job placements.
"The uniqueness of the GCAP is the active participation of its partner-employers, which include small and medium-sized enterprises, government-linked companies and blue-chip multinational companies in industries such as telecommunications, tourism and finance," said Merican.
It does not help that although the ministry of higher education (MHE) has increased oversight of private learning institutions, their numbers have mushroomed, producing more graduates. As a result, some 44,000 graduates were left on the kerb last year due to poor English, lack of problem-solving skills and professional etiquette. This was despite 20,000 jobs being posted daily, according to online recruiter JobStreet.
Under the GCAP, graduates are trained to develop essential skills for customer management. The programme includes learning business etiquette, English and how to build one's confidence.
Participants of similar training programmes conducted by Scicom and MyPartners have found jobs. Others, like Lim Yoke Wah, who attended a course organised by MHE, do not think such programmes help.
Lim, who scored a 3.0 GPA in university and earned a degree in business administration, is still job-hunting after three months.
"Prospective employers are still more interested in our academic qualifications... They didn't seem to care whether I had attended such training programmes or not," she said.
Yong Yen Nie
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