Vocational Education in MalaysiaVocational education in Malaysia is critical to the Southeast Asian country’s plans for development in the long term. While the Malaysian government has traditionally adopted measures to immediately improve the livelihoods of low-income groups, it is now focusing on improving vocational education as a long-term solution.

In April 2023, the Malaysian government announced that it would be organizing its first National Training Week (NTW) from May 22 to May 28, 2023, a week-long series of vocational courses aiming to upskill 125,000 participants.

What is the National Training Week?

The Human Resource Development Corporation (HRD Corp), which is in charge of the initiatives, aims to attract over 5,000 educators who will deliver over 5,000 training courses, each designed to address a specific vocational skill. All courses are meant to be free, so Malaysians from all walks of life have access to this vocational education. This includes pre-school children, teenagers, young adults, new graduates and senior citizens, alongside established professionals.

NTW has three main objectives: to “make lifelong learning a culture for Malaysians,” “increase strategic inter-government cooperation” and to “equip Malaysian talents with future work skills and knowledge.”

As of May 2203, Malaysia’s first-ever NTW has opened over 1,400 courses in 37 skill areas, with the participation of 700 course providers. The course’s directors will feature key government ministry and industry players.

How Will This Help Malaysia’s Poor?

According to the World Bank, 40% of jobs are linked to Malaysia’s significant export activities, which were disrupted by the global pandemic. As such, Malaysia’s unemployment rate has been at its highest since 1991, at 4.61% in 2021. This is also the sixth-worst unemployment rate in East and Southeast Asia. In 2015, the Gini coefficient – a measure of income inequality – for Malaysia was 0.41; for comparison, the USA had a Gini coefficient of 0.42 in 2019.

The government has traditionally used cash transfers to low-income households to address this issue, according to the World Bank. Although this appears to be an effective strategy in the short term; in the long term, it could deplete government resources.

In contrast to cash transfers, making vocational education in Malaysia more accessible to the entire population could allow the government and the private sector to benefit in the long run, as better-skilled individuals boost the productivity of the industries they go into. Apart from increasing the flow of output and raising average incomes for Malaysians, the government is also optimistic that this will attract foreign investment. All of these factors will create overall economic growth in the long term, according to NTW’s official website.

Improving the Availability of Vocational Training in Malaysia

By improving the availability of vocational education in Malaysia, the country could unlock its human potential from all sectors of society. Creating a more skilled workforce has traditionally been part of the Malaysian government’s development plans. The country aims to achieve reach up to a 35% skilled workforce by 2025.

The Malaysian government’s investment in this venture for its citizens’ vocational education could ultimately be beneficial for all levels of society, from the unemployed and low-income groups to the private-sector companies (through access to more skilled employees), setting the stage for developing a more prosperous Malaysia.

– Tiffany Chan
Photo: Flickr