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FMM: Nation not ready for food security as mismatch exists between graduate skills and industry needs

FMM In The News: THE EDGE MARKETS, KUALA LUMPUR, April 11, 2023 - Malaysia is not ready to ensure food security, given the mismatch between tertiary graduate skills and the needs of the food industry. This is further evident in the high unemployment of graduates, according to the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Datuk Soh Thian Lai.

Soh said that food processing companies face difficulty in hiring candidates with the right skills, leading to employees having to be retrained for the job — an unfeasible task for small-medium enterprises with limited resources and training funds.

He also pointed to the low enrollment in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) courses, which hampers Malaysia’s skilled nation ambition.

“The TVET enrollment is too low because students never consider [that] the concept of skills could lead to higher income, [and] TVET is still not a preferred choice” Soh said during the launch of the ILO-UK Skills for Prosperity Programme in Malaysia (SfP-Malaysia) by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the British High Commission Kuala Lumpur; and FMM, through its training arm — the FMM Institute (FMMI).

SfP-Malaysia was funded by the UK government under its Official Development Assistance (ODA) to develop industry-led skills training including in quality control, quality assurance and compliance process for the food processing sector aimed at women, youth and members of the B40 group.

The partnership will also collaborate with various partners, while enhancing FMMI’s capacity as a leading sector skills body.

The programme, which runs from November 2022 to July 2023, is expected to produce an industry-led skills strategy for the food processing industry. Other objectives are to pilot gender equality and develop social inclusion (Gesi) career progression maps for selected occupations in the industry, and to produce a pilot micro-credential training programme.

Soh said the proposed micro-credential training programme would upskill TVET graduates and help them adopt “sustainable skills”.

“They can upskill and re-skill and move up the career path and acquire the necessary degree,” he said, adding that the credentials have been provided by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency but received limited involvement from the private sector.

Soh said the private sector needs to be involved in the details, and work with the institutes of higher learning by having micro-credential programmes in their factories or service industries.

“It’s a way forward to secure the future of younger generations,” he urged, adding that there had been a delay in the implementation of the Government-Industry TVET Coordination (GITC) body under the National TVET Council because of the change in government last year.

“We believe that with this GITC, we will make TVET a preferred choice for both students and employers to bring the younger generation into skills development,” Soh said. He added that skills development is policy driven and the government must include all related stakeholders in policy-making.

Present during the launch were deputy high commissioner of the British High Commission Kuala Lumpur, David Wallace; FMM’s chairman of TVET and Futures Skills Committee Datuk Palaniappan Joseph; ILO’s chief technical advisor for SfP-Malaysia, Dr Junichi Mori; and FMMI’s general manager Dr Shanmuga Vivekananda Nadarajan.

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