By Edwin Yapp, ZDNet AsiaThursday, May 15, 2008 06:08 PM
KUALA LUMPUR--The demand for information and communications technology (ICT) jobs in Malaysia remains healthy, but graduates entering the workforce still lack certain fundamental skill sets, say industry players.
Albert Wong, chief product officer of online recruiter JobStreet.com, said there is increasing demand for IT staff from multinational corporations (MNCs), as well as local companies that are starting up their respective shared services and outsourcing (SSO) or IT centers in Malaysia.
"These companies are looking for quality fresh graduates or experienced people, and there is a shortage of supply compared to the demand," Wong told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview. "In terms of labor cost, Malaysia is quite competitive compared to other countries in the region."
Chai Cheng Sheng, IBM Malaysia's HR (human resource) director, said the IT job market has been very active in the past two to three years. Demand has been brisk particularly due to the setting up of regional technical support centers resulting from SSO initiatives by the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC).
"This has created a big market for IT related jobs," Chai said in an e-mail interview. "Even if the shared services set up are non-IT in nature, the centers would still need to rely on a robust IT infrastructure and a team to manage and support those functions."
Michael Meston, HR director for Intel Malaysia concurred, noting that there continue to be good job prospects in the science, technology and engineering sectors--a trend that bodes well for the country.
"Today's job seekers also realize that apart from good academic qualifications, other soft skills such as interpersonal skills, team spirit, time management, business etiquette and negotiation skills, are just as important in order to succeed [in their job]," said Meston, in an e-mail interview.
Challenges with graduates But, despite the strong demand for ICT-related skills and jobs, Jobstreet.com's Wong said there are gaps in skills needed for various technical areas. "Some candidates are just not good enough," he said.
"There are skill gaps which exist in technical areas. However, MNCs and larger companies are willing to train candidates as long as they are eager to learn," Wong said.
Also, there remains a big void in soft skills such as good communications and work attitude, which are difficult to deal with, he noted.
IBM's Chai added that besides the lack of soft skills such as the ability to communicate articulately and level of aptitude in the English language, fresh graduates in Malaysia today are not attuned to current market and business trends.
Learning about the latest technology, he noted, will not suffice if they do not know how to apply their knowledge in a practical working environment.
"Graduates need to know the current market trends and understand contemporary business needs," he explained. "The global society needs people who are equipped with deep analytical skills and have the ability to manage ambiguity."
Chai added that knowledge workers of the 21st century need cross-disciplinary programs and degrees in order to compete, but historically, universities have found it difficult to provide such programs.
In addition, he said, the industry cannot expect colleges and universities to make changes overnight. Success, Chai noted, demands open collaboration among academia, government and industry to transform the process of building this pipeline of skills.
Andre Sequerah, managing director of Aexio Technologies, said there has been a lot of emphasis on ICT in the last few years and this focus has attracted substantially more professionals to the field.
Also a co-founder of the company, which specializes in software for cellular network design, Sequerah noted that when Aexio first started in 2005, it received good response to its online recruitment ads for programmers.
"Since 2005, however, it has gotten more difficult to hire," he told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview. "But, it's not just a shortage of IT people; it's also about getting the right people."
Sequerah acknowledged that the Malaysian government's emphasis on the ICT has successfully attracted students to enroll in ICT courses, but he questioned whether these students are actually interested in the field itself.
"It seems that ICT is a good option [for students out of school] just because the government has been promoting it," he said.
Sequerah said this is further compounded by the fact that there is inadequate skills quality, and the industry will end up with a work force that needs retraining just to meet a minimum standard.
The problem, he suggested, needs to be tackled from all sectors: the individual, the universities and industry, alongside the government's current workforce programs.
"Individuals need greater exposure to what an ICT career really entails, and universities need to improve on the quality of their programs," he said.
Edwin Yapp is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.
references : Jobstreer.com http://blog.jobstreet.com/malaysia/