Malaysia is banking on solid public and private partnerships to close the skills gap as it charts its way to realize the Malaysia 5.0 agenda while eyeing to be the Heart of digital ASEAN. 

Inspired by Japan’s Society 5.0, the agenda seeks to transform the country into a digital nation with 4IR (fourth industrial revolution) technologies integrated at every level of its society and steer its national education system to align with a digital future. 

The 12th Malaysia Plan revealed in September last year also sets out to boost the GDP contribution of its digital sector from 22.6% to 25.5% by 2025.

However, its skilling up process lags behind the pandemic’s accelerated digital transformation. 

Malaysia in the 46th spot in global skills – lack of digital skills

A Global Skills Report by Coursera last year ranked Malaysia in the 46th spot, way behind the two higher-ranking ASEAN members, Singapore (10th) and Vietnam (20th). 

A PwC report on Malaysian employees in April 2021 showed that while 77% see that technology presents more opportunities than risks, 71% fear that jobs may be at risk because of automation – a massive jump from 34% in 2020.

“As much as technology is a lifeline in keeping people at work and an enabler for business continuity, specific barriers persist. 78% of Malaysians say that a lack of access to technology has limited their skills development. 

This could reflect a shortage of the right technology, or perhaps even indicate that Malaysian companies need to move beyond mere lip service to plug the skills gap through a proper upskilling strategy urgently,” said Nurul A’in Abdul Latif, markets leader at PwC Malaysia in a statement. 

Malaysia’s digital job vacancies almost tripled

By April 2021, Malaysia’s digital job vacancies almost tripled from 19,000 in June 2020 to 56,000, according to the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). 

The country’s leading digital economy agency found the local top 10 in-demand digital skills from the LinkedIn Talent Insights platform as follow: 

  1.  Analytical skills
  2.  Engineering
  3. Computer science
  4. Software development
  5. Programming
  6. SQL
  7. Lead
  8. JavaScript
  9. Information Technology
  10. Cloud computing

Companies recognize the need for digital skills

The MDEC Digital Talent Survey 2021 published in October last year found 85% of companies recognize the need to reskill their employees. As 48% of companies adopted digital tech platforms for day-to-day operations, up from 19% in 2020, the required skills have also evolved. 

The survey also found that more emphasis is put on technical skills, such as cloud computing, cybersecurity, data analytics, digital marketing, and software development, instead of digital productivity and remote working skills.

Malaysia implementing upskilling and reskilling initiatives

Malaysia has been implementing various initiatives to help to upskill and reskill its population, including #MyDigitalMaker Movement, eUsahawan, Premier Digital Tech Institute, Digital Skills Training Directory, Let’s Learn Digital, and more.

For example, #MyDigitalWorkforce Work in Tech (MYWiT) provides training and salary subsidies to encourage employers to hire the unemployed for digital tech and services jobs. Global tech giants, such as Facebook, IBM, Google, Huawei, and Microsoft, are also partnering up with the initiatives to bridge the local skills gap.

Educating students in 5G and emerging tech

Recently, leading provider of telecommunications technology and services, Ericsson, announced its collaboration with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) to educate students on 5G and emerging technologies. It gives the UTM students access to the Ericsson Educate portal for free to complement the university’s online-based degrees and micro-credentials programs.   

Malaysia has big digital ambitions and matches them with great public-private effort and investments to make them come true. When it comes to preparing the country to be at the forefront of the digital future, saying mind the (skills) gap is not enough.