Study: More than 63pc of students in Malaysia can’t explain what IR4.0 is

Melanie Chalil
IDC Asia Pacific research manager Jensen Ooi says the need for talent is crucial in the future of work. – Pictures by Choo Choy May

PETALING JAYA, Aug 20 — A recent study by research firm IDC in collaboration with INTI International University & College found that more than half the students and graduates were not able to articulate the meaning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0).

The study discovered that 63 per cent of students and graduates surveyed were not able to explain what IR4.0 was while 54 per cent of parents lacked clarity about the matter and its relevance to organisational transformation.

This potentially means is that talents and future talents are not able to envision how the digital transformation will impact future jobs.

The report titled Graduate Readiness vs Industry’s Advancement Towards IR4.0: Can Graduates Hack it in Tomorrow’s Digital Future? aims to highlight the future of work and what higher education institutions are doing to overcome the challenges faced by organisations heading into IR4.0.

The study revealed 30 per cent of students feel unprepared for an IR4.0 workspace which includes technological skills required for workers to function alongside innovative advancements taking place in the workplace today.

Twenty-eight per cent of respondents said their academic experience at university was the only time they were exposed to IR4.0. 

Students and graduates surveyed also said they did not undergo any other training or work experience to improve their understanding and rely on academic institutions to prepare them.

The data suggests that students may be too reliant on academic training to help them in job-readiness and by extension, requires universities to evaluate their current programmes and if more needs to be done on top of theoretical and academic teaching.

Tertiary education still important but is it enough?

When asked if tertiary education was still important, 93 per cent of parents believe a university education was relevant for their children’s future careers while 78 per cent of students and 78 per cent of graduates agreed.

However, all three groups surveyed said they were concerned that was taught in university was not applicable in the workplace.

Students and graduates said they were most likely to encounter challenges such as being stereotyped negatively by senior colleagues while parents were worried that the child’s superior or management were not digitally literate enough to understand graduates’ needs.

In terms of essential skills, soft skills and critical thinking ranked the highest for the future workforce.

“In the IR4.0 era, everyone plays a key role — employer and employees, teachers and students,” said IDC Asia Pacific research manager Jensen Ooi.

“Whenever it comes to the adoption of digital transformation, organisations face various challenges such as outdated KPIs, limited expertise, tactical plans siloes digital transformation initiatives and silos of innovation.”

Ooi added that whether organisations are digitally distraught or digitally determined, people are at the core of these challenges and changes.

From left: Ooi, Salika, Tan, Amran and Wong exchange insights during the panel discussion.

What the future workplace will look like

According to IDC Asia Pacific’s Future of Work Survey 2018, 46 per cent in Malaysia recognise the need to bring changes into the workspace, work culture and the use of technologies at work due to new generations entering the workforce.

In Malaysia, 42 per cent recognise different generations at work and have or creating a policy to develop more cohesive workspace to meet different needs and enable cross-learning as well as better assimilation across generations.

“The need for talent is crucial in the future of work and to the digital transformation journey of every organisation,” said Ooi.

In a framework created by IDC known as The Future of Work, Ooi explained that a holistic strategy that aims to leverage digital technologies, attitudes and behaviours to reinvent the way businesses engage with their employees, partners and customers was vital to cultivate higher efficiencies, sustained competitive advantage and superior experiences.

This comes in the form of a mix of physical and virtual workspaces, a borderless and collaborative work culture that emphasises on innovation and a workforce that sees humans and machines working together.

How can universities prepare future-proof graduates?

In his presentation, Ooi suggests widening the industry collaboration ecosystem to keep university curricula relevant attractive that will help prepare graduates for the future.

He also said higher education institutions should develop graduates with hybrid and soft skill sets to ensure cross-pollination between technology and other studies as well as make subjects such as Design Thinking compulsory across all majors.

The research findings presentation concluded with a panel discussion which included INTI International University & Colleges acting chief executive officer Tan Lin Nah and industry experts such as PwC Malaysia human capital executive director Salika Suksuwan, Maybank head of innovation Amran Hassan, Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) Malaysia research unit head Wong Chan Wai.

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