PETALING JAYA: It will be convocation season soon but the scrolls fresh graduates have earned is unlikely to be enough to open doors in a Covid-19 ravaged economy.
Finding work will be challenging for youths in this current economic climate, associations say, but there are ways to gain a competitive edge in the job market.
Employers need a skilled workforce to meet new demands of industries after Covid-19 forcibly changed the world of work, said the Malaysian National Federation of Youth Workers (FKPB) secretary-general Mohd Rizan Hassan.
The Covid-19 pandemic has sped up the implementation of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0), he said.
“During the pandemic and the movement control order (MCO), we have seen how technology changed the way that people live, work and think. We can no longer say what we did before the pandemic is still relevant.
“In today’s Covid-19 economy, everything fully utilising technology and innovation has become more important to all companies, ” Rizan added.
Chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin earlier projected that the country may witness an unemployment rate of up to 5.5% this year due to the impact of Covid-19.
The highest unemployment rate in the country was recorded at 7.4% in 1986.
In the first quarter of the year, the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) found the age group with the highest unemployment rate were those between 15 and 30 years old, at a rate of 6.9%.
Out of the total number of unemployed persons in the country, graduate unemployment accounted for 29.3%.
Rizan said the government must increase its labour market efficiency and also change the existing technical education to help the youth meet the new needs of industries during and post-Covid-19.
He said it would require a big investment from the government for training providers to embark on reskilling and upskilling training for young workers.
“Like it or not, training institutions need to make big changes to ensure that the technologies used are relevant in this era of the new normal, ” he said.
The Human Resources Ministry and bodies like the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) must look into how training for the youth workers can be implemented immediately so that the unemployment rate does not continue to rise, he said.
“We also need to improve the quality of the education system. This is the best time to push the ‘restart button’ to make sure the next batch of graduates are able to meet the needs of the industry in a post-Covid era, ” said Rizan.
He added that there was a need for lifelong learning programmes to be strengthened so that anyone who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and MCO can be trained with new skills to enter the future workforce, he said.
Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said many companies may conduct retrenchment exercises with the “Last In, First Out” principle, whereby the most junior employee will be retrenched first, unless a company has strong justifications to do otherwise.
“For those who are new (to the job market) and those who have just lost their jobs, the prospects of them getting a job this year and even up to next year is going to be low.
“Most companies are relooking at their manpower requirements; they are trying to trim and adopt a no-recruitment policy, ” he said.
He, however, proposed that the government encourage more businesses to put in place apprenticeship programmes to train youth in the workplace.
“The government can introduce policies to encourage employers to train (youths) in programmes such as apprenticeships, ” he said.
He said while the youths are not permanent employees under such programmes, these apprenticeships could last up to two years and train youths in skills they would need in the workplace.
Youths, he said, could also consider going into newer and more innovative sectors such as the gig economy, or they could opt to start businesses to keep themselves afloat.
“If anything, the growth area now is in the gig economy – it is either you become one of the people providing services in the gig economy or become an entrepreneur within the gig economy, ” he said.
He said while there is a big prospect for youths to earn through such platforms, the government would need to equip them with relevant skills to do so.
“The government needs to spend money to train them up quickly so they can become knowledgeable in the gig economy.
“To allow them to do it on their own without any kind of hand-holding is going to be very hard for them, ” he said.