The changing job landscape has resulted in a scenario where knowledge and competence is valued.
Ministry of Education Technical and Vocational Education Division director Zainuren Mohd Nor said parents need not worry as vocational courses prepare their children with the necessary competences, education and attitude that the future workforce should have.
"This is not the era of paper qualifications only. It is more on professional certifications that acknowledge a person’s knowledge and competence in the field that they choose and the ability to accommodate changes," he said.
"The future workforce is valued mainly on what they can do and positive perspectives of their job environment. Vocational education and training is a significant key driver for economic growth as it produces skilled human capital that is needed to contribute to the country’s economic growth." he continued.
The main misconception about vocational education and training is that it is considered second class compared to mainstream education.
“It is considered as an alternative education for low achievers or academically struggling students and limited pathways for higher degrees. As a result, the jobs available for them are of blue collared jobs in industries with low wages.” he added.
Zainuren said the success of over 15,000 vocational college graduates from the first and second cohorts was proof to dispel the idea that vocational training was a dumping ground.
Back in 1970s and 1980s vocational schools only catered for low achievers. This stigma, along with that students at the schools had disciplinary problems, has carried on over the years, leading to the institutions being side lined and inferior compared to mainstream schools.
"Furthermore successful people with vocational background were not well highlighted by the media back then," Zainuren added.
However, vocational education under the Ministry of Education (MOE) that started in 2012 has seen vocational schools upgraded to vocational colleges (KVs) where 36 diploma programmes are offered at 80 KVs for students who have completed PT 3 national examinations. Selected students undergo a four year and five-month study course.
They obtain diplomas, based on their chosen fields from MOE besides the Malaysian Skills Certificate, based on their competency levels from the Department of Skills Development Malaysia.
Zainuren also said the curriculum, Vocational College Standard Curriculum (KSKV), was being developed with a Technical Advisory Committee consisting of experts from industries and universities.
KSKV covers 70% hands-on learning and 30% theory through academic and vocational courses. There is also on the job training for five months.
"Soft skills, innovation and entrepreneurship are among key elements embedded in the curriculum. Students are equipped with a wide range of competences and skill sets in the fields that they choose to be in." he said.
He added that engagements with industries and professional bodies especially for collaborative programmes, innovation competitions and certifications prepare the students with relevant skills and experience to be relevant and sustainable in the job market and entrepreneurial field.
He also emphasised that in light of Transformasi Nasional 50, KVs were a platform for the future workforce where the aim of learning was to produce holistic graduates who can apply and innovate technology and accommodate the rapid changes of technology.
"They are ready for positive social transformation especially in becoming job creators and able to cope with the unforeseen job trends," he said.
In terms of future education prospects, he said students can pursue a higher level of education in relevant programmes at private or public universities based on two pathways.
Students can enter universities directly after obtaining diplomas, providing their results at certificate level meet requirements set by the Ministry of Higher Education.
Alternatively, they can enter with the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) as set by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).
Zainuren said KVs were one of the technical and vocational education and training institutions to provide the future workforce that is needed for Industrial Revolution 4.0.
The programme educational outcome, aimed to develop specific skills, broad competences, innovation and integrity among KV graduates.
"These holistic graduates are prepared for career building and sustainability to survive in Industrial Revolution 4.0 where industries rely heavily on cyber physical system which create new business models, work processes and industrial automation,” Zainuren said.
"The graduates should be able to fit in, be flexible with job changes by using their broad competences and above all with good moral values and attitude in order to contribute fully to the economic and social growth of the country." he added.