By Karamjit Singh
- Take advantage of many govt incentives to take various digital skills courses
- LinkedIn describes hiring demand as “very high” in Malaysia vs Indon and Phil
As so many employment trends have shown, for instance the 2020 LinkedIn Emerging Jobs Malaysia, the digital economy is already upon us and employers increasingly expect that the talent they hire, can use digital tools to augment their non-digital skills, be it in finance, supply chain, journalism, customer experience or manufacturing.
This was the impetus for the launch of a key new initiative by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), the #MyDigitalWorkforce movement, which catalyses action from public and private sectors with the goal of re-skilling the Malaysian workforce for the rising number of roles being created in the country’s fast expanding digital economy.
“The MyDigitalWorkforce Movement is yet another initiative catalysed by MDEC in line with our focus on ensuring Malaysians are digitally-skilled for the rising number of job opportunities that require digital tech skills” says MDEC CEO, Surina Shukri (pic).
The urgency of this movement is magnified by the rising belief that the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic will likely be K shaped. And you guessed it, the upper half of the K represents step opportunities for all those with the right skills sets to keep moving up in their careers.
These skill sets are increasingly represented by knowledge of and familiarity with applying various digital skills such as analytics, coding, digital marketing, content creation, AI, cybersecurity and cloud, to the existing foundation of skills.
Digital has become a critical subset of new skills that need to be combined with long existing traditional white and blue collar skills.
And, when the likes of Accenture, IBM and Amazon have publicly announced they are reskilling/upskilling significant portions of their workforce, then you know this is real and this is serious.
Being at the heart of Malaysia’s Digital Economy drive, MDEC is well aware of how important these new skills set need to be merged with long established blue and white collar careers.
Recognising also that no one programme or initiative will meet the needs of all, a plethora of initiatives have been announced recently as part of the grand, and mostly virtual, #MyDigitalWorkforce Week, held during the Aug 24 to Aug 28 period.
With more than 60 webinars and training sessions on topics ranging from games, animation, software, cybersecurity and Global Business Services careers garnering close to 60,000 views, and more than 10,000 job applications submitted, the #MyDigitalworkforce Week was the largest and most comprehensive event organized around the rising importance for any talent, be they fresh graduates, current work force, the unemployed and even those looking to start their higher education, to also equip themselves with some manner of digital related skills to burnish their employability credentials – or to even help them rewrite their career story. This is especially relevant for those still in the early phase of their careers.
This was a point that came up during the kick-off panel session for #MyDigitalWorkforce Week when panelists advised participants to take advantage of the many government incentives to take various digital skills courses that reflect their interest and desire to be digitally savvy and in the process, redirect their career trajectory.
But just don’t run off and sign yourself up for as many courses as you can handle in the hope that the more digital courses you have under your belt, the more attractive you will look to an employer. Derek Toh (pic, right), founder and CEO of job portal, WOBB, advices against that.
“Taking digital courses is a good place to start but the next step is to build a portfolio around the programmes you have taken. You need to show that you are genuinely interested in whatever digital courses you have taken.”
According to Toh, at interviews, employers are trying to figure out if the job seeker is really interested and has the right mindset for a digital role.
For Munirah Looi, CEO of Brandt International, a fast growing Global Business Services company, having the right problem solving mindset in her customer experience business is the topping on the cake but that cake has to come with all the right ingredients such as communications and English proficiency; digital interactions; tech literacy and savviness.
But CX or customer experience, which is what Munirah delivers to clients also demands critical thinking, she says. “You must be able take a structured approach to solving specific complex customer issues which do not have ready-made solutions.”
It may sound daunting but all these skills can be acquired, more so when one has the right mindset. The courses are already available, through various incentives offered by the government. And if you do not know where to look, one invaluable resource is the Digital Skills Training Directory, which serves as a reference point for industry-endorsed training programmes and mapped to in-demand career opportunities. For selected courses, Perkeso will fund up to RM4,000 per person per course for unemployed Malaysians who are subscribed to the Employment Insurance System as well as for new employees under the PENJANA Hiring Incentive and Training Programme.
Let’s Learn Digital campaign and the sweetener from Perkeso
One of the key programmes offered specially to unemployed Malaysians is MDEC’s Let’s Learn Digital campaign in partnership with Coursera. Launched in April, it offers free training and is valid until the end of 2020. Adding to the incentive here is that Perkeso will provide learning allowances for every 4 hours of training completed. This however is for qualifying members who subscribe to the Employment Insurance Scheme.
Darshini Natarajah (pic)
a former HR executive who has rejoined the job hunt since January, coming off a five year break to be a full time home maker, has relished the opportunity to take relevant online courses from the MDEC-Coursera partnership. The four courses she took, two on data science including one from Duke University, has helped her present a more current picture in her job hunt besides increasing her self confidence.
She is also practicing what Toh is talking about in building a portfolio, signing up for relevant digital courses next month, one of which is R programming.
She may not have landed a job yet but she is setting herself up for success by augmenting her HR skills with a digital overlay.
You will be mistaken for assuming that jobs are tough to come by in the current tough economic climate but guess what? Tech roles are still aplenty. And remember that not all vacancies in tech roles demand technical knowledge.
A search of jobs on some leading recruitment sites in Malaysia for July reveals 21,700 vacancies with IT roles forming around 30% of the vacancies. To get a finger on the pulse of the current digital talent pool in Malaysia, LinkedIn data reveals there are almost 184,000 professionals in the digital sector (this includes a variety of non-tech sectors with digital roles such as telco, media, digital content) , with software engineers forming the largest category.
For a sense of the picture in Southeast Asia, LinkedIn reveals that there are 1.22 million professionals in the digital sector with Malaysian ranking behind Indonesia and the Philippines. What’s really interesting here though is that hiring demand is listed as “very high” in Malaysia compared to Indonesia and Philippines.
That’s good news for the likes of Darshini and for Aaron Raj, a fresh computer science graduate who despite his tech education still signed up for some Coursera classes.
Describing the experience as “amazing” with knowledge he didn’t learn at his time in university, Raj says, “I built myself up to prepare for the real world.” Taking some professional certificates from Google, SAS and IBM have been worth their weight in gold for his resume and not surprisingly he is happily employed and enjoying the start of his career.
The benefit of creating a 30-sec video cover letter
Clearly there are jobs and there is strong interest to hire digital oriented talent. But right now, employers are still trying to find ideal candidates who have digital experience, not just the skills set. According to Wobb’s Toh, the reality is that the talent pool in the market is not there yet in terms of its digital experience and quantity and this is where he advices employers, “to find candidates who are very interested in digital and seem to have a mind for it.”
Hire them, he advices, and then put them through courses the employer wants them to learn.
“The advantage of the employer paying for the courses is that you get to pick who they learn from and this could be some top expert somewhere in the world and this allows your new recruits to access cutting edge skills,” says Toh.
With Wobb collaborating with MDEC in promoting the newly launched #MyDigitalWorkforce Jobs Platform, which aggregates digital jobs to make it easier for job seekers to find those jobs, Toh offers two key pieces of advice.
For those looking to change their career story, “rewrite your CV to focus on the new thing you want to do and don’t get caught up in your previous career.” This repositioning is important so that an employer does not question why an engineer or HR exec is applying for a data job. Instead, they will see a person very interested in a data job who happens to come with an engineering or HR background. “It becomes a completely different picture, even though you are the same person,” he says.
The second piece of advice is on making a video cover letter. “If you feel your story does not come across well in your resume, then drop a 30 second intro on who you are,” he says. “It can make a difference.”
Indeed, there are enough tools, programmes and support structures in the Malaysian digital ecosystem for any job seeker, no matter at what stage of their career, to take advantage of to give themselves that edge in the marketplace.
But as we have been hearing from webinar after webinar and from the various agencies promoting the digital economy, job seekers must have that can-do attitude and mindset to want to make a difference in their careers. No support programme can inject that into you. That has to come from within you.