Undergraduate Focus: Become the catalyst for innovation
The computing and multimedia technology industries are always on the lookout for new talent. Malaysia produces about 30,000 ICT graduates each year, enough to meet the current demands.
There has been some concerns about entering these industries, such as there is a lack of job opportunities for graduates from local universities, that computing studies is a difficult programme to pursue and the passing rate is low, it’s scope is too narrow, and that local universities lack the proper facilities. But these are usually myths or lingering misperceptions of parents who lived through the dot com bubble of the late 90s and the subsequent bust in 2000.
“These misperceptions must be reversed, or they will certainly have a negative impact on the Malaysian ICT industry in years to come,” says Woon Tai Hai, Chairman of the National ICT Association of Malaysia, known by its Bahasa Malaysia acronym PIKOM.
Another challenge is to ensure the quality of this supply of ICT graduates, he says.
“Graduates from premier local universities can certainly hold their own compared to foreign graduates. But it is fair to note that foreign graduates may have greater exposure in terms of language and independence and some may even have some working experience before returning home to embark on their career.”
Borderless: In today’s world, talent is mobile. Malaysians have found jobs and successful careers in the ICT industry overseas. One of the big lures is a high salary. A study by PIKOM indicated that Hong Kong pays ICT professionals 3.1 times more than Malaysia while Singapore’s professionals get 2.6 times more than their Malaysian counterparts.
So there is concern about the brain drain for the ICT industry, says Woon. But the Malaysian industry is seeing an increase in average salary – there was a 10.9 per cent increase in 2011 and PIKOM expects to see a further 9 per cent increase by the end of this year.
Lots of opportunities: The job market is good, and sentiments are positive amongst both job seekers and employers.
The scope of an ICT career has also expanded over the years as more innovative platforms are developed, says Woon. The pervasiveness of the internet also means that the skills and competency requirements have also evolved into more ‘assembly’ rather than ‘building’ traits. Currently there seem to be shortage in .Net, C# and C++, project management, security and SAP related skill sets.
The only challenge the industry faces in respect to the job market is a shortage of ICT graduates in the future. Student intakes into ICT programmes in universities may not match up to demand for ICT professionals. This may necessitate hiring foreign talent for local jobs; this is already starting to happen now.
Further learning: Whether or not to get a postgraduate degree in an ICT-related subject depends on a person’s career path. If the plan is for a career in academia then a postgraduate degree is a prerequisite.
But extra qualifications do not always have to be just in ICT. “Equally important is a certification in an area of specialisation, like project management for example,” says Woon. “A postgraduate degree in management, like an MBA, would also be an asset to someone who is already in mid-level management.”
Continuous learning and reskilling are also very important in a fast changing industry like ICT. A tertiary degree provides a start to a career, but continuous specialisations and certifications will elevate a person to the next level of that career.
What you need to know: There are quite a few misconceptions about studies and careers in computing or multimedia technology.
Some people think it’s a difficult course of study to pursue and that the knowledge and skills taught in local universities may be obsolete. As for a career, the most common concerns are that it involves long hours for little pay.
“But the fast pace of development in the ICT industry, especially taking into account the convergence of information technology and communications, have altered the landscape of the industry,” says Woon. “And technology is constantly changing and developing, so there will always be demand for people with computer science degrees. All this has given rise to immense possibilities.”
A young person hoping to start a career in this industry should have three key attributes, he continues. They should have sound technical knowledge, a good command of English and presentation skills, and a positive attitude.
“I would certainly encourage students to enrol in ICT programmes,” he says. “Involvement in this industry is rewarding. Look at the most valuable brands today. Seven out of ten are ICT and technology companies. You can be part of that. You can shape the next innovation in the industry.”
Looking out for the industry
PIKOM, the National ICT Association of Malaysia, is the association that represents the information and communications technology (ICT) industry in Malaysia.
Its membership currently stands at more than 1,500 companies that are involved in a whole spectrum of ICT products and services and commands about 80 per cent of the total ICT trade in Malaysia. PIKOM works to improve the business climate in the interests of all its member companies and to promote industry growth in line with national aspirations.
Among the training courses PIKOM runs are project management and outsourcing. For professionals, it organises regular workshops and seminars for skills upgrading. It is also involved in a train and place programme for fresh graduates and internship programmes for undergraduates, working with various universities.
PIKOM recently released the fifth edition of the ICT Job Market Outlook, collaboration between PIKOM, KPMG and Jobstreet.com.
For more information about PIKOM and ICT Job Market Outlook please visit www.pikom.my