Graduates need to equip themselves with digital know-how and hybrid skills to meet the needs of the changing job market.. NSTP/SALHANI IBRAHIM
Universities need to build critical thinking, collaborative skills, and technological know-how among students in IR 4.0.

THE advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) calls for a shift in workforce demands. Graduates need the right skills to navigate more automation and ground-breaking technologies in the workplace.

Nurturing graduates with marketable skills is more than important with this technological change, said Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation Talent and Digital Entrepreneurship vice-president Sumitra Nair.

“As IR 4.0 continues to grow, the adoption of digital technologies in Malaysia is expanding the demand for digital tech jobs. Tech talent growth is a fundamental priority for the nation to march forward as a digital nation.”

Malaysian universities are introducing new courses and revamping existing ones to keep pace with digital advances.

Higher Ed looks at degree programmes in three emerging fields — artificial intelligence, data analytics and digital marketing — that make graduates more likely to gain employment upon graduation.

AI programmes equip students with digital skills to be future-ready.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Serving as a driving force of IR 4.0, Artificial Intelligence is a branch of computer science which looks into developing machines with human intelligence.

Universiti Malaya’s Bachelor of Computer Science in Artificial Intelligence programme introduced in 1997 is the pioneering programme in the nation. It aims to enable students to develop computer systems that emulate and exhibit human intelligence.

Students are provided with in-depth knowledge to transform large amounts of data into actionable decisions.

UM Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology dean Professor Datin Dr Sameem Abdul Kareem said: “The main focus of the programme is how complex inputs such as vision, language and huge databases can be used to enhance human capabilities.

“Students will acquire the skills to create AI systems and use data to connect humans, physical tools and the digital world in line with IR 4.0. Such skills including analytical thinking, problem-solving and proficiency in data mining and analysis will open doors to a diverse range of industries.

“The curriculum equips students with the skills and knowledge to carry out predictive analytics, digital monitoring and control as well as robotics, among others. Students learn machine learning which enables predictions to be made based on large amounts of data, pre-empting a system failure or predicting fraud.”

She added that the programme prepares students for the digital working world.

Hwang Ha Jin.

“Aside from proficiency in data analytics and critical thinking, AI solutions require a flair in creativity. These skills are needed to create smart workspaces which enhance collaborative work activities, and provide a space for individual concentration.

“Graduates can apply AI technologies to solve problems in the competitive working environment,” said Sameem.

UCSI University is introducing its Bachelor of Computer Engineering in Artificial Intelligence programme in January next year.

UCSI Faculty of Engineering, Technology and Built Environment dean Associate Professor Dr Ang Chun Kit said: “Fundamental knowledge of IR 4.0 areas including autonomous robots, system integration, Internet of Things, cybersecurity and big data are covered in our programme.”

Compared to the conventional computer science degree, Ang feels that this programme is more practical.

“Through the courses offered, students will be exposed to key areas in AI. They will experience learning and working at the computer engineering and AI laboratories.

“Students are equipped with the knowledge required to meet the demands and challenges posed in IR 4.0. Aside from the core theoretical foundations, this programme provides advanced algorithmic, statistical and computer engineering knowledge.”

Digital transformation is inevitable and AI graduates are in demand.

“This AI programme at UCSI University is catered for students to be equipped with a greater understanding of AI applications. With the understanding of AI history, functionality and challenges, students will possess the relevant skill set to not only participate, but also be the frontrunners of digital transformation at the workplace and beyond,” he added.

Ang Chun Kit.

DATA ANALYTICS

According to the Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management, data analysis are among the jobs of the future.

“By the year 2020, Malaysia will require 20,000 data professionals. To date, more than 14,000 talents have been trained with the data science skill-set,” said Sumitra.

Universiti Sains Malaysia is the first public university in the country to offer the Bachelor of Management (Business Analytics), developed in collaboration with MDEC.

“This collaboration is in line with preparing industry-ready graduates and equipping them with big data skills. MDEC, together with experts from various industries, provided input for the curriculum,” she said.

IR 4.0 calls for gold collar talent, USM School of Management dean Professor Dr Noor Hazlina Ahmad said. “With increasing demand for skilled data analysts in Malaysia, USM has recognised the urgency to prepare graduates who are adept at computing and analytics for IR 4.0. They will be geared towards solving business challenges and employing data-driven decisions.”

Noor Hazlina further added that partnering with MDEC is significant due to its focus in propelling the nation’s digital economy into IR 4.0. “The foresight of MDEC and its reservoir of experiences have provided the direction, emphasis and contents to assist USM in crafting the courses. MDEC’s industry networks have given insights to our programme to efficiently transform students into a skilled workforce.”

With the rapid development of IR 4.0, she said that business analysts with hybrid skills are a strategic necessity for all companies.

“Hybrid talent are those with a combination of tech skills such as computing and analytics as well as soft skills namely leadership, adaptability and entrepreneurship. The programme empowers graduates to run the technical side of business, comprehend data and communicate clearly at the customer interface.”

Noor Hazlina said that organisations are looking for hybrid talent to manage end-to-end processes.

“A hybrid skill set facilitates continual learning, reskilling and upskilling in the dynamic IR 4.0 business environment. This enables participation in digital transformation.”

Sunway University Business School will start its Bachelor of Business Analytics (BBA), beginning January next year.

IR 4.0 drives us to a new world, said Sunway University Business Analytics Department head Professor Hwang Ha Jin.

“A new world requires new thinking, new strategies, and new approaches. The BBA programme provides students with a comprehensive curriculum encompassing the major components of IR 4.0 such as IoT, cloud computing, big data, and machine learning.”

Hwang highlighted the fact that students will be able to transform data into powerful and predictive insights to respond to the global Big Data Revolution.

“They will build skills and knowledge required to maintain a competitive edge in the digital era. The programme also instils critical thinking, creative ideas and innovative approaches to solve business problems,” he added.

According to Hwang, Business Analytics was developed to face arising issues in IR 4.0.

“The Harvard Business Review named data scientist as the sexiest job of the 21st century. To be sexy is to be modern, creative, innovative, flexible and agile. Business analysts solve problems by utilising insights from big data to help companies become more innovative and competitive.”

Disruptions are expected, he added.

“To survive in the digital era, creativity and innovation are crucial. Critical thinking, analytical skills and IT skills gained through our BBA programme will help students maintain a professional competency in IR 4.0 and become leaders to pave the way for IR 5.0.”

Hwang pointed out that recent workplace trends show new growth opportunities and organisations will require new talents. “BBA graduates are expected to contribute by, firstly, helping to align processes with business needs and transform organisations to be agile. They will also eliminate ineffectiveness and help businesses plan better. More importantly, they can build the culture of a proactive organisation.”

In September, UM introduced its Bachelor of Computer Science in Data Science aimed at producing analytical-driven graduates.

Sameem explained: “They will be able to apply cutting-edge technology and sophisticated data analysis algorithms, while harnessing the power of data to transform the world. Students will acquire hard skills, namely programming, statistics and modeling as well as soft skills such as critical thinking which are essential for IR 4.0.

“Aside from the ability to apply computing techniques, graduates will have an entrepreneurial mindset to solve the pressing challenges

of businesses.”

The programme follows the 2u2i concept which requires undergraduates to study on campus for two years, and undergo an industrial internship for the remaining years.

UM is also collaborating with analytics expert, SAS Institute and the Center of Applied Data Science.

Sameem said: “The memorandum of agreement with SAS will provide students a SAS Joint Certificate while CADS will provide a suitable internship placement.”

DIGITAL MARKETING

The digital economy requires businesses to master digital marketing to be competitive. The introduction of Bachelor of Arts in Marketing Management with a specialisation in Digital Marketing at Asia Pacific University is timely to fill the needs of the job market, said School of Marketing and Media head Dr Devinder Kaur Sarjit.

Devinder said: “According to Jobstreet’s Job Outlook 2019, digital marketing is one of the top five digital skills sought after by Malaysian employers.”

This programme will cultivate hybrid skills among graduates. “In the changing technology landscape, more companies are looking for talents with hybrid skills. For example, employees in traditionally technology-based jobs will need to acquire soft skills to adapt to change and develop new products and services. It’s vice versa for business and management-related fields.

“In Industry 4.0, important skills are classified into four categories namely ICT knowledge, data analytics, technical know-how and personal skills. This programme will expose marketing students to the hands-on skills needed to excel,” said Devinder.

“Students will acquire the ability to critically evaluate as well as recommend appropriate digital tools and techniques in utilising the plethora of social media platforms to optimise market potential,” she added.

Maybank executive vice-president and Talent Attraction and Workplace Futurisation head Sophia Ang Wui Jiun said that collaboration with industry players is needed.

“Jobs are changing rapidly so we need to prepare our talents to be agile and adaptable.Many universities provide expanded curriculum to equip students with digital know-how. They co-design programmes with industries to enable hands-on experiences in a real working environment.”

Sunway University’s Business School is doing just that by putting an emphasis on internships and industry linkages to produce future-ready graduates. The School’s Bachelor of Science in Marketing programme offers courses in digital marketing with most of its marketing subjects linked with the industry.

Sunway Business School Marketing programme leader Dr Izian Idris said: “The programme caters mainly for different types of marketing techniques aligned with IR4.0 with courses like integrated marketing communications.

“Students will gain skills such as creating ads digitally and social media marketing. Not only are most of the marketing subjects linked with the industry, they are also aligned with the current industrial needs to prepare students for the workforce.

“Our students have completed internships at top companies namely Google Malaysia, Leo Burnett, and many digital marketing companies.

“Aside from industry-led marketing competitions, our department also has many events such as Marketing Day, Marketing Showcase and Digital Expo where students are encouraged to participate. Next year, our Marketing showcase will involve digital advertising for students to display their talent in advertising.”