In recent years, feedback from many employers indicate that graduates lack the essential skills required to get by in the workplace.
As a way to elevate the standards of its graduates, Taylor’s University School of Media and Communications has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with strategic communications firm BzBee Consult Sdn Bhd to develop more “work-ready” students.
BzBee managing director Professor Mohd Said Bani C.M. Din said: “Time and time again, we have heard how students can excel academically, but find it difficult when they seek to be a part of the workforce.
“There exists a gap between the skills that universities churn out and what the job market requires. From our experience interviewing graduates, they lack in many aspects. It is our hope that this collaboration will contribute towards closing this gap.”
He added: “All universities are committed to producing students academically, but what sets Taylor’s University apart is how it persistently finds new ways to develop students from the practical standpoint.”
The MoU seeks to explore opportunities that will provide practical experience to students, deliver developmental support through industry-based exposure, training and intellectual discussions, as well as identify specific focus areas to better prepare students for the job market.
It will offer students real-world learning through consultancy projects, industry engagements and exposure, specifically in the areas of public relations (PR), issues and crises, as well as stakeholder management.
As part of this collaboration, Taylor’s University and BzBee will set up a learning centre known as The Hive to give students industry-based exposure.
Mohd Said said: “At The Hive, they can meet with the BzBee team and consult us on practical learning materials.
“To enhance its functions, we decided to collaborate with some of our clients, starting with Sarawak Tourism Board in its campaign themed ‘Sarawak: More to discover’. This will better acquaint students with the promotional and communications aspects of tourism.
“They have already learnt the theory. Our part is translating that into practice to pique their interest. Education is not just about scoring exams, but it’s about making students passionate to explore.”
Through this tripartite arrangement, students get to take up a bigger role, said Mohd Said.
“Internships will get you involved with the clients only in a very short period. Students usually just go through the motions and do as they’re told. In this programme, students get to be decision-makers.
“Acting as a real company, they will come up with strategies and implement plans of their own from scratch. We will monitor and guide them along the way.”
He said it was important for students to complement their academic studies with the tacit knowledge outside the classroom.
“We will incorporate stakeholder management as part of the teaching process. This way, students will get to experience dealing with actual case scenarios. Each client has a different set of stakeholders, so students need to master the correct techniques and understand their sentiments. Students will gain valuable soft skills and intrinsic values. This is not something a PR practitioner learns from the textbook.”
Just like any other industry, he said, the PR industry was undergoing a massive digital transformation.
He said: “Future PR practitioners or students cannot take things for granted. They must utilise technology to increase their efficiency in the workplace such as in media monitoring.
“But students must also understand that creative skills and human qualities are still important. Even with machine learning, this aspect of PR will not be replaced.”
The MoU will also explore opportunities in research and publications for Taylor’s University lecturers in the PR field.
“We will deliver materials to the lecturers. In fact, we have created and provided educational videos and conducted mock cases and media briefings,” Mohd Said said.
The MoU was inked by Taylor’s University deputy vice-chancellor Professor Dr Pradeep Nair and Mohd Said on Oct 14 at Taylor’s University Lakeside campus.
Pradeep said: “This MoU signifies our commitment in collaborating with industry players to provide students with real-industry experience and encouraging lecturers to develop industry-driven projects on PR.
“Perhaps, one day, we may be able to apply an ‘open-loop’ approach, where students will get the opportunity to work as part of the course and return to the university to continue their studies.
“Towards this end, we hope this collaboration with BzBee will be a start, where students no longer have to be in the classroom to continue to grow. We believe there is much to learn from those in the outside world.”
Mohd Said said to fill in the gap, a concerted effort was needed.
“The industry can’t just complain that the standards of graduates are terrible and blame it solely on the education system. I don’t believe in this blame game.
“BzBee has always believed in the ‘open-loop’ approach in education. Other parties should also take a step forward to help students get ready for the workforce.”
Present at the ceremony were Taylor’s University Faculty of Social Sciences and Leisure Management executive dean Professor Dr Neethiah Ari Ragavan, Faculty of Social Sciences and Leisure Management head Dr Latifah Pawanteh and BzBee senior director Zalina Abdul Aziz.