A management trainee programme is an accelerated development programme offered at many top companies in Malaysia for young graduates to get a head start in the working world.
The programme, normally running between one and two years, exposes young talents to invaluable opportunities like extensive training, rotational attachments, hands-on projects and personalised mentoring.
Usually, trainees will be offered permanent employment upon completion of the programme.
Kelly Services managing director and country head Brian Sim said the key difference between the management trainee programme and those hired at entry level is in the company’s expectations.
“The primary purpose of the programme is to groom suitable candidates to take over managerial roles within a stipulated time frame.
“It can be viewed as an investment by a company on a candidate who they believe have the right attributes such as a forward-thinking mindset. Candidates are usually held to a higher standard compared to entry-level employees.”
Sim said companies expect to receive a return of investment by the end of the programme.
“Trainees have more stringent key performance indicators (KPIs). Fresh graduates who believe they have what it takes to hold a senior position in a company and have an excellent track record should consider applying for these programmes.”
According to Nestle group human resources talent acquisition manager Shariza Mohd Razi, its trainee programme — Nestle Management Trainee Programme (NMTP) — established over 30 years ago, selects only the creme de la creme.
“Nestle looks for driven individuals who are able to work in a team environment, have pride and focus on their work, and not afraid to make and learn from their mistakes.
“Our former chief executive officer came from this programme. With the unique opportunities provided and emphasis on learning and development, trainees can get to the top positions in the future.”
The Global Maybank Apprentice Programme (GMAP) features an international attachment to expose apprentices to its global network operations.
Maybank Talent Attraction and Workplace Futurisation head Sophia Ang Wui Jiun said GMAP was designed with several purposes in mind. “We want to build an agile and adaptable talent pool. Maybank apprentices come from many nationalities and courses to offer diverse insights and perspectives.
“It’s also a pipeline to ensure that graduates are future-ready to take on different challenges. How we recruit our apprentices is different from the fresh graduate recruitment.
“A unique feature of our programme is that the intake is open all-year round and there is no Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) requirement.”
For Syeda Fariha Preanka, 29, a former apprentice and currently a senior associate at the bank’s Debt Capital Markets (Loan Syndication) department, GMAP was her career route to the largest financial institution in Malaysia.
Holding a biomedical health science degree from King’s College London and an MSc in Management from Imperial Business School, she joined GMAP in 2014.
“As a fresh graduate, GMAP was a grand opportunity for me. It was an accelerated learning experience of the various banking functions and sectors. By the end of the two years, I had significantly sharpened my skill set to meet the industry demands.”
After graduating from University of Sydney, Australia with a mechanical engineering degree in 2018, Mohamad Hafiz Abd Latif, 26, looked to join companies that he felt would mould him into a leader.
“I discovered NMTP at a career fair and decided to join. Nestle offers me an innovative, technologically advanced and employee-focused environment.
“This programme will nurture my leadership skills, not just building my technical competencies as an engineer.
“Six months into the programme, I had the opportunity to attend an international Tetra Pak machine training in Singapore. It was invaluable and added skills to my portfolio,” said the technical and production trainee who will be finishing the programme in September.
The programmes provide graduates with a wide exposure to give them a more holistic view of the industry.
Trainees usually rotate across different business units before they are placed on a final career path in the company.
Mohamad Hafiz started at the processing area in a Nestle ready-to-drink beverage plant, where he got to try out his leadership skills.
“Apart from assisting the process engineer in the daily operations, I was assigned to be the project leader for gasket management, a factory-wide project, and another water and energy savings project.”
He next joined the Performance Acceleration Team at the Nestle facility in Chembong, Negri Sembilan, learning manufacturing and procurement.
Besides gaining a project-based learning experience, Mohamad Hafiz also benefited from intercultural cooperation.
“Collaborating with an international team, comprising people from different markets like India and United Kingdom, was great exposure for me.”
The project aimed to reduce unplanned stoppages and Mohamad Hafiz helped the team to surpass the target.
“Together with the team, we brought it down to more than 60 percent. It was my biggest accomplishment.”
Currently in his downstream process rotation, Mohamad Hafiz said: “Within these two years, I have covered the engineering process from end to end. This would not have been possible if I joined any company as a direct hire, where I would be stationed at a single department.”
Syeda Fariha said GMAP allowed her to gain organisation-wide insights.
“I developed an appreciation of the strategies that sustain Maybank’s position in Malaysia and Asia. I don’t think it would have been possible if I was in a singular job role in my starting years.
“I started in retail banking, followed by business banking, which introduced me to the cornerstone of the business with daily customer interactions.”
Rotations at the Debt Capital Markets and International Strategy taught her critical responsibilities.
“With International Strategy, I was involved in strategising Maybank’s presence in overseas markets.”
The most valuable experience for her was co-managing Maybank’s first landmark divestment exercise.
“This experience taught me project management and oversaw several work streams involving multiple stakeholders, while working under pressure to meet timelines governed by regulators of Malaysia and Papua New Guinea,” said Syeda Fariha.
Elisa Naomi Tibok, 24, joined GMAP after completing her law degree at the University of Manchester in 2018.
“While rotating in the legal department, I learnt to manage the legal and business risks of the bank. We honour the public’s trust by ensuring our business decisions are ethical and protected from all legal aspects.”
Currently, she is attached to the Corporate Affairs department, where she is learning crisis management.
“In the current climate of heightened visibility and information sharing, this team is most critical in protecting the bank’s reputation. I learnt how the bank structures and builds its position through various communication platforms. It is vital that our stakeholders remain confident in our business efforts and direction.”
Each rotation, added Elisa, brought different learning experiences.
“It is very challenging to continuously learn and adapt skill sets to meet the changing business climate, be it through leveraging on data to complete my task or learning how to code to fill process gaps.
“GMAP allowed me to be a part of a diverse set of projects and work streams that enhance my professional development while allowing me to contribute to the community that Maybank serves.”
Sam Shu Jing, 26, who joined NMTP in the marketing functions in 2016 , spent the first 18 months in two business units — noodles and culinary.
“These pillars gave me completely different business exposure and the learning was exponential. I was amazed at how Nestle was able to establish brands that are so close to the hearts of Malaysians.”
In the culinary unit, she helped kickstart a “Maggi Cukup Rasa” project.
“I assisted a senior brand manager to partner our product with rice companies. It was challenging and intriguing as it was the first time I reached out to rice companies and delivered a business proposal to them. I successfully initiated the collaboration.”
Sam’s biggest accomplishment was achieved during her rotation with field sales, where she was based in Seremban for three months. “It was a unique experience . A sales representative there was on maternity leave so I had to take on her role.
“The challenge was managing three outlets and reaching the sales target. Thankfully, with the sales manager’s guidance, the target was met.
“The sense of accomplishment was amazing. The experience is a boost to my marketing career.”
Syeda Fariha, meanwhile, had a three-month international attachment as an apprentice. Her stint at the CEO International’s office of Maybank Singapore broadened her perspective.
“Apart from overseeing projects, I evaluated potential corporate actions, including merger, acquisitions and divestments; supervised transformation projects; managed regulators in the overseas markets; and carried out CEO International’s engagement with staff around the world.”
“As apprentices, the opportunities to demonstrate leadership competencies are aplenty. The steep learning curve allowed me to grow,” she said.
“If you’re aiming for a bright future and a good career progression, it’s good to have the top management as your coaches,” said Mohamad Hafiz, who hopes to take up a managerial position in five years’ time.
Starting his rotation at a processing factory was a radical departure from university life. However, his mentor gave him the support he needed.
“His attentiveness helped to lift the burden off my shoulders. Every fortnight, we would sit down together and he would ask me how I feel about the workload and my personal development.
“He would help me find a way to enjoy what I’ve learnt and develop myself in the desired areas. I appreciate our close relationship.”
Mentoring has enabled Syeda Fariha to advance in her career at Maybank.
“Regular feedback from my mentor enabled me to evaluate my progress.
“The most priceless experience was when my mentor recommended me to be transferred to my current scope of work. It was an accurate job fit according to my skills and expertise.”
The programme gave Sam visibility among the upper management. Having the Nescafe consumer marketing manager as her coach was a big plus point.
“Throughout the two years, she would coach me on work and personal matters. When it became too overwhelming, it helped to know that there’s someone I could go to.
“The support and mentoring from my managers, who I regard as my own sisters, helped me develop as a better marketeer.”
She aspires to be like Maggi business executive officer Geetha K. Balakrishna in the future.
“I look up to Geetha, who is a former management trainee and an experienced leader. Seeing where she is now drives me to succeed.”
Early-career mentoring helped Elisa navigate the expectations at the workplace.
“Being an apprentice, we are presented with many different opportunities. The expectations placed on us can be overwhelming, especially as fresh graduates in a big company.
“Now, I see the expectations as a reflection of the management’s confidence in me.”