As a panellist : Dr Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek (Other panellist were Dato Zailani Safari CEO Technology Depository Agency, Dato Dr Suhazimah Dzazali Deputy Director General MAMPU, Mr Sasongko CEO EBdesk Malaysia and moderated by Dr. Asokkumar; CEO PEMM Consultants Sdn Bhd)

Held on 10 October 2019 at Everly Putrajaya and officiated by the Chief Secretary to the Government of Malaysia

The scenario of IR 4.0 can be seen from a variety of perspectives. It is when the demands of the younger generation especially the Millennials will come to the fore. Their lifestyle is sees them traveling, preference for casual dining, frozen food for ease and speed and coffee consumption. Health is a key concern and will be willing to spend on fitness, skin care and healthy labelled food and drinks. They are environmentally conscious and will keep house plants, support the environmentally friendly policies and minimise environmental transport impact by opting for micro mobility. This very lifestyle is not something that will happen in the future, it is already upon us.

When working, the Millennials have a preference for short term jobs where most jobs are adopting the gig economy model. We see the likes of foodpanda and many others thriving. Jobs are no longer long term and even companies in a gig economy may not be long term. The model most adopt will see a high cash burn rather than profit driven. They are instead opting to optimise on valuation of the company which can generate huge amount of returns to the creator of the company. As jobs are more short term, the expectation of productivity is higher. Obviously, this is on the back of technology pervasiveness. In Malaysia, mobile phone penetration has surpassed 140% and the internet penetration has surpassed 100% when combining fixed and mobile internet. This connectivity create data and data is new currency. It sounds like a movie but in truth, data and data is king.

So, you now have a generation that has a different preference and values, technology that is pervasive and data being the new currency. To make matters worse, the situation is not going to get any better. The operating environment that we are all moving into is now Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous or often referred to by its abbreviation of VUCA. So how do governments especially the Malaysian government addresses this as it serves the citizenry.

Talents and skills sets must match up to the demand of the environment and the people that you serve. In this light, the government need to have within its midst or new hires that has a new set of traits or skills.

  1. Personal flexibility
  • The job market no longer provides a job that is designed for it to be filled by a single person trained in that field. Jobs of today and tomorrow don’t expect to have such people. The employee must be able to unlearn what they have learned especially for the graduates and relearn on the job the new skills that are demanded of them.
  • Saying no to learning new skills will be a death decision for the employee as employers now have a larger pool of people to opt for as specific skills centric is no longer a key requirement


  1. Collaborative AND Communicate
  • The new job demand is not a job for a single person. The new job will require one to work closely with another. Collaboration is the operative word and demand. But, how do one collaborate if one is not able to communicate?
  • Ability to talk does not equal to ability to communicate. Communication is a soft skill where one communicates not only by words, but by body language, emotions and finally deeds. They don’t teach anyone this in the university.


  1. Analytical
  • Data is the new currency. So practically all jobs now will have to deal with data. It will be a case of how much data. As such for one dealing with data, the expectation will be an ability to find a way to present the data not in its primary form.
  • This will require a level of analytical skills. It can be mathematical or sometime qualitative conclusion of the data presented.
  • If one were to shy away from data, this will not augur well for that person and will have a very short-lived job.


  1. Big Picture Awareness
  • In light of VUCA, one has to be able to see the big picture. If one is able to have the means of understanding the big picture, he/she will be an asset to the organisation.
  • Someone who understand the big picture value adds into a discussion and will be able to provide potential solutions that are impactful and far reaching as opposed to short term impact.
  • VUCA operating environment forces one to move away from the trees and see the forest when dealing with a problem. Without such an ability, the person is nothing more than just a simple doer and of little value to an organisation.


  1. Cognitive flexibility
  • In light of the speed of activities in IR 4.0, the need to be able to move fast, switching fast and dealing with problems fast will be a key skill.
  • One who is fixed and obstinate poses an obstacle in an organisation and bring little value.


  1. Emotional Intelligence
  • The definition of emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
  • As we now have to be collaborative, this is a skill so required as when dealing with people, the awareness of the emotions will make or break a discussion.
  • This is even more so with advent of social media where emotional intelligence is the main reason why social media can cause social ills today.


  1. Computational skills
  • This probably applies for people not within the Millennial category as Millennials are born into a world that already has computers highly available. So computational skills become intuitive for them.
  • This is probably isn’t so for those born before 1975 where they will need to learn about computers. It is not about being an expert but enough to do basic computational work. Not everyone is expected to know programming but everyone is expected to be able to use a computer.


  1. Technical know-how and Lifelong learning
  • The new job requires one to have the ability of cross disciplines. The technical knowledge is not one that one learns at the University. Over time, technology evolves sometimes as fast as within 6 months. So, to do the job well, we need to have a level of understanding of the technical area in concern.
  • Therein lies the need to have the philosophy of life long learning. It is only by way of life long learning can one continue to learn new things and away from the time-tested area of discipline that invariably everyone has a preference simply due to being in a comfort zone.
  • Moving away from the comfort zone will force us to learn new things and be good in the new things. As they old saying goes, it is always possible to teach the old dog a new trick!

Having understood the scenario of the industry demands for human skills and understanding the behaviour of the very people that will be trained, institutions of higher learning have braced itself for the change. More so in private Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) where it is key that their graduates be employed upon graduation. Therefore, students in IHL will be exposed to the new set of skills required by way of methodology of teaching. However, the problem is not at the IHLs, it is more at the employers.

We are now challenged in various employment perspectives:

  1. Are degrees as important now? Is skill-based certificate more important?

Are employers willing to hire people not trained in the specific field and retrain them to the exact field of expertise required? In France, the government incentivises the private sector to undertake that to reduce the unemployment rate of graduates. So, you now have a graduate in Quality Processes but is being trained to do programming.Is Malaysia ready to do that both at the private sector or even at the public sector? Are degrees as important now? Are skill-based certificates more important?

The government recently made a slew of announcement about TVETs. True, many jobs today need such skill set but with just such certificates, will the person be able to progress in his/her career to the highest level of management? Imagine a person with certificates in TVET and having all the skills required for IR 4.0 now getting a job in a gig economy. Great! Now think about what the career progression is especially when working in an organisation. Can one progress with just such qualifications? Can one get a higher salary with such qualifications? Even if they move to another organisation, they may be able to earn more both as a result of experience, they will still hit a glass ceiling as the norms of an employment today still bases academic qualification as the key to break through each employment level.

  1. Are employers (public and private sector) ready to hire Millennials and enrich their working life?

To prepare the employers, the university has increased its industry exposure in the curriculum. This internship hopes to be able to provide both experience and a possible job matching. It has worked for conventional job matching but will it work for non-conventional job matching where one may be hired strictly for his non-academic skills? So, the challenges are real and still without the right solution.

In summary, from a talent standpoint, one must be prepared to learn new things all the time. Unlearn and relearn. If there is such a candidate, employers must be open to hire such candidates and invest on retraining. The government needs to incentivise the private sector especially in retraining young hires. At the organisational level, both private and public sector will have to review their employment policies, and career advancement policies to adopt the new demands in IR 4.0 especially the talents. With higher demand for certificates, what will drive the young generation to have a proper full academic qualification like a degree? Must some form of incentive be created? There is always the risk of people opting for certificates and leaving a hole for the academically qualified pathway. The right balance must be attained.

  1. Cybersecurity and skills to protect

To compound the problem, technically the government needs to manage large data sets and the skills to do so is still inadequate. Cybersecurity is an on-going concern. How do the government manage data governance and security governance? Can they do it without the right skilled personnel within the organisation? Is the government ramping up the training to equip their employees to new technical skills so in need today? I am sure agencies like MAMPU are already looking into it and the private sector too can assist as there are expertise available in the private sector that the government can tap.

  1. Users of Technology or Creator of Technology?

Finally, the new talents, should they be users of technology or creators of technology or would it suffice for them to be creators of value add on existing technology as Malaysia in general still have yet to have the right ecosystem to support creators of technology especially bringing it to commercialisation. There is great value to be created and generated from improvements along the value chain or building a value-added service over a basic technology.

This is certainly a tough situation where there are more questions than answers. However, it is good that these questions are raised so that solutions can be thought of and with a new approach towards the realisation of IR 4.0 for Malaysia.


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