Johan: ‘We can’t be complacent; we want to ensure that top talents remain in our country. Companies should not complain of a lack of talent or budget. They must show the commitment to help us solve the problem.’ — via The Star

Nurturing, attracting quality people to take the M’sian workforce to greater heights

IN the early days of economic transformation, many Malaysians were still preoccupied with putting food on the table; policymakers were thinking of how to improve the poverty line while bringing in the necessary foreign investments.

Since then, the country has gone far ahead and quality of growth as well as high income status has become its priority.

A critical success factor to these ambitions is the search for talent.

“Talent is a key enabler of our economic transformation programme,” says Johan Mahmood Merican, CEO of Talent Corp, the government-owned agency that has been mandated to recruit and nurture talent locally and abroad.

“At the same time, we have to ensure that we create this virtuous cycle of investments coming in,” he adds, referring to the need for greater job creation to attract talent back to the country

The World Bank report last month indicated that Malaysia was able to maintain its stock of tertiary-educated people in the country; those who left were compensated by graduates coming out.

“But we can’t be complacent; we want to ensure that top quality remains in our country,” says Johan.

Talent Corp’s role

Why is talent leaving the country? It could be due to wage levels, liveability and many other factors.

The Government has undertaken a whole raft of structural reforms, an economic transformation programme (ETP), education review, labour law reform and has come up with a new economic model to drive the economy.

“These need time to take root,” says Johan. “At the same time, we want to catalyse talent and investments coming.”

Talent Corp will hopefully step in to complement the ETP to create a situation where there is talent coming in to work in some of the entry point project (EPP) jobs.

If successful, this will generate greater growth, create more jobs and in turn attract more talent.

“There are a lot of pieces to the jigsaw,” says Johan. “It really needs all relevant stakeholders to act collectively and align themselves with the ETP.”

These involve the various Government agencies undertaking the reforms, the companies themselves, Pemandu and Talent Corp all working together.

All the sectors – oil and gas, electronics, healthcare, finance – need the diversity of talent as they move up the value chain.

Talent Corp works closely with leading employers on upskilling programmes. “We want our sectors to be at the R&D level,” says Johan. Companies co-funding the FasTrack programme include Intel, Motorola, Agilent and Silterra.

“We are also engaging with Malaysians locally and abroad, reaching out to the talent themselves via career fairs such as the one in Britain last month, at Universiti Islam Antarabangsa and Sunway University recently.”

The next career fair, Graduan Aspire, will be held end of June in the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

Self help

It is similar to corporate responsibility. At the end of the day, it is good for the companies themselves to be involved in the search and nurturing of talent.

“Why are some leading employers willing to collaborate at a sector level? They realise if they don’t help out, there will be continuous pinching of staff.

“Companies should not just complain, saying they have no budget. They must show the commitment to help us solve the problem,” says Johan.

Major policy initiatives to attract talent back to the country include the returning-expert programme and residence pass, which gives top expatriates ten-year work permits.

Within Talent Corp, the three strategic thrusts are optimise Malaysian talent; track and facilitate global talent as well as build networks.

Within the optimisation of Malaysian talent, Talent Corp plays a role in raising career awareness among the talent entering the workforce.

“Many Malaysians are not even aware of the many high income opportunities in the economic transformation programme.

“Many still take for granted that if their results are very good, they should be doctors. If the results are not so good, they may be accountants or lawyers. In today’s day and age, why not be a geologist? They will probably earn more,” he says.

To be an engineer may not sound so fashionable. “But some of our engineers are doing R&D work at a global level.

He says the priority sectors are very much aligned to the National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) and growing strongly and hopes to excite Malaysians to pursue a career in those professions linked to the NKEAs.

“We believe we have a good proposition. By them working in it, they will be contributing to the success of our transformation programme.”

Talent Corp is also working with the Higher Education Ministry on internships, making sure that university students get the exposure to the priority sectors.

Under the structured-internship programme, 12,000 internship places across the priority sectors have been allocated for Malaysians studying in local universities.

The incentive was announced in Budget 2012 and Talent Corp is working with the Higher Education Ministry to identify the candidates and get companies to fund the internships.

Click here to read the full news report at The Star: Talent is Key to Transformation