Higher Education Ministry pledges collaboration for industry-aligned STEM talent development

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

GEORGE TOWN, June 25 — The Higher Education Ministry is open to collaborating with various ministries and the electrical and electronics (E&E) industries to cultivate talent that meets industry demands, stated Minister Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir.

He emphasised the ministry’s open-door policy for discussions with other ministries and industries to cater to specific industry needs.

“We are examining policies to determine what we can offer to meet industry needs,” he said during a speech at an E&E Industry dialogue session in Amari Spice Penang today.

Zambry highlighted the growing demand for highly skilled workers, particularly with semiconductor foreign direct investors (FDI) coming to Malaysia.

“To address this, we must adopt a more flexible approach and move beyond a higher education system solely based on campuses or universities in Malaysia,” he said.

One approach is for industries to collaborate with local universities.

“We hope that industries can allocate a portion of their research funds to our local universities so that we can jointly develop industry-ready talents,” he suggested.

Another strategy is to introduce more Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes in the semiconductor field.

“I propose that we establish 100 of these TVET programmes so that by 2030, we can produce 200,000 engineers,” he stated.

Zambry highlighted an imbalance between science and liberal arts students.

“Currently, 40 per cent of students enter the science stream but along the way, five to 10 per cent switch to arts,” he said.

To address this, he proposed that liberal arts and humanities students be given the opportunity to transition into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programmes.

“There are liberal arts and humanities students who excel in mathematics and science, so they can join STEM programmes through the TVET foundation programme,” he explained.

Zambry added that polytechnics began offering STEM foundation programmes to liberal arts students last year.

“The first batch of 463 students will graduate soon,” he added.

He emphasised the need for structural reforms to attract more students to STEM at the secondary and primary levels, focusing on TVET for now.

“TVET is not just about low-level technical courses; we aim to elevate TVET’s status, especially in critical engineering and technical fields,” he said.

Finally, Zambry suggested that Malaysia could learn from Germany and Japan on how these countries shifted students from liberal arts to hard science.

“We can also explore work-based learning and upskilling of workers,” he concluded.