Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (Gerak) refers to the comments made by the speaker from the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM) during a forum on the 2022 National Education and Learning Summit held on 31 March.
According to the speaker, many Malaysian fresh graduates lack passion and the ‘right’ attitude and hence have problems adjusting to the workplace. In this regard, he was supported by the speaker from the Malaysian Bar.
This is an old debate that has been going on between professional associations and universities. The basic contention by the ‘professionals’ is that universities do not prepare students well enough for the workplace.
These general views about the graduates are often accepted as true. After all, these are the employers, and when they speak, it is as if the industry is speaking.
We in Gerak feel that these persistent allegations and condescension must not go unanswered, although we recognise what is reported may not be the whole of what was said at the forum
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First, graduate engineers are only entitled to be registered as professional engineers upon obtaining “such practical experience as may be determined by the Board of Engineers (BEM)”.
From BEM’s website, it appears that to be registered as a professional engineer, a graduate engineer must show practical experience of not less than three years under the supervision of a professional engineer in the same branch of engineering which the applicant had his practical experience. In addition, the applicant must also show proof of having attended professional development programmes.
Surely, with these additional pre-registration inputs, the BEM has the means to correct the deficiencies that were mentioned in the forum. If they persist even after three years of practical experience with a registered professional engineer, the fault may not be in the new registrant alone but something that affects the whole profession.
Second, under the current accreditation procedures as provided in Section 51 of the Malaysian Qualification Agency Act 2007, associations like the BEM dominate the procedure, dictating which programmes will be accepted as qualifications for admission to the profession.
The professional body therefore determines not only the post-qualification experience for registration as a professional but also the university qualifications that are recognised for that purpose.
With such control over their profession, surely the BEM must take some responsibility for the shortcomings in the beginner, and indeed owe a duty to them to cure them of their shortcomings?
Third, we are concerned that such serious opinions of new entrants into the profession coming from the engineering profession are not supported by evidence of how those opinions were formed.
In this regard also, we in Gerak would like to stress that academic and higher education owners’ associations have a greater responsibility than just joining in the chorus of admonition initiated by professional bodies.
They claim to provide an education that is fit for purpose. The advertisements of their qualifications proclaim employability on billboards across the country.
Hence, they must do more than just make bland statements about the matter. There are statistics within their reach that will show the employability of their graduates. Why do they not reveal that information?
Our intention is not to point fingers at others on a matter that is important to us all as stakeholders in Malaysian higher education. There is too much of that fruitless finger-pointing happening already.
What we would suggest is that rather than making these random statements, professional bodies, academic associations and associations of institutions should move the issues forward by creating a forum that will include universities and the Ministry of Education to discuss these important issues.
Gerak is willing to initiate such a forum. – Gerak