In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared 15 July as World Youth Skills Day to celebrate the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work, and entrepreneurship. Exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the graduate unemployment rate in Malaysia, driven mainly by a skills mismatch in the Malaysian graduate labour market, is disconcerting. In November 2019, the Penang Youth Development Corporation (PYDC), under the directive of the Youth and Sports Council in Penang, launched an initiative aimed at cultivating the youth of Penang, especially in equipping them with the skills to face future challenges as well as to develop the nation. The Youth for Future initiative encompasses 3 main aspects: economic development, social development, and development of the self.

Launch of the e-career platform. Source: Buletin Mutiara

Under the Youth for Future initiative, the “We Want You” platform was created in June 2020 to match the talents and interests of youth to companies and employers in search of those skills. The State Youth and Sports Committee chairman Soon Lip Chee said that the website would allow youth to create personal accounts with biodata that could provide a clear background to employers. It would also enable employers to recruit young talents for free without using third parties. As of July 2021, 469 job vacancies were advertised through the platform, while 658 applications were received.

A free PYDC Essential Skills Programme was also introduced to equip the youth of Penang with marketable skills such as skills in communication, team work, critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership. The programme also aspires to inculcate the values of lifelong learning among the youth, so that they may be open-minded, curious, and passionate in learning new skills and capabilities past their formal education years.

The June 2021 series of the Essential Skills Programme comprises 8 modules focusing on reskilling, upskilling and new skilling, including courses on topics such as Self-Coaching, Personal Financial Planning, as well as Innovative and Resilient Mindset. “The trainers for the programme are certified by the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC),” said Soon Lip Chee.

For the programmes to have greater reach and visibility, PYDC signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with higher learning institutions in Penang: Han Chiang University College of Communications, Penang Skills Development Centre (PSDC), Segi College, Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TARUC) and UOW Malaysia KDU University College.

“Since the inception of PYDC in 2012, the state government is determined to stand side by side with the younger generation focusing on the aspects of community engagement, youth employment, knowledge transfer and other educational youth development initiatives.

“Positive collaboration between PYDC and higher learning institutions in Penang could witness the state achieving the target of becoming an education hub,” Soon Lip Chee explained.

Programmes like these which emphasise on reskilling and upskilling are especially important for rebuilding a workforce post-Covid-19, which has resulted in layoffs, hiring freezes, and furloughs. Armed with the right skill-set and mindset, and given a platform to showcase their abilities, the youth of Penang now have a better chance of facing the challenges presented by the pandemic.