To help address an acute and growing shortage of workers with strong information and communications technology (ICT) skills, Microsoft is partnering with 20 institutions of higher learning across Malaysia to expand opportunities for students to gain industry-relevant skills and earn globally recognized ICT certifications.
Despite recent setbacks triggered by the global financial crisis, Malaysia has remained one of the fastest-growing and most resilient industrial markets in the Asia-Pacific economy. More than 5,000 foreign companies from more than 60 nations operate in Malaysia, which has been dubbed “Silicon Valley East” because of its strong presence in the global semiconductor industry.
Amid this rapid growth, businesses throughout Malaysia and elsewhere in the region are encountering a shortage of workers with the information and communications technology (ICT) skills they require. In a recent survey of more than 440 companies across 26 industries in the Asia-Pacific market by Kelly Services, 80 percent of respondents agreed that the lack of ICT professionals with relevant skills hurts their organization’s ability to serve clients and customers.
“A shortage of important skills can put the brakes on innovation and growth,” the report warned. It also said that some Asian countries are suffering from a “brain drain” as more people go abroad to acquire ICT skills training and then decide to stay.
To counter these trends and help ensure that the country’s college graduates are well-equipped for the workplace, Microsoft is partnering with 20 public universities in Malaysia and Prestariang Sdn Bhd, a local Microsoft® Partner and ICT training and certification provider, to deliver advanced ICT skills training through the Microsoft IT Academy program. A number of polytechnic schools are also expected to join the program, which supports the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education’s goal of ensuring skills relevancy of graduates through industry-based certification.
||I believe that our partnership
with Microsoft Malaysia for
the Microsoft IT Academy
program will enhance the
ability of our public institutions
of higher learning to produce a
knowledge workforce ready for
the innovation economy.
||Y.B. Dato’ Seri Mohamed Khaled bin Nordin
Minister of Higher Education, Malaysia
Through the Microsoft IT Academy program, students and faculty at these universities can obtain globally recognized certifications in software development, enterprise IT systems integration, and related skills that are in high demand by employers in many fields. The program also provides a range of curricular and other learning resources to help students develop the real-world job skills they need to succeed in a highly competitive workforce.
“I believe that our partnership with Microsoft Malaysia for the Microsoft IT Academy program will enhance the ability of our public institutions of higher learning to produce a knowledge workforce ready for the innovation economy,” says Y.B. Dato’ Seri Mohamed Khaled bin Nordin, the Minister of Higher Education for Malaysia. “We want our students to have the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to transform Malaysia into a knowledge-based economy, and a key catalyst for this transformation is technology.”
In the Kelly Services study, more than half of the senior IT executives and hiring managers surveyed identified software application development and integration as the most important technical skill area within their organization, followed by enterprise systems integration and customization. Respondents ranked these same skill areas first and third, respectively, on their list of skills in shortest supply. The two professional certification tracks at the core of the Microsoft IT Academy program offering in Malaysia reinforce these same skill sets.
Initially, participating institutions will help their faculty and students prepare to earn the Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD): ASP. NET Developer 3.5 and Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP): Enterprise Server Administrator credentials. An MCPD: ASP.NET Developer 3.5 certification shows proficiency in using Microsoft Visual Studio® 2008 and ASP.NET software development tools to build applications for the Web. The MCITP: Server Administrator certification validates expertise in configuring and managing the Windows Server® 2008 operating system.
“These are two of the most heavily requested base skill sets among local companies as well as globally,” says Professor Dr. Hj Shahrin bin Hj Sahib, Chairman of the ICT Dean’s Council for Public Universities in Malaysia. “In addition, students and faculty can pick up other tracks to meet specific industry demands or strengthen their overall training.”
The initial group of 20 universities joined at the Advanced level of the Microsoft IT Academy program, which gives them access to a broad range of curricula and courses designed for students who are pursuing IT careers in areas such as desktop computing support, server management, and product development. For example, the Microsoft E-Learning portfolio for the Advanced level includes in-depth courses on Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista®, Microsoft SQL Server® 2008, and Microsoft Exchange Server, along with developer tools, such as Visual Studio 2008 and the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5. Instructors can use these e-learning resources to expand their own professional skills as well as improve classroom learning. In addition to the Microsoft Official Curriculum, the program provides teaching resources to support faculty in the delivery of lesson plans, lab setup guides, Microsoft Office PowerPoint® presentations and an online course management tool to manage the delivery of e-learning courses.
While Malaysia’s program is focused on equipping college graduates to enter IT professions, participating institutions also can extend the benefits of the Microsoft IT Academy to students who are pursuing nontechnical majors. The program’s Microsoft Digital Literacy curricula and Microsoft E-Learning portfolio offer lessons in basic computing, use of the Internet and Microsoft Office productivity software applications, as well as courses that map to the globally recognized Microsoft Certified Application Specialist (MCAS) credential, which validates skills in using the 2007 Microsoft Office system and the Windows Vista operating system.
“These online learning resources are a cost-effective and convenient means for students to gain computing skills that are increasingly required by employers in almost every industry,” says Dr. Shahrin. “The program is helping our institutions keep pace with the growing needs and demands of the workforce.”
As part of its goal to produce competent workers who can fill both national and international labor needs, the Malaysian government has set a target of having at least 75 percent of college graduates employed in their chosen fields within six months of earning a degree. Dr. Shahrin and his fellow educators regard the Microsoft IT Academy program as a key to realizing that objective, but they also foresee additional career advantages for the nearly 21,000 students enrolled in computer science programs at Malaysia’s member universities.
“Employment opportunities abound for IT professionals who have Microsoft certifications, which are among the most demanding and respected credentials in the IT industry,” says Dr. Shahrin.
Other benefits accrue directly to the country’s higher learning institutions. “For one, becoming a Microsoft IT Academy enhances the relevance, quality, and competitiveness of the existing IT curriculum in our institutions,” says Dr. Shahrin. “It is hoped that the private universities and institutions in Malaysia would be able to join the initiative to uplift the relevancy and competitiveness of the ICT curriculum in the whole country.”