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The Industrial Training Experience: The Perceptions of Industry Towards UM Students

Feedback from industry in Malaysia indicates that graduates from local universities lack competency in their area of specialisation, have a poor proficiency in English, and lack basic communication skills. The area of low proficiency of English and poor communication skills generally tops the list of weaknesses among local graduates. Local graduates are also reported to lack leadership and interpersonal skills. The development of all these soft skills are essential to make them employment-ready as the lack of soft skills has been cited as one of the key factors for unemployment among undergraduates in Malaysia.

One of the ways to enhance employability and to enhance the job skills of undergraduates is through the industrial training programme. At the University of Malaya (UM), more than 2000 students spend between 2-6 months in industry each academic session. In relation to this, the objective of the present study is to obtain feedback regarding industry’s perception of industrial trainees from UM in relation to their overall performance and particularly on the quality of their soft-skills and attributes. It is imperative that UM obtains feedback about how industry perceives their students. Such feedback is necessary to gauge the extent to which UM is successfully preparing its students for the workplace, particularly in terms of soft-skills development. It also provides useful input that can form the basis for enhancing the industrial training programme at UM as well as input for curriculum innovation and curriculum review.

The data were collected through questionnaires sent to organisations that placed UM trainees. Industry evaluators were asked to rate the quality of students on a five-point Likert scale measuring the trainee’s basic skills (communication in English and Malay, and presentation in English); people skills (leadership, teamwork and interpersonal skills), ICT skills, and personal qualities (self-confidence, self-motivation, time management, ability to work independently and presentability). Relevant statistical test were carried out on the data collected.

Based on the 279 questionnaires that were returned, the results indicate that the majority of UM students were perceived by industry as having good language and people skills. Nevertheless it is a worrying trend that between 20-28% of the students were only rated as ‘fair’ for presentation and communication skills in English. Further a sizeable number of students were perceived as lacking in sufficient expertise in technical skills, problem-solving and analytical skills – shown by the fact that they were identified as ‘fair’ by the industry.

The feedback from industry provides UM with information about the strengths and weaknesses of their undergraduates. More importantly, it provides UM with the opportunity to enhance its industrial training programme and other teaching and learning activities to ensure that its graduates are work-ready and employable. Failure to ensure that industrial training programmes are appropriately “planned, organized and implemented”, could translate into a lack of suitably qualified manpower (Al-Ali, 1996).

For more information on the research, Please contact: PROF. DR. STEFANIE SHAMILA PILLAI
Last Update: April 20, 2009