KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has to take drastic measures to boost its production of skilled manpower to meet the requirements of Industry 4.0 or risk being left behind, according to a technical education and vocational training provider.

Other countries in the region are already actively developing their industries to keep in pace with the fourth industrial revolution.

“In terms of preparing the necessary skilled manpower (for Industry 4.0), Indonesia and Singapore are far ahead (of Malaysia) because they have specific programmes from abroad for their workers to learn from,“ SG Education Group founder and chairman Datuk Seri Ganesh Palaniapan told Bernama.

He said Malaysia was publicising Industry 4.0 and has even introduced automation “but where is our skilled workforce?”

“Are we able to provide skilled workers to the factories or international companies based in Malaysia?” he asked.

Set up commission or department

Industry 4.0 is the new approach to combining traditional manufacturing processes and technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable machines to capture and convey more data via machine-to-machine communications to enable businesses to make smarter decisions.

All these have to be mobilised by a workforce equipped with the necessary skill sets to develop systems, applications and services such as artificial intelligence, Big Data and advanced analytics, robotics and automation.

The implementation of automation allows “smart” machines to predict issues before they even occur and take the necessary action without human intervention.

Pointing out that Malaysia did not have a standard system to produce graduates with the necessary skills for Industry 4.0, Ganesh said the local university syllabuses were somewhat out of date and did not fulfill the requirements of Industry 4.0.

“After completing their studies, our (university) graduates have to be retaught to master 4.0 elements like additive manufacturing and robotics, that is, how to handle and manage robots and so on,“ said Ganesh, whose company runs several private skills training centres in Malaysia.

He suggested that the government establish a commission or department dedicated to supporting Industry 4.0 and place all the agencies involved in producing skilled manpower under it.

Eventually, Malaysia’s success in mobilising the manpower for Industry 4.0 would draw the attention of advanced countries that would want to invest in this country due to the availability of a sufficient pool of skilled workers.

“Not only will we be able to produce more goods for export, but the transfer of technology will also take place,“ he said.

Germany’s success

Ganesh, who was also involved in the drafting of the National Policy on Industry 4.0 that was launched by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in October 2018, said the new industrial revolution would have an impact on industries that require technology to improve their production competitiveness.

Unfortunately, many of the local industries were still depending on manual labour to carry out their operations, he said.

He also said that Malaysia has to seek out foreign technology to enable it to approach Industry 4.0 due to the shortage of efforts locally to develop home-grown technology to meet the needs of the new industry.

“While we can easily bring in the technology from other countries, we are still lacking in terms of skilled manpower. We need these skilled workers fast ... only then will we be able to fully mobilise Industry 4.0,“ he said.

Ganesh said Germany was an excellent example of a nation that has used all the elements of Industry 4.0 to mobilise its industrial sector.

“The foundation of Germany’s success is its skilled workforce. Over there, graduates are encouraged to take up dual vocational training, where students are required to participate in internship programmes in a field of their choice.

“The workers over there are also encouraged to take up short ‘nanodegree’ programmes where they get to master in-demand skills within a year,“ he said.

On the issue of manual labour becoming redundant when automation sets in, Ganesh said job opportunities would always be present if workers were willing to upskill or learn new skills to meet the needs of the new industrial revolution.

“Yes, jobs that involve repetitive processes like packaging will be done by robots. Technology can teach a robot to think, write and draw but it doesn’t have the natural intelligence of a human being.

“We still need humans to create and do things that cannot be done by a robot,“ he said, adding that creativity can be developed from the primary school level by placing more emphasis on the learning of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, English language and art.

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