Top Class
Putting People In Places
FAISAL SHAH | 10 Mar 2017 00:30
Parents only want the best for their children but sometimes that blinds them from seeing obvious weaknesses their child may have. For instance, it takes a natural affinity for the subject, memory power and strong language skills to be a lawyer while those undertaking a medical degree have to excel in all their science subjects. Therefore, it stands to reason that such professions are suitable for a few bright students while everyone else has to study something else.

Something else can sometimes mean taking up a vocational course, which for many Malaysian parents is often viewed as a fall back for failed students. You aren’t smart enough to do a pre-university course and study for a degree so try and get a vocational qualification instead so you have something to show for the years spent in school. It’s hard to blame them for holding on to such views as not enough is done to promote the virtue of obtaining qualifications that are specific to certain vocations but those views are as outdated as 2G mobile phones.

Statistically speaking, it makes sense for a student with borderline passes in SPM to attend a college that specializes in teaching vocational education. Rather than doing a basic humanities degree that they may not be interested in and then graduating with mediocre results, obtaining skills that are specific to high demand industries would mean the availability of jobs upon graduation and because they spent less time in college, they would be earning an income at an earlier age too.

Where might a student go to obtain vocational education? If he were in Ipoh then TAJ International College (TIC) should be his first port of call. Established in 1996, TIC’s vision is to offer holistic educational services through efficient and dynamic management processes in developing excellent graduates. They hope to achieve this by concentrating on the development of human capital through complete education, professional training and development, E-Learning and ICT related solutions and education consulting.

It sounds grandiose but what it means is that TIC is dedicated to providing the country with a skilled workforce in specific areas ready to contribute to these industries the moment they graduate. What industry specific areas you ask?

According to Azad Jasmi, executive director at TIC, the college currently offers eight diploma and two certificate courses.

“We offer diplomas in areas such as beauty management, automotive management, early childhood management and more traditional areas such as accounting, HR, business, IT and education. Our courses really focus on offering TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) related programmes as Malaysia is aiming to have at least 60% of its workers classified as skilled labour. Therefore we’ve developed our course content in line with the national Economic Transformational Programme (ETP) framework that lists 12 main economic activities for the future,” he said.

To ensure that the programmes offered remain relevant, TIC develops its course content with input from industry experts to ensure that their students get industry-driven education and are ready to contribute upon graduating. The benefit of such an approach is proven by the impressive employability track record of their graduates. About 80% obtain jobs immediately upon completion of their studies while of the remainder, 15% go on to further their studies in other colleges with the final 5% venturing out on their own and starting a business.

“TIC isn’t a big college but we focus on very specific niches. Students studying beauty, automotive and early childhood benefit from what we call our Learning Factories, which is where we have set up actual businesses to give them exposure to the working environment they will encounter in the future. Therefore, we have our very own spas, workshops and early childhood centres that cater to the needs of our students and also take on the role of a real business by selling to the general public.

“For us, these business entities are incubators for our students to learn on the job skills and later they can even work for us or open up their own businesses using our established brands. Our early childhood centre business for instance is called Kids Campus and TIC is one of eight educational providers selected by the Malaysian government to participate in the effort to ensure that workers in the early childhood education sector all have professional qualifications equivalent to those in developed countries by the year 2020” says Azad.

There are currently four Kids Campus outlets in Ipoh with more to come as TIC only started the business in late 2016. Automotive Management students meanwhile get lots of practical knowledge working at service centres belonging to large automotive brands like Honda, Nissan, Naza and Proton. There is also an arrangement with UMW Toyota under their Toyota Technical Education Programme (TTEP) where the company will interview and administer written tests for students while they are still in the second year of their studies. Those who make the cut are offered positions even before graduation, which means they can start their career immediately.

It’s not all about just studying and getting practical knowledge though. A pet project for TIC is the TAJ International College Rally Team that competes in the Malaysian Rally Championship (MRC). Azad is an experienced driver and seasoned campaigner, which makes him a natural fit for driver duties but his students also gain a lot of knowledge from the endeavour.

“Although they don’t build the actual rally car our students are heavily involved in the preparation of the car and travel with the team to events to act as mechanics and service crew in the heat of competition. In 2016, we had a deal with the organisers of MRC whereby each team would take on about two of our students as service crew, which worked out beautifully because the teams were able to increase their manpower for a low price and our students gained invaluable knowledge in the heat of competition,” Azad added.

As one would expect, the profile of students attending TIC isn’t of people with multiple distinctions and scholarship offers but that is by design. The entry requirements for most of their diploma courses for instance is three credits at SPM/SPMV level or certificates from Giat Mara or other skills training courses. Those without the necessary academic track record can still be considered if they have the necessary work experience and have attended courses recognised by the Ministry of Education. 

Education for working adults is also prioritised and TIC now has Open Distance Learning (ODL) courses where students can obtain their diplomas while holding a fulltime job. Most of the work is performed online or on a project basis and though some classroom hours are required it could be a commitment of as low as just one or two sessions per month at the campus in Ipoh. Add to that the competitive pricing of the courses and learning centres in Sungai Petani and soon Sarawak as well, and TIC looks set to help deliver the skilled workforce Malaysia so desperately needs to obtain developed nation status.

Says Azad, “Ultimately, we are all about ensuring that people who aren’t necessarily top scorers in school are given the best chance to obtain jobs that will help boost the development of the country. Yes, it may not be as prestigious as seeing your child becoming a doctor or lawyer but by the time those people are ready to enter the working world our students would have had several years of working experience and are already further along in their chosen careers.” 

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