KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – Tomorrow is International Youth Day 2020 which will be observed against the backdrop of grave global challenges such as the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
One of the more pressing issues confronting youths is unemployment as the economic impact of the pandemic has rendered the job market more challenging for them.
In an article that appeared in a local Malay daily recently, Nur Sofea Hasmira Azahar, a research analyst at EMIR Research, said in Malaysia the worst hit are youths as they are usually the last to join any company and first to be laid off in the event of a retrenchment exercise due to their limited working experience, weak social networks and mismatch of skills.
Although the government has taken the necessary measures to propel businesses and contain unemployment under the national economic recovery plan that was unveiled in June, a more holistic approach will be needed to empower human capital and enhance the competitive levels and talents of youths which will stand them in good stead in the job market.
The advent of Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0) has also brought its own set of challenges as automation is replacing traditional manual jobs in factories.
National Student Consultative Council president Muhammad Amir Asyraf Mohd Sabri said many jobs have disappeared with the nation’s transition to the IR4.0 era.
He said this “modern trend” requires immediate action as youths make up the bulk of workers at factories.
“Many factory workers are forced to find other jobs as their work has been taken over by sophisticated machinery,” he said.
Acknowledging that the management and maintenance of these machinery have created new career opportunities, Muhammad Amir Asyraf said youths who are, in general, technologically savvy should be upskilled to enable them to handle high-tech mechanical equipment.
In efforts to empower youths to drive the high-tech sector, he suggested that the government provide more IR4.0 technology-related courses at public universities, skills institutes, polytechnics and community colleges.
“What the government and institutions of higher learning can do is narrow down the scope of the skills-based courses. They can, for instance, introduce courses on machine operations – when the scope is narrowed down, the nation will be able to produce more experts in that particular field,” he explained.
Muhammad Amir Asyraf also urged youths who are about to enter the job market to diversify their skills to avoid being rejected by employers due to their lack of experience and special skills sought by the companies concerned.
“They (youths) should not rely on the hope that companies will relax their employment terms… what they should do is diversify their skills by working in the gig economy or starting an online business,” he said, adding that the diversification of skills is essential for one to survive in this digital era.
Being multiskilled, he added, would also allow them to help boost the productivity of their organisations.
“Their talents will not go to waste and they will become an important asset to the nation,” he said.
Youth Association of HARMONY Malaysia deputy president Ammar Hasbullah, meanwhile, urged non-governmental organisations to use social media to get more youths to participate in their voluntary activities, as well as in their character-building programmes.
“Youths are always on social media… it’s the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning. So, social media is the best avenue to pull them to join organisations that they are interested in,” he said.
Ammar is also happy to note that there has been a rising trend in volunteerism among youths and said it is a positive sign as it will keep youths active.
“There are many benefits to be gained… by engaging in humanitarian activities and meeting many people, it will keep our youths free from stress and mental disorders,” he said, adding that it will also keep them away from social ills such as drug abuse and taking part in immoral activities.
According to Ammar, the infiltration of western culture has destroyed the way some youths think and live.
“If the issue of moral decay is not addressed, the situation will only get worse. The concerted efforts of all parties will be needed to rectify this issue,” he added.