Talking their way into a job in Malaysia

June 22, 2007

One IT institute’s dialogue with industry helps guarantee work for its graduates

In a business park in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, employers are beating down the door of a university to get their hands on the students. The graduates of the Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology have an enviable employment record: 90 per cent of last year’s 600 graduates had jobs before they even donned mortarboard and gown.

Their success reflects well on the university’s policy of working closely with companies and alumni to ensure the courses meet the needs of industry, says Andy Seddon, the institute’s senior manager for academic development.

New courses are designed in conjunction with employers. The institute, which has branches in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, also has regular employment weeks where companies visit the campus to give seminars, conduct interview practice sessions and recruit students. The institute’s industrial liaison officer seeks feedback from companies involved in employment week on how the students performed so that courses can be modified. In addition, it follows up companies that have hired alumni to help identify any weaknesses in the training it is supplying.

Work placements last between three months and a year but are not compulsory, except in engineering. Seddon says: "We are getting bombarded with offers [of work placement opportunities]."

The university has other methods of preparing students for employment. "We have quite a strict dress code here," Seddon says. "They have to wear professional wear — shirts and trousers — so they are more relaxed about how they present themselves at their first job interview. In my experience in the UK, students feel like they are being strangled when they put on a tie."

The institute has its roots in meeting employers’ needs for skilled graduates. It was founded after the Malaysian government put out a tender for a new private university to fill the shortage of graduates for the country’s booming IT industry.

Companies approach the institute to hire its students because of its reputation and because they like the graduates they have already employed, Seddon says. They also become familiar with the institute because it commercialises much of its research. He adds the following advice: "It is easy to say ‘listen to employers’, but that is the key thing. Listen and adapt to meet as many of their requirements as possible." CS

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