BY Roznah Abdul Jabbar
The comparison between local and foreign graduates did not start yesterday. In fact, it has been a regular quandary in just about every industry in Malaysia for some time, but does the argument hold water – that those who have crossed oceans are better qualified than those who have been educated in their motherland?
Malaysian Institute of Architects’ (PAM) president Mohd Zulhemlee An said that in terms of quality, both foreign and local graduates are comparable.
“Both are good. In fact, local graduates are able to survive better as they are already well aware of the procedures and regulations in Malaysia. They also have peers to guide them in the industry when they join the workforce,” he said.
He said that most overseas graduates are more inclined towards western architectural practices and they have to adapt to local conditions.
Zulhemlee said that with the number of architects in Malaysia being scarce, employers are only looking at the availability of talent, and not whether they are local or foreign graduates.
“As long as you have the talents needed, we accept you into the industry,” he said.
“We need more architects in Malaysia. Currently, we have around 1,800 architects and we need about 4,000 by 2020,” he highlighted.
He added that the ratio of architecture to people should be at 1:4,000 to 8,000 and currently it is about 1:16,000.
Commenting on the reasons developers prefer foreign graduate architects to local ones, Zulhemlee said that it could be because foreign graduates tend to demonstrate better communication skills.
He said there is room for improvement in terms of language and writing skills among local graduates as it is vital for any industry.
In the property management sector, local graduates are quite in demand compared to foreign graduates, according to Richard Chan, director of RCMC Sdn Bhd and committee member of the Building Management Association of Malaysia (BMAM).
Chan said that local graduates are proficient in building management and have also been in high demand in neighbouring countries like Singapore and Indonesia and even Hong Kong and China.
“The education – the syllabus and curriculum, is pretty comprehensive locally and graduates are very competitive,” he said.
Chan added that the jobs for these graduates are ready even before they graduate, adding that graduates who are doing their internship can earn around RM1,200 a month.
President of BMAM, Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok said that there is a big demand for property managers but there is no need to look for foreign graduates as the locals are well-skilled for the industry.
“We don’t have enough building managers, and the need will be increasing as strata properties are increasing day by day in Malaysia, particularly in urban areas,” Teo said.
Echoing to this, managing director of Knight Frank Malaysia, Sarkunan Subramaniam, said we need more property managers and the opportunities are abundant.
“Property management is where the ultimate opportunity lies, as a good property manager can earn about RM20,000 to RM30,000 per month,” he told Property360.
“Local graduates certainly have the skills and the opportunities are there,” Sarkunan said.
However, he concurred that local graduates need to improve their communication skills, particularly in language and writing skills.
He said that property related foreign graduates often come back with much wider viewpoints and have better communication skills, which include writing skills and English language proficiency, hence their prospects are better.
“As for local graduates, some of them are really good, but some need more exposure,” he pointed out.
However, he said, the opportunities are available and valuation firms are ready to hire them as valuers and surveyors.
Sarkunan added that local higher education institutions should update their curriculum to match the current market so that local graduates do not suffer the consequences after graduation.
According to a recent report, Malaysia currently has 200,000 jobless graduates and Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) reported last year alone, some 26,000 people were retrenched, with more expected this year.
Executive director of MEF, Datuk Shamsudin Baradan, said that job seekers are not finicky in accepting job offers as long as they can earn a decent wage.
He pointed out that the formal job sector can only take about 6.5 million workers and at present there are two million foreign workers and with the rehiring programme another two million are expected to register.
“This makes four million foreigners in the formal job market while under the 11th Malaysia Plan, it was supposed to be capped at 15 per cent,” he said