Following a recent a project visit to Malaysia, it seems an appropriate moment to share the breadth and scale of work that has taken place through I-WORK.

At both the institutional/college (Partnership Strand) as well as the systemic level (Apprenticeship strand), working with a range of stakeholders and partners ranging from government departments to multinational companies has enabled the development of innovative project work, all of which aims to support the transition of learners into the world of work.

Partnership Strand

Though it wasn’t possible to meet with all six Malaysian colleges taking part in I-WORK, the time spent on the three campuses visited gave a clear indication of the enthusiasm for the potential of multilateral TVET partnerships, demonstrated the innovative practice already being implemented and highlighted their potential impact on the staff, students and communities served by the colleges. 

Having seen first-hand the way in which their UK partner, Coleg Y Cymoedd, has positioned itself both as a training provider and social partner to local employers as well as to the community a whole, Institut Kemahiran Belia Negara Kuala Langat (IKBNKL), has determined to  replicate the model, adapting it to the needs of its local partners, providers and people. 

With the over-arching objective of strengthening employer-led education, IKBNKL has moved quickly to develop mutually beneficial relationships with their local businesses through a range of activities including:

  • Hosting an open-to-all Jobs Fair on campus for local and national employers 
  • Inviting local industrial experts as guest lecturers
  • Establishing an advisory committee of employers 
  • Working with SMEs and micro-enterprises to find work-based learning opportunities for IKBN students through placements and short-term, intensive “bootcamps”.

Through bringing employers, students and local people together, the college is well on its way towards its goal of establishing IKBN as a one-stop shop for apprenticeships, and a trusted partner for companies and the community. IKBNKL is by no means alone when it comes to piloting new practice. 

Both Kolej Kemahiran Tinggi MARA Masjid Tanah (KKTMMT), Malacca, and Institut Kraf Negara (IKN) are, with the support of their UK lead colleges and global partners, trialling the introduction of soft skills teaching. As was the case with IKBN, this theme has not been selected at random, but through observation of practice in partner colleges and through discussion of the needs of their students’ potential employers.

While the two colleges are taking different approaches to soft skills development (KTTMMT are developing a module which will be support their student advocacy interests and IKN are working on model based on ongoing assessment against a rubric) both share the same dual goal – to better equip their students for the world of work through developing their technical and person skills in line with industry requirements.

Naturally, the impact of such work on students will take months and years to fully reveal itself but discussions with leaders and practitioners is extremely encouraging with the consensus being that participation in an international partnership, and the process of developing and managing pilot projects in and of itself, has supported the development of their own skills and confidence in driving through change – skills which will prove vital to both the individuals and their colleges in the future. 

Apprenticeship Strand

Elsewhere in I-WORK and with the focus at a systemic level, the Technical Assistance project in Malaysia is exploring the level of understanding of apprenticeships and the barriers to participation to employers 

Using the manufacturing sector as a test-environment, initial surveying of employers followed by detailed face-to-face discussions, are being used to gather an evidence-base from which a framework and supporting toolkits will be developed to demonstrate the value of apprenticeships to business and explain roles and responsibilities of different organisations and individuals. 

Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM), the lead delivery partner, has completed the surveying of businesses which lead to over 70 organisations returning responses and offering their perspectives on apprenticeships. To enrich these findings, the first series of face-to-face discussions was held whist the visit took place, involving a diverse range of employers from SMEs to Multinational Corporations and covering a broad spectrum of employers in the manufacturing sector, from chocolate production to petrochemical companies as follow: 

  1. Petronas Dagangan Berhad
  2. Proton 
  3. UMW Holdings 
  4. Naza Academy Sdn Bhd 
  5. Barry Callebaut Malaysia Sdn Bhd 

With a wealth of information to extract from both sources, the challenge ahead lies in finding the most appropriate areas of focus and develop practical solutions in supporting employers in engaging in Apprenticeships. The draft framework model (below) highlights the domains that are  covered in their research. The task that lies ahead for the UTHM team and their colleagues is to develop practical toolkits with the 6 employers (above) and create a ‘nudge’ action to the national government about the outcomes of the project. The evidence seen so far across the whole of the I-WORK programme in Malaysia, one can be confident that through innovative thinking and creative problem solving, a bold and effective way forward will be found. 

I-WORK is funded by UK Government, in support of the commitments made during CHOGM 2018. As well as the projects being piloted and delivered in Malaysia, the programme operates an identical model in India, Ghana and South Africa. National Workshops will take place in all four counties in February 2020 at which the outcomes of the partnership and technical assistance projects in the country will be shared. In March 2020, an international workshop, celebrating I-WORK’s impact and finding across all countries will take place in London.  If you wish to attend either the National or International Workshop, please contact for further details.