Choosing the right course

Malaysia’s Top 58 Jobs in Demand According to Critical Occupations List (COL) 2019/2020

Critical Occupations List (COL) 2019/2020 – Identifying Malaysia’s Talent Shortages for Future Jobs

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The aim of education is to secure a job in the future that has demand and a high salary. This will ensure that you will have job security and stable income to be able to sustain your lifestyle and more importantly to take care of your family.

According to the Critical Occupations List, what’s in demand are communication skills, English language proficiency and problem solving expertise. The country is also in need of more electric and electronic engineers, early childhood educators, finance managers, chemists, manufacturing professionals and software developers among others.

The 2019/2020 Critical Occupations List (COL) highlights 58 middle- and high-skilled occupations that are sought-after, strategic and in high demand. The COL keeps abreast of changing labour market demands associated with new technologies, automation and Industry 4.0. It was developed by agencies under the Human Resources Ministry and in collaboration with the World Bank. On Sept 12, the World Bank released its “Monitoring Occupational Shortages: Lessons from Malaysia’s Critical Occupations List” report, a case study of the COL.

When choosing the right course to study in Malaysia, one important criteria that students should look at is the job demandChoosing to study a course that has future potential high job demand and salary would ensure that you have a higher chance of a successful career that would support your lifestyle goals. If you don’t plan carefully, you may end up studying a course that has no job demand after you graduate. This would be an incredible waste of your time and money.

Therefore, at EduSpiral Consultant Services, we do our research on the job demand for the careers in Malaysia and Salary Reports in order to best advise our students on what to study based on facts and evidence. I have researched articles such as the one below so that I can advise students properly and they can have a higher chance of getting a job that’s in demand with high salary in Malaysia and globally.

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Critical Occupations List (COL) – Understanding the Job Shortage So that You Can Choose the Right Course for Future Jobs

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The Critical Occupations List (COL) is a set of occupations in demand that identifies the skills imbalance across 18 economic sectors in Malaysia. It aims to be the primary instrument to promote better coordination of human capital policies aimed at attracting, nurturing and retaining talent.
Collated on an annual basis by the Critical Skills Monitoring Committee (CSC), led by TalentCorp and the Institute of Labour Market Information and Analysis (ILMIA) under the Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR), the COL was developed based on recommended international practices. Its compilation process is based on regular consultations with the World Bank.

Because the COL is developed with the data from employers, it provides a big picture of the skills and occupations that are in demand within the industries. It also gives you a better idea of the occupations that will be prioritised by policymakers, especially in the aspects of immigration, education and upskilling opportunities.

COL will continue to expand to create a comprehensive map of Malaysia’s most demanded current and future skills and talent towards Industrial Revolution (IR) 4.0.

The report covers 18 economic sectors:

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  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
  • Mining and Quarrying
  • Manufacturing
  • Electricity, Gas, Steam and Air Conditioning Supply
  • Water Supply; Sewerage, Waste Management and Remediation Activities
  • Construction
  • Wholesale and Retail Trade; Repair of Motor Vehicles and Motorcycles
  • Transportation and Storage
  • Accommodation and Food Service Activities
  • Information and Communication
  • Financial and Insurance/Takaful Activities
  • Real Estate Activities
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities
  • Administrative and Support Service Activities
  • Education
  • Human Health and Social Work Activities
  • Arts, Entertainment and Recreation
  • Other Service Activities

What is a Critical Occupation?

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Occupations are considered critical if they are skilled, sought-after, and strategic. The Critical Occupations List is primarily concerned with identifying shortages in occupations that are associated with Malaysia’s growing knowledge-based economy. To accomplish this, the COL is focused on identifying occupations that are skilled. The COL is also interested in determining whether there are mismatches between employers’ demand for certain occupations and the supply of the skills associated with these occupations.

As a result, the COL seeks to identify shortages in occupations that are sought-after by employers. Finally, the COL is designed to be a tool to help policymakers make decisions. Thus, even after identifying shortages in skilled occupations an occupation is only considered to be critical if filling that occupational shortage is consistent with Malaysia’s strategic economic development objectives.

The Critical Occupations List (COL) – 58 Jobs in Demand in Malaysia

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For the 2019/2020 COL, 58 occupations were included. This represents 12 percent of the 483 non-military 4-digit occupations included in the Malaysian Standard Classification of Occupations 2013. Most of these occupations are high-skilled occupations at the managerial,
professional, and associate professional level. However, around 14 percent of the occupations on the 2019/2020 COL are semi-skilled occupations, such as craft and trades
workers, and plant and machine operators and assemblers. Three (3) occupations appear on the COL for the first time: Agricultural, Forestry and Livestock Production Managers, Metal Moulder and Coremaker, and Toolmaker and Related Worker.

Over time, the COL has undergone changes to include important and relevant aspects. The evolution of the COL takes into account the expansion of data sources, improvement of calculation of the indicators of shortage, and the expansion of coverage of the stakeholders consulted in the bottom-up process.

The 2019/2020 COL has 58 occupations. This is a slight decrease from the 59 occupations listed in the 2018/2019 COL. In the 2019/2020 COL, there are three (3) occupations that had not appeared in any previous editions of the COL (as shown in below).

Overall, 25 occupations have appeared in a single COL, 13 occupations have appeared in two (2) COLs, 19 have appeared in three (3) COLs, 11 have appeared in four (4) COLs, and 22 have appeared in all five (5) editions of the COL.

MASCO code        MASCO title

  1. 1121 Managing Director and Chief Executive
  2. 1211 Finance Manager
  3. 1212 Human Resource Manager
  4. 1213 Policy and Planning Manager
  5. 1214 Business Service Manager
  6. 1219 Business Services and Administration Manager Not Elsewhere Classified
  7. 1221 Sales and Marketing Manager
  8. 1311 Agricultural, Forestry and Livestock Production Managers
  9. 1321 Manufacturing Manager
  10. 1323 Construction Manager
  11. 1324 Supply, Distribution and Related Managers
  12. 1511 Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Manager
  13. 2113 Chemist
  14. 2114 Geologist and Geophysicist
  15. 2121 Mathematician, Actuary and Statistician
  16. 2141 Industrial and Production Engineer
  17. 2142 Civil Engineer
  18. 2144 Mechanical Engineer
  19. 2146 Mining Engineer, Metallurgist and Related Professional
  20. 2149 Engineering Professional (Excluding Electrotechnology) Not Elsewhere Classified
  21. 2151 Electrical Engineer
  22. 2152 Electronic Engineer
  23. 2153 Telecommunications Engineers
  24. 2166 Graphic and Multimedia Designer
  25. 2182 Manufacturing Professional
  26. 2212 Specialist Medical Practitioners
  27. 2263 Environmental and Occupational Health and Hygiene Professional
  28. 2311 University and Higher Education Professional Teacher
  29. 2411 Accountant
  30. 2412 Financial and Investment Adviser
  31. 2413 Financial Analyst
  32. 2431 Advertising and Marketing Professional
  33. 2434 Communications Technology (ICT) Sales Professional
  34. 2511 Systems Analyst
  35. 2512 Software Developer
  36. 2514 Applications Programmer
  37. 2519 Software and Applications Developer and Analyst Not Elsewhere Classified
  38. 2521 Database Designer and Administrator
  39. 2522 Systems Administrator
  40. 2523 Computer Network Professional
  41. 2529 Database and Network Professional Not Elsewhere Classified
  42. 3112 Civil Engineering Technician
  43. 3113 Electrical Engineering Technician
  44. 3115 Mechanical Engineering Technician
  45. 3119 Physical and Engineering Science Technician Not Elsewhere Classified
  46. 3122 Manufacturing Supervisor
  47. 3123 Construction Supervisor
  48. 3129 Others Supervisor Not Elsewhere Classified
  49. 3322 Commercial Sales Agent
  50. 3323 Buyer
  51. 7211 Metal Moulder and Coremaker
  52. 7222 Toolmakers and Related Workers
  53. 7233 Agricultural and Industrial Machinery Mechanic and Repairer
  54. 7412 Electrical Mechanic and Fitter
  55. 8182 Steam Engine and Boiler Operator
  56. 8189 Stationary Plant and Machine Operator Not Elsewhere Classified
  57. 8332 Heavy Truck and Lorry Driver
  58. 8341 Mobile Farm and Forestry Plant Operator

What is a critical occupation?

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As documented in previous technical reports, occupations are considered critical if they are skilled, sought-after, and strategic. The Critical Occupations List (COL) is primarily concerned with identifying shortages in occupations that are associated with Malaysia’s growing knowledge-based economy.

To accomplish this, the COL is focused on identifying occupations that are skilled. The COL is also interested in determining whether there are mismatches between employers’ demand for certain occupations and the supply of the skills associated with these occupations.

As a result, the COL seeks to identify shortages in occupations that are sought-after by employers. Finally, the COL is designed to be a tool to help policymakers make decisions. Thus, even after identifying shortages in skilled occupations an occupation is only considered to be critical if filling that occupational shortage is consistent with Malaysia’s strategic economic development objectives.

Is the occupation skilled?

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Occupations are determined to be skilled based on the Malaysian Standard Classification of Occupations list. The COL uses the Malaysian Standard Classification of Occupations (MASCO) 2013 list to determine the skill level of occupations. This list is maintained and regularly
updated by the Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR). Eight of the 9 MASCO occupational groupings are semi- or high-skilled. These are:

  • MASCO 1: Managers
  • MASCO 2: Professionals
  • MASCO 3: Technical and Associate Professionals
  • MASCO 4: Clerical Support Workers
  • MASCO 5: Service and Sales Workers
  • MASCO 6: Skilled Agricultural, Forestry, Livestock and Fisheries Workers
  • MASCO 7: Craft and Related Trades Workers; and
  • MASCO 8: Plant and Machine Operators and Assemblers.

Elementary Occupations (MASCO 9) are considered to be low- or unskilled. Whereas all of the
other occupational groupings require at least secondary education1, the Elementary Occupations grouping requires only primary education. These occupations are not eligible for inclusion on the COL.

Is the occupation sought-after?

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Sought-after occupations are identified using quantitative indicators of shortage and qualitative evidence from employers and other stakeholders. Sought-after means that
demand for an occupation or job title exceeds the supply of appropriately qualified workers despite efforts on the part of employers to satisfy their demand and for reasons not easily
addressed through changes in employer hiring practices.

The top-down approach defines specific indicators of occupations that are sought-after and sets thresholds based on national labour market statistics. The bottom-up approach uses nominations of hard-to-fill occupations in a Call for Evidence Survey (CfE) of employers as the most important indicator of occupations that are sought-after. In order to assess the validity and potential drivers of occupations that are sought-after, additional information is sought in the CfE and in consultations.

This additional information includes job requirements, skills needed, desired level of experience, minimum qualification required, reasons why employers believe the occupation is hard-to-fill, and employer responses to hiring difficulties.

Is the occupation strategic?

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Strategic means that an occupation is central to Malaysia’s economic development objectives. A strategic occupation is one that is closely linked to Malaysia’s economic growth
and the development of its knowledge-based economy. As a result of the strategic criteria, government programs can use the COL to set priorities and allocate resources. This criterion is more flexible than the skilled and sought-after criteria and draws on evidence from both the top-down and bottom-up approaches. It is designed to ensure that the COL meets the needs of policymakers and Malaysia as a whole.

Because the COL is designed to be used by a broad range of agencies and programmes, the strategic criteria is not intended to exclude a large number of occupations for which the skilled and sought-after criteria are strong. Rather,
the aim is to ensure that the COL is able to address emerging economic and social needs when the skilled and sought-after tests are passed

The Skills and Preferences Gap between Companies and the Labour Market

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Unsurprisingly, the rise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) is also changing the type of skills sought after by industry to help companies stay competitive. However, associations have cited the lack of required technical skills among graduates and job applicants, associated with
the lag in the curricula of courses offered by local Higher Learning Institutions (HLIs) behind current industry practices and a lack of soft skills necessary for employees to succeed in these critical roles.

Universities have been unable to keep up with the constantly changing skillset required by industry, either due to the slow, fixed-period revision and accreditation process for university courses, the lack of funding for vocational education institutes to provide advanced machinery adopted by industry, or the lack of consultation and integrated efforts between industry and HLIs in the process of producing employable and industry-ready graduates.

The geographic rigidity of the local labour force has also made recruitment difficult for industries that require workers to engage in frequent travelling and for firms to expand their businesses to different regions within the country and internationally. According to the associations and companies, local employees have been less willing to travel for work, preferring geographic stability and the ability to stay close to family.

Lastly, industry is also unable to attract a new generation of workers into jobs that have a reputation of being lowskilled, low-paying and 3D (Dangerous, Dirty and Difficult), especially when once again, entrepreneurship and self-employment are now more easily accessible. Companies then have to cope with the reduced willingness to work in these jobs through a greater reliance on foreign labour.

What is the COL used for?

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The COL will be used to refine human-capital related public policies, such as: upskilling, scholarship, higher education, immigration, and technical vocational education and training (TVET). It is currently being used for several policies that are related to human capital:
TalentCorp’s Returning Expert Programme (REP) and Residence Pass-Talent (RP-T) incorporates the COL as one of the key approval criteria for applications.

The Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) uses the COL as a reference to review new programmes as proposed by public institutions of higher education.

Why doesn’t the COL provide specific numbers, e.g. how many engineers will we need in the next five years?

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Based on the experiences of advanced economies, attempts to predict the exact demand of occupations are likely to be inaccurate, because they are based on many assumptions. The COL aims to suggest which occupations will have a labour shortage, and not on the extent of the shortage.

Example: while many oil and gas firms forecast a large need for skilled workers in the upstream sector, the unexpected fall in oil prices and uncertain timing of its persistence have led companies to freeze hiring; some have even retrenched workers. Forecasts such as “we need 30,000 engineers by 2020” might be inaccurate and result in an oversupply of labour (leading to problems such as graduate unemployment).

Countries such as the UK, Australia, and Canada have also adopted a similar approach.

How do companies benefit from the COL?

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Companies can give input to the COL via the Call for Evidence (CFE) survey, to share their key talent needs and hiring challenges. Based on the COL, TalentCorp can drive for meaningful interventions that are reflective of industry’s talent needs.

The COL can be used as a reference to guide relevant programmes. For example, TalentCorp’s REP and RP-T gives more consideration for applicants working in a critical occupation. This benefits companies who hire talents through TalentCorp’s initiatives.

Does the COL take into account issues of the global economy, current government interventions, and other issues like government mega projects (e.g.: Malaysia High Speed Rail, East Coast Rail)?

Yes. The COL draws data from national surveys and companies feedback. Any issue that influences employers’ hiring policies will therefore also be reflected in the COL results. Such issues include (but not limited to) the general state of economy in the industry, government regulations, and national development plans.

Why doesn’t the COL rank occupations by how critical they are (in terms of the acuteness of shortages/criticalness)?

The COL suggests which occupations appears to be in demand and are strategic to the Malaysian economy. While the COL indicates which occupations received more evidence, it does not compare how critical each occupation in relation to one another. The decision on the criticalness of each occupation is subjective to the users of the COL.

How does the COL benefit talent?

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Directly: Companies, industry associations/regulators, policy makers and the general public can use the COL as a reference to understand the trends of different occupations in Malaysia.

Indirectly: The COL is used as a reference to ensure that human capital related initiatives/policies will better target industry talent needs. For example, new courses introduced at universities will go through a committee panel that uses the COL to assess whether the courses will lead to positive employment outcomes for university graduates.

Does the COL also cover future jobs in demand?

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The COL provides information on the skills that employers need in future.

In the CFE survey, employers are asked whether they plan to introduce new production techniques in future, and if they expect to expand their workforce in specific occupations. Bottom-up evidence on future labour shortage is used together with top-down evidence to decide if an occupation should be included in the COL, and also to identify emerging trends in future skills needed in the economy. However, the COL does not differentiate between short-term need and long-term need for occupations – this is why the COL is updated every year, to provide constant updates.

If an occupation appears in the COL for several years, it suggests a long-term demand for this occupation. Longer-term interventions could be necessary (e.g. education and training policies). Conversely, if an occupation appears in the COL for the first time, shorter-term measures could be more appropriate (e.g. migration policies, short-term training) in addressing its shortage

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