FINCO CEO, Clare Walker, addressing participants at the FINCO Roundtable Discussion: Supporting Students’ Transition from Classroom to Career event.

Students’ valuable insights enrich discussions with FINCO and its collaborative partners in addressing opportunities to tackle the issues

Kuala Lumpur, 7 September 2023: A lack of support and financial constraints are the main challenges faced by students when deciding what to do after completing their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM).

This was a key insight shared by student representatives at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Financial Industry Collective Outreach (FINCO) in collaboration with Hong Leong Foundation and 42 Malaysia.

And with this also came suggested solutions, which were for corporations and education industry players to join hands and look into exploring soft skills development for young people, enriching and supporting the roles of school counsellors and raising awareness of diverse career pathways, amongst other initiatives.

The event, held on 26 September 2023, in addition to the four student representatives, saw over 60 practitioners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and corporates, including representatives from the financial industry, convening to share insights and explore opportunities for collaborative efforts to address the challenges faced by students as they make decisions about post-secondary school life.

Amongst the issues discussed were how students are often ill-equipped to make significant life decisions at a young age, which is compounded by fixed mindsets and a lack of up-to-date and credible information about the opportunities available to them. Some examples discussed included the misconception that one must be a high academic performer to pursue certain courses and careers, and the persistent and outdated view of TVET as an inferior education choice.

4 students and a moderator having a discussion

(L-R) Student representatives, Yap How Zheng, Almas Norazman, Emma Anthony and Shaawn Ashwin A/L Steven Nathan speaking during a panel session moderated by FINCO Programme Director, Tiu Kian Wee.

When preparing for their next steps, some student representatives shared how they gained valuable assistance from peers and cited support systems, where seniors or alumni assist younger students in understanding university or scholarship application processes, as extremely useful.

Unsurprisingly, financial constraints for low-income families play a major role in decision making. Post-pandemic behaviour has seen students choosing to focus on ensuring their family can survive financially, causing many to deprioritise further education, which led participants to agree that there needs to be more holistic aid beyond just education support, especially for those from very poor families.

These observations align with the findings of FINCO’s recent report, ‘From Classroom to Career: Students’ Post-SPM Decision Making’, where socioeconomic factors were cited as the key reason for choosing not to pursue further education, and how 88.7% of the students surveyed were not able to locate and process relevant education and career information.

“Although the survey was conducted to inform the content of the Careers InSight Career Fair programmes we conduct with school Counsellors and Aspire Workshops which help students plan their career pathways, we also wanted to use the survey findings as a catalyst for collaborative action which can create impact far beyond the sum of our individual efforts,” said FINCO CEO, Ms Clare Walker.

Some NGOs and practitioners offered insights into how they have started working on customising more practical and relevant support for students, such as offering scholarships for SPM graduates and financial aid to study short courses. Other participants voiced their interest in offering financial assistance to help cover students’ rent and food to ensure that deserving students can study without distractions.

Participants sitting around a table

Engaged participants at the FINCO Roundtable Discussion: Supporting Students' Transition from Classroom to Career event.

“The information shared by our scholars during the Roundtable Discussion gave valuable insights into the challenges students face post-SPM. We provide alternative educational pathways with our TVET courses, not as a soft option but because young adults can learn and earn whilst climbing up the skills levels to even attain a postgraduate qualification. At the same time, they are connected to relevant industries which gives a flexibility to pursue what is coined “Jobs of the Future”, said HLF Executive Director, Ms Quek Sue Yian.

Furthermore, participants cited other factors that need to be addressed, such as the lack of awareness from employers and the general public regarding unconventional education pathways, which causes corporate management to hold the inaccurate perception that skills-based qualifications and younger graduates offer lower return-on-investment (ROI) compared to degree holders.

“Today, there are alternative paths of education that are uniquely equipped to meet the evolving demands of industries. 42 Malaysia is reshaping the educational landscape with a unique approach to learning that is peer-to-peer learning, project-based learning, and gamification. We are equipping students with not just technical knowledge, but also the crucial soft skills of collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

“As we bridge the gap between academia and industry, we aim to showcase the immense value of our talents, who emerge as agile, adaptable professionals ready to excel in a rapidly changing world,” emphasised 42 Malaysia COO, Mr Jeff Sandhu.

Ms Walker added: “Planning your pathway in life can be daunting at any stage, and it is clear that students require additional support to unpack information and make informed decisions about their options. We are pleased that so many stakeholders came together to listen to the students and hope that these conversations lead to tangible collective efforts to ensure that students are sufficiently prepared when it comes to post-SPM decision making,”

For a detailed look at key takeaways from the roundtable, visit here.