In July 2021, the Department of Statistics Malaysia published its Graduate Statistics 2020 report, where it stressed that it is now more challenging for graduates to secure a job amidst increased competition due to pandemic-induced job losses. Cognizant of this, the government has since introduced multiple initiatives to mitigate the changing job landscapes.
Some educational institutions have also adopted a proactive approach to equip students with future-ready skills and boost their chances of employability upon graduation. One such example is Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM), who under the purview of its Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology (FAST), introduced “Akademi Intelek dan Data Analitik” (Academy of Intellect and Data Analytics), also known as AI.DA.
Leveraging the higher demand for roles that require digital skills, AI.DA places an emphasis on digital upskilling where candidates who successfully complete the program will be awarded a globally recognized certification that affirms their digital competencies. In fact, its Student Council has also taken the initiative to propose a ‘One Student, One Certification’ policy for all students before graduation.
While a bachelor’s degree acknowledges that a student has completed formal tertiary education, extra credentials certainly give an edge amidst an increasingly competitive employment landscape. Although participation in the program is voluntary, students are strongly advised to obtain professional certification.
“Microsoft Certified Fundamentals offers the pathway to AI, Data Science and Cloud Computing. Coursework experience is great, but Microsoft certifications allow undergraduates to showcase their knowledge and skills to future employers. Data and AI literacy is not only important to Computer Science students but also to those studying Agriculture, Education or Management in understanding end-to-end technologies in smart homes, electric cars, precision farming, logistics and robotics” – Assoc. Prof. Ts. Dr. Aida Mustapha, Lead Trainer, AI.DA, FAST
To realize AI.DA’s objectives, all educators of the program are certified in Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS), Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), and Microsoft Technical Certification (MTC) including the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE). With the guidance of these certified professionals, AI.DA operates on a strong foundation to support and train students to obtain their certifications.
“Even before this partnership with Microsoft, we were aware that the Microsoft Learn platform offers a vast selection of professional certifications related to digital skills, but what really stood out was that Microsoft also supports institutions to manage the certification process independently. This way, we can customize the upskilling program according to a timeline and cost that works best for our students” – Dr. Hamizah binti Mohd Safuan, Deputy Dean of FAST
“We strongly encourage our students and staff alike to continue learning, upskilling, and reskilling in line with the government’s aspirations to nurture Malaysia into a digital-first economy. The opportunities are limitless – not only do they contribute to the development of a skilled pool of talents, but also open new opportunities for employability and enhances the individual’s personal development,” shared Dr. Hamizah.
“I was elated when I found out about my certification exam score! This would not have been possible if not for the educators’ guidance and effort to support the participants, even going above and beyond to coach us” – Hema Varssini A/P Segar, Full Scorer in Microsoft Office Specialisr Excel Associate certification exam, Student in Science (Industrial Statistics), FAST
“With the support of professional educators, the Microsoft Office Specialist Excel Associate program that I participated in was very insightful. The course was coordinated meticulously to ensure that every participant can takeaway fundamental skills in using Microsoft Excel effectively and efficiently. I am confident that these skills will be transferable to future employment opportunities and give a boost to my career.” – Muhammad Khairul Haziq Bin Marzuki, Student, Faculty of Engineering Technology
To date, four cycles of courses under the AI.DA program have been completed and 98 students are now certified with the Microsoft Office Specialist Excel Associate. In line with the program’s vision of ‘Nurturing Emerging Talents’, it is also opening its doors to participants beyond UTHM. Most recently, the AI.DA program welcomed university staffs from both UTHM and Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) to participate in the Microsoft Office Specialist: Excel Associate and Microsoft Certified: Power BI Data Analyst Associate courses.
“By the end of 2022, we hope to train 400 students and 50 academic staff members from within and beyond UTHM borders and assist them to obtain their professional certifications in either Microsoft Office Specialist, Microsoft Technical Certifications, or Microsoft Certified Professional,” concluded Dr. Hamizah.
The institution is also currently participating in Microsoft’s Code; Without Barriers initiative to increase awareness for women in technology, among students in UTHM. Several programs are underway including certifications in data or artificial intelligence for 200 female students, as well as organizing UTHM’s very own Hackathons.
Learn about Code; Without Barriers: https://www.microsoft.com/apac/codewithoutbarriers