By Dato’ Ariff Farhan Doss
A lot has been said about HRD Corp’s intention of proposing that all training programmes registered with HRD Corp and offered to its registered employers must be micro-credential ready.
What are micro-credentials?
Micro-credential is essentially a pathway and delivery process that provides for evidence that learning outcomes have been acquired by a learner, or in this case an employee, after having attended a course or learning experience and this is then measured according to domains related to the knowledge, skills, and attitude pre-learning, during and post learning.
Why the need for micro-credentials for employees or workers?
Following the height of the pandemic and amidst a global economic slowdown, Malaysia is facing a pressing talent shortage, across almost every business and organisation.
There is an acknowledgement that there is a lack of workers who possess the skills that match the roles required of them. It has become very challenging to find employees with the appropriate skills and talents, an impasse that is now known as the ‘skills gap”.
At this juncture, let me also state why HRD Corp has been entrusted by the Government of Malaysia to address issues related to the supply of talents in Malaysia. The “Pembangunan Sumber Manusia Berhad Act 2001” or Act 612 “provides for the imposition and collection of a human resources development levy for the purpose of promoting the training and development of employees, apprentices and trainees, the establishment and the administration of the Fund by the Corporation and for matters connected therewith”.
Part II of the Act under Clause 4 which covers the Functions of the Corporation states that the functions of the Corporation are:
To assess and determine the types and extent of employees’, apprentices’ and trainees’ training and retraining in keeping with the human resources need of industries.
To promote and stimulate manpower training; and
To determine the terms and conditions under which any financial assistance or other benefits are to be given.
This should address any concern of stakeholders who may be unclear as to the powers and the function of Pembangunan Sumber Manusia Berhad or, in English, the Human Resources Development Corporation (HRD Corp).
Coming back to why the need for micro-credentials. Most people tend to equate micro-credentials to a pathway for the acquisition of an academic qualification and cannot seem to see beyond that, never mind that micro-credentials are considered a disrupter of the traditional modes of education.
The micro-credential framework introduced by HRD Corp is unlike the framework introduced by the Malaysian Qualifying Agency (MQA), an organisation tasked with overseeing the pathways that lead to academic credentialling per se. HRD Corp’s micro-credential efforts focus on bite-sized qualifications that demonstrate skills, knowledge and/or experience in a specific subject area or capability, hence the focus being on competencies and skills.
Micro-credentials offer numerous benefits for employees, employers, and organisations of all sizes from every industry. The HRD Corp micro-credential journey started in 2018 and eventually led to the setting up of a committee called the Programme Review and Accreditation Committee (PRAC) and comprised industry and experts from academia. HRD Corp has taken great care to design a framework for micro-credentials which are flexible, portable, and cost-effective to implement. The framework is designed to increase employee’s engagement and support employers by promoting a culture of life-long learning.
What are the issues and challenges faced by HRD Corp and Training Providers in the past that HRD Corp is trying to address?
Scalable and cost-effective training
Investing in training programmes especially in partnership with universities can come with a big price tag. In 2019 alone, HRD Corp provided financial assistance via its levy fund to Training Providers amounting to RM93 million for certificates of little value. This is because the awarding bodies lacked the standing to issue those certificates, leading to very little value add. The certificates also did not provide for evidence that learning or skills transfer had taken place. This RM93 million is equivalent to an average of RM537 per certificate, per person. To put things in perspective, this RM93 million only accounted for less than 5% of courses offered by HRD Corp through Training Providers. More than 95% of courses did not even come with any form of certification.
For employers looking for employees who are competent, engaged, and productive, scalable training programmes like micro-credentialled courses can offer a cost-effective way to maintain competitiveness and meet the changing needs of the market.
Micro-credentials offer a more personalised and an on-demand learning experience. A worker can quickly learn what he needs and apply it on the job and immediately have a credential to show for his accomplishment.
What is HRD Corp’s core responsibility with regards to the Training Market and its training programmes moving forward?
HRD Corp has developed a system called the Micro Credential Course Acknowledgement System (MICAS) which will have four levels of verification and monitoring functions. These will provide for the development of data analytics that will allow for analysis of training conduct, training outcome and trainee development, and produce a comprehensive report for all employers for every single training session conducted. This is to ensure that employers can calculate the ROI for each, and every training programme attended by their employees.
Is it true that micro-credentials will lead to increase in training cost and thus lead to less employees being trained?
NO. The objective of the implementation of micro-credential is to lower the cost of current training conducted by Training Providers while, at the same time, provide employers with higher standards of delivery and clearer outcomes. Whatever charges levied for services rendered for micro-credentialling will be from within the allowable cost metrics currently in place and will replace cost previously charged by Training Providers for certification which had very little value add to workers and employers. RM300 is the maximum allowed for micro-credentialling. This may be even less depending on the type of training programmes. What is certain is that it will be less than the RM537 that was previously charged by third party institutions to training providers for certification.
I would like to end by saying that the Minister of Human Resources has requested for a Technical Working Committee to be set up comprising Employer Associations to ensure that a fair assessment of the rollout of the implementation of HRD Corp’s micro-credential framework is made and a fair costing for the different types of training programmes can be announced soon.
I would like to assure all stakeholders that HRD Corp has the necessary expertise, having developed a core team of professionals who have the necessary experience to deliver as promised the core objectives of the micro-credential initiative, which are to improve the standards of training programmes, reduce the cost of training as compared to what was previously being offered to employers and employees and to offer employers the availability of features that can track the skill development and progress of every employee attending a training programme.
Dato’ Ariff Farhan Doss is the Chief Operating Officer of HRD Corp.