Malaysian Employers Now Prefer Mandarin Proficiency Over Degrees When Hiring

A growing number of employers place greater emphasis on training and self-learning programs over paper qualifications.

Cover image via Genes Gulitah/New Straits Times & Velvet Escape

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Gone are the days when formal education was considered the golden ticket to a promising career in Malaysia.

Today, employers are prioritising factors like work ethic, practical experience, and cultural fit.

According to Jobstreet by Seek Malaysia managing director Vic Sithasanan, the landscape of career development is experiencing a massive shift, reported the New Straits Times.

Its latest Hiring Compensation and Benefits Report for 2024 reveals a significant trend: a growing number of employers place greater emphasis on training and self-learning programs over paper qualifications.

"Given this, while some employers may view formal education as a criterion, many attach less significance to this as most of them provide the specific training needed to perform well in the company," he said.

Employees in Malaysia can also look forward to more companies offering training programmes, apprenticeships, and job rotations in the future.

Image via Hiring, Compensation & Benefits Report 2024

However, there's increasing demand for language skills, with proficiency in Mandarin being a major plus, particularly for mid-senior-level positions

Due to Malaysia's strong economic ties with China and other Asian nations, more job listings for mid-senior-level employees now include a requirement or added plus points for Mandarin or multilingual employees.

While English dominates international business communication, it's not always the only language needed.

Vic points out that working with stakeholders from diverse markets can require additional languages. For instance, Malaysia's rise in foreign investment has created a strong demand for Mandarin-speaking professionals.

Additionally, there's also a growing appreciation for graduates from Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programs

Malaysian Employers Federation president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman was quoted as saying that candidates with TVET qualifications are often viewed favourably by Malaysian employers because the skills they learned directly apply to many jobs, with employers moving towards a more holistic evaluation of candidates.

"This approach aims to capture a more comprehensive view of a candidate's potential contributions to the organisation," the New Straits Times quoted him as saying.

While stressing that English remained within the top five skills that employers look for when hiring, Syed Hussain also echoed Vic's view on the growing importance of Mandarin proficiency.

He emphasised that at the end of the day, industry needs are paramount.

"Malaysia is an international hub for multinational companies and many industries are seeking [job] candidates with proficiency in languages like Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and Arabic due to their expanding presence in the Malaysian job market. Companies dealing with international clients or with branches abroad often seek multilingual employees," he said.

Given the increasing importance of Mandarin factor, it's no surprise that there's an increasing willingness among Malay parents to enrol their children in vernacular schools

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