Stem­ming brain drain

A Tal­ent Cor­po­ra­tion will soon be set up to spear­head the coun­try’s ini­tia­tive to at­tract and re­tain highly skilled hu­man cap­i­tal.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - Sto­ries by WONG LI ZA

Ev­ery year, some of the best brains in the coun­try – in­clud­ing our top grad­u­ates – are be­ing lured away. Hence, the Govern­ment’s Tal­ent Cor­po­ra­tion’s task is to at­tract, mo­ti­vate and re­tain tal­ents.

WHEN a bril­liant young man from Ipoh re­cently emerged as the top stu­dent in his fi­nal-year law ex­am­i­na­tions at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity, he caught the at­ten­tion of the nation.

Tan Zhong­shan, 23, ob­tained a first class hon­ours, Bach­e­lor of Arts (Law), from Queens’ Col­lege in the Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge, Bri­tain. Tan also bagged a fist­ful of cov­eted prizes, in­clud­ing the Slaugh­ter and May award given by the uni­ver­sity’s Law Fac­ulty for those who achieve the best over­all per­for­mance in the fi­nal-year law ex­am­i­na­tions.

Tan has no doubt done the coun­try proud. But sadly, we will be los­ing him to Singapore. Come Jan­uary, Tan will be join­ing the Singapore Le­gal Ser­vice. This is un­der­stand­able as he was awarded an Asean schol­ar­ship by Singapore’s Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry af­ter com­plet­ing his A-Lev­els at the Te­masek Ju­nior Col­lege there.

Here is a clas­sic case of brain drain. It is a long­stand­ing prob­lem for the coun­try. Pro­grammes have been im­ple­mented be­fore to woo the coun­try’s tal­ents back to our shores.

This year, un­der the 10th Malaysian Plan, the Govern­ment cre­ated the Tal­ent Cor­po­ra­tion to iden­tify skill short­ages in key sec­tors and at­tract and re­tain skilled hu­man cap­i­tal.

The cor­po­ra­tion, which will com­mence next Jan­uary, will come un­der the Prime Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment. Its task: to at­tract, mo­ti­vate and re­tain tal­ents.

It will col­lab­o­rate with the pub­lic ‘As for doc­tors, many of them work in coun­tries like the United States or Singapore for pro­fes­sional ad­vance­ment, a cul­ture of shar­ing and re­search, and the op­por­tu­nity to work with peo­ple with the same mind­set of self-ad­vance­ment,’ says Malaysian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Dr David Quek. and pri­vate sec­tors to de­velop an in­te­grated Na­tional Tal­ent Blue­print by 2011. The cor­po­ra­tion will also serve as a one-stop cen­tre to co­or­di­nate with rel­e­vant govern­ment agen­cies, to ease the en­try of skilled work­ers into the coun­try.

There are cur­rently 784,000 Malaysians work­ing abroad and the cor­po­ra­tion is ex­pected to spear­head ini­tia­tives to at­tract the Malaysian di­as­pora back to the coun­try.

Min­is­ter in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yak­cop has also said that the Govern­ment is work­ing to woo back Malaysians abroad by re­duc­ing bu­reau­cracy and of­fer­ing bet­ter perks.

How­ever, less than 1% of Malaysians work­ing over­seas have re­turned to the coun­try dur­ing the past nine years.

It is re­ported that among all the coun­tries, Singapore has the high­est num­ber of Malaysians, with 303,828 peo­ple, fol­lowed by Aus­tralia with 78,858.

Ac­cord­ing to a source in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment, the aim of the Tal­ent Cor­po­ra­tion is not just to get the di­as­pora back. It is also look­ing at the value of en­gag­ing them from wher­ever they are, to con­trib­ute to the coun­try.

The cor­po­ra­tion will also fo­cus on govern­ment schol­ars in lo­cal uni­ver­si­ties or abroad and chart out their pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment when they re­turn and join the work­force.

Be­sides that, the cor­po­ra­tion will look into re­tain­ing highly skilled and tal­ented for­eign ex­pa­tri­ates so that they can con­tinue work­ing in Malaysia, and en­tic­ing for­eign ex­pats who used to work here to re­turn.

The source ad­mit­ted that Malaysians leave the coun­try for many rea­sons, many of which may not be rec­ti­fied. How­ever, there are also those who are think­ing of

re­turn­ing due to rea­sons like age­ing par­ents or ex­pos­ing their chil­dren to their cul­ture, roots and her­itage.

“For these Malaysians, the cor­po­ra­tion needs to fa­cil­i­tate their re­turn to make the tran­si­tion as smooth as pos­si­ble,” he said.

Malaysian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (MMA) pres­i­dent Dr David Quek said the coun­try does not have a con­sis­tent pol­icy of re­tain­ing tal­ents.

“It is not just as sim­ple as set­ting up a Tal­ent Cor­po­ra­tion. Peo­ple de­cide to work over­seas for many rea­sons, chiefly for (mon­e­tary) terms.

“As for doc­tors, many of them work in coun­tries like the United States or Singapore for pro­fes­sional ad­vance­ment, a cul­ture of shar­ing and re­search, and the op­por­tu­nity to work with peo­ple with the same mind­set of self-ad­vance­ment. There’s no glass ceil­ing, too,” he said.

Dr Quek added that he knows of two doc­tors who de­cided to work in Canada and were will­ing to take a pay cut for the chance to con­duct good qual­ity, in-depth re­search and get recog­ni­tion for it.

“The cli­mate of in­tel­lec­tual stim­u­la­tion and re­search is not avail­able in Malaysia.”

He said an­other rea­son Malaysians choose to work abroad is for their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion.

“Even with good re­sults here, there is no guar­an­tee of get­ting into a good uni­ver­sity but in the West, there are many loans and grants for stu­dents and also adults to fur­ther their stud­ies. There must be more schol­ar­ships and loans avail­able for all stu­dents here so they feel they be­long in the coun­try.”

Malaysian Em­ploy­ers Fed­er­a­tion (MEF) ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Sham­sud- din Bar­dan said the Tal­ent Cor­po­ra­tion must es­tab­lish a data­base of Malaysian tal­ents over­seas and then match it with Malaysia’s re­quire­ments.

“This needs to be done in a holis­tic man­ner which means that the nation needs to for­mu­late a Hu­man Re­sources Mas­ter Plan,” he said.

He agreed that the mul­ti­pronged ap­proach of re­tain­ing lo­cal tal­ent, woo­ing Malaysian tal­ent back, and at­tract­ing for­eign tal­ent is crit­i­cal to the suc­cess of the cor­po­ra­tion.

“What is im­por­tant at the end of the day is a net gain of tal­ent for the nation. To at­tract and re­tain for­eign tal­ents, im­mi­gra­tion pro­ce­dures on ap­pli­ca­tion and re­newal for ex­pats to work in the coun­trry need to be trans­par­ent, with time­lines con­sis­tently com­plied with.

“As an in­cen­tive, the Govern­ment can of­fer per­ma­nent res­i­dent sta­tus to ex­pats and their fam­i­lies,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to MEF, there are cur­rently about 38,000 ex­pats in the coun­try, com­pared with about 80,000 at the end of the 1990s.

“Malaysia is at­tract­ing more low-skilled for­eign work­ers rather than the ex­perts,” he said.

In terms of work­ing with Malaysians abroad from wher­ever they are, he said the cor­po­ra­tion can es­tab­lish a com­mu­nity of ex­perts and pub­li­cise and recog­nise their con­tri­bu­tions.

How­ever, he said, other mat­ters raised by Malaysians here and abroad, such as the need for a trans­par­ent bu­reau­cracy, a mer­it­based sys­tem and non-dis­crim­i­na­tory poli­cies, were is­sues be­yond the cor­po­ra­tion.

“The Gov­er­ment needs po­lit­i­cal will to put in place poli­cies to be at par with de­vel­oped na­tions,” he added.

Ma­jor move: Be­sides woo­ing the Malaysian di­as­pora back to our shores, the Tal­ent Cor­po­ra­tion will also look into re­tain­ing highly skilled for­eign ex­pa­tri­ates and en­tic­ing ex­pats who used to work here.

High qual­ity hu­man cap­i­tal is a pre­req­ui­site in the coun­try’s move to­wards de­vel­oped sta­tus.

‘The Tal­ent Cor­po­ra­tion must es­tab­lish a data­base of Malaysian tal­ents over­seas and then match it with Malaysia’s re­quire­ments,’ says MEF ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Sham­sud­din Bar­dan.

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