In Malaysia, the IT industry is on the upswing. But as the major trends in computing change how business is done and life is lived in the Southeast Asian nation, there is a growing demand for IT professionals with the right skills. It’s a demand that the Malaysian government is attempting to meet, and they’re using CompTIA certifications to do it. Ahmad Ridzuan bin Omar, senior assistant director of the curriculum division for Malaysia’s Ministry of Education, presided over an initiative that has made CompTIA A+ curriculum a foundational part of the experience of attending an IT-oriented polytechnic educational institution in Malaysia.
“We have to have those [CompTIA A+ level] skills available to fulfil the requirements of IT jobs in Malaysia,” Ridzuan said. “The demand is high but the supply is very low. Skilled workers are really needed in Malaysia. We need to fulfil the requirements of all the medium-level technical skills for IT jobs.”
In Malaysia there are 33 polytechnic schools with 13 focusing on IT, and a 14th school soon slated to move towards an IT focus. The CompTIA A+ curriculum has been available since 2000 in the IT-focused polytechnics, but in the last year it has been reworked into a compulsory part of the polytechnic IT curriculum. As a part of the recent initiative, schools have been able to take advantage of CompTIA’s training resources to make sure those teaching IT modules at the polytechnic institutes are experts in how to convey A+-level knowledge to students. So those who go through those schools are sure to come out knowing the A+ material, and when they get out into the workforce they’ll be able to do the job.
But Malaysia is promoting more than just the A+ curriculum and the skills it teaches. Having an actual CompTIA certification on the resume can be critical for Malaysian IT professionals seeking employment, whether they’re looking to work in Malaysia or intend to head abroad to Singapore, Indonesia or elsewhere. Ridzuan and the Ministry of Education recognize this, and offer the top 10 percent of the highest-performing students the opportunity to take the exam for free. And for those others who take the necessary modules and learn the skills, Ridzuan strongly suggests taking the test as well. While it might be a financial investment, having a CompTIA A+ certification confirms to potential employers that an employee walking in the door can effectively handle the work.
“For the rest [of the students,] we encourage them to sit for the exam so that they have an additional certification, so that not only do they graduate properly, they also have another certificate,“ Ridzuan said.
Ridzuan sees a big future for CompTIA A+ in Malaysia. He expects the A+ curriculum will be rolled out beyond IT-focused schools, in some of the polytechnic schools that focus on electrical engineering. He also hopes to turn the number of students who actually get certified as a key performance indicator.
As polytechnic graduates move out into the workforce with A+-level skills on their side, they’ll will be able to walk confidently into the abundance of entry-level positions seeking IT talent they can trust. But the new initiative making A+ a foundational part of the curriculum in all of Malaysia’s IT-focused polytechnic schools is only the beginning of the relationship between CompTIA, Malaysia’s Ministry of Education and its polytechnic school system. In the long-term, the use of CompTIA certifications in Malaysia could very well extend beyond just the A+ level.
Watching the tech trends unfold, Ridzuan has seen cloud computing, IT security and data science emerge as the most important areas of growth for the IT profession in the region. Preparing polytechnic graduates to take on roles in these areas is the next step in meeting the rapidly developing needs of the IT industry in Southeast Asia.
While the potential rollout of other CompTIA curricula won’t necessarily extend as broadly as A+, it will help Malaysia’s more specialized polytechnic programs meet more specialized, higher-level IT needs, and will prepare students to take more advanced CompTIA certifications.
“We really need the certifications to certify our IT professionals,” Ridzuan said. “Not only do they need to have their diploma or their degree, but they need to have a certifications to enhance their skills in a particular area.”
Matthew Stern is a freelance writer based in Chicago who covers information technology, retail and various other topics and industries.