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CYBERJAYA: Their skills are nothing to write home about, their English worse; they

don?t want to work too hard and they want to be paid well.

Many local ICT graduates don't have much of what it takes but they want an easy
working life, which is why they are making life difficult for recruiters,
according to results of an employment survey conducted by recruitment firm
Knowledge Worker Exchange Sdn Bhd (KWX), a subsidiary of Multimedia Development
Corporation.

The survey polled 1,350 companies across multiple industries over a three-month
period to take stock of employment trends in 2003 and gauge the outlook for 2004.

The survey found that employers expect overall employment growth to reach 3.5%
this year, which was "very encouraging" given a fairly flat global economic
scenario, coupled with the Iraq war and the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome) epidemic.

Employment prospects look even better next year, with an expected growth rate of
6%, according to KWX.

"This figure is in line with Malaysia's anticipated GDP growth of about 5.4%,
driven largely by a more stable global economic and political outlook next year,"
KWX managing director Ungku Harun Al Rashid Ahmad told reporters at a briefing on
the survey results last week.

The forecast growth in overall employment next year would be driven considerably
by employment growth in the ICT sector.

Employment there is expected to grow 23% in 2004, larger than in any other sector
- including services, finance and business, and manufacturing -- polled in the
survey.

The increase would come on the back of an estimated 17.2% growth in ICT employment
this year.

Despite the anticipated increase in people working in the ICT sector next year,
employment opportunities would remain aplenty.

The survey results show that there would be an estimated 26.2% more job vacancies
in ICT in 2004, compared to this year. The growth in vacancies in the sector is
the highest among all the sectors surveyed.

While MDC has forecast that the supply of knowledge workers in the period 1998 to
2005 -- potentially over 150,000 -- would be able to meet demand for such workers
within the next few years, companies polled in KWX's survey indicated they wanted
people with a more than just average skills.

Off all staff issues that companies in the survey faced, 20.5% were related to
recruitment difficulties.

Language problem

Other findings shed more light on the matter.

Software programming, for example, was expected to make up 23% of employment in


the ICT sector next year. It is both the largest component of ICT employment, and
the job category forecast to have the largest growth -- up about 3% from its 20.1%
share of ICT employment in 2003.

But jobs in software programming were also the ones that recruiters have
difficulties finding suitable local talent to fill, according to the survey.

The survey found that programming skills most in demand by Malaysian ICT companies
include programming languages like Visual Basic, C++, and Java, PHP and Perl.

But while there were little problems in hiring programmers skilled in languages
relatively easy to master like Visual Basic, those with capabilities or expertise
in more challenging low-level programming languages like C++ were harder to find.

Compounding the shortage was a problem less related to the ICT capabilities of
local ICT graduates, but more about their attitude.

Malaysian ICT companies were also plagued by fresh graduates who wanted high
starting salaries, were averse to working long hours, and had poor command of the
English language.

The survey found that one in three companies polled believed that salary
expectations among fresh graduates were high despite not meeting job requirements,
and more than one in five faced issues concerning poor English and poor work
attitude.

Show me the money

"Graduates simply need to be more realistic about pay," said Harun. He added that
poor work attitude was "worrying."

"If you look at ICT workers in India, you would see that they are much more
positive and focussed on the work," he said.

The survey also found that experienced workers also thought very highly of
themselves when it came to salary expectations, according to the survey.

"Sometimes, people expect 50% to 100% more than their current salaries (when
considering new employment)," said Harun. "In developed countries, the range is
only about 25% to 30%."

To circumvent the skills shortage, high salary demand, and alleged poor work
ethics, Malaysian ICT companies have had to hire software engineers from India and
to a lesser extent, Britain, according to Harun.

The lack of advanced skills in demand cut across job categories in the ICT sector,
according to the survey.

Finding skilled local talent in specialised database and e-commerce applications


like Oracle 9i, XML and Microsoft's .NET platform was also difficult, as was
finding skills in software quality assurance, object-oriented analysis, mobile
communications technologies, and web security.

"Our graduates clearly need to improve their attractiveness," said Harun.