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Building a Future-Ready Workforce: Malaysia’s Vision for ASEAN

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Malaysia is eager to host the ASEAN Year of Skills 2025 in partnership with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to spearhead various initiatives aimed at enhancing the skills and knowledge of ASEAN’s workforce, announced Steven Sim Chee Keong, Malaysia’s Human Resources Minister.

Image credits: BERNAMA

“We will be honoured to collaborate with the ILO and all ASEAN leaders in achieving this aspiration through the ASEAN Year of Skills 2025,” Sim remarked during a joint discussion session with ASEAN leaders from Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia in Geneva on Friday.

This initiative will empower Malaysia’s Ministry of Human Resources, along with its departments and agencies such as the Human Resource Development Corporation (HRD Corp), to drive skill enhancement and readiness of ASEAN’s workforce.

The ASEAN Year of Skills 2025 will feature various programmes and initiatives across Southeast Asia. A notable event within this framework is the National Human Capital Conference & Exhibition (NHCCE), HRD Corp’s annual flagship event.

This conference brings together leading industry figures globally to discuss challenges and opportunities in human capital development. For 2024 and 2025, the NHCCE will focus on key priorities concerning the future of work in the ASEAN region.

The ASEAN Year of Skills 2025 places a strong emphasis on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) technology and digital skills. This focus aligns with the region’s goal of fostering a future-ready workforce equipped to navigate the rapidly evolving technological landscape.

Initiatives will prioritise capacity building in emerging fields such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and semiconductor technologies, ensuring that the ASEAN workforce is adept at utilising advanced digital tools and innovations.

Sim expressed confidence that the identified programmes would facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices, ultimately improving the expertise and productivity of the regional workforce. Moreover, Sim highlighted the potential for stronger collaboration and partnerships among member countries, fostering long-term strategies for human capital development.

The timing of this initiative is particularly significant as Malaysia is set to assume the role of ASEAN Chair next year. In this capacity, Malaysia will prioritise enhancing regional integration by promoting seamless trade, deeper economic cooperation, and a more interconnected region.

The country will also encourage investment in the ASEAN workforce by focusing on capacity building, education, and skills development, with special attention to key fields such as emerging and semiconductor advancement.

Srinivas Reddy, ILO’s chief of Skills and Employability, who was present at the discussion, commended Malaysia’s progress in promoting lifelong learning and training. He expressed confidence that the initiative would positively impact and drive the skills development agenda for the ASEAN region. Reddy also shared his experiences from organising the European Year of Skills in 2023 and 2024, providing valuable insights for the ASEAN initiative.

Malaysia aims for an inclusive digital transformation that prioritises citizen safety by ensuring equitable access to digital opportunities, protecting against online harms, and fostering conscientious digital citizenship, while also aspiring to become a regional and global technology hub.

As OpenGov Asia reported, Malaysia’s newly introduced MD tax incentive scheme, focusing on advanced technologies and offering substantial tax benefits, marks a significant step toward establishing Malaysia as a central hub for digital innovation in the ASEAN region. This scheme aims to attract high-value investments, create high-value jobs, and integrate cutting-edge technologies, thereby bolstering Malaysia’s digital economy and reinforcing its position as a leader in the digital revolution.

By enhancing ICT and tech skills, the programme aims to boost regional integration, drive economic growth, and prepare ASEAN member states for the challenges and opportunities of the digital age.

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