KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 29): Amid the continued talent deficit plaguing certain sectors in Malaysia, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) Malaysia is mulling a proposal to allow foreign graduates of local higher education institutions to work in the country.

“One example, we are still in discussion and we have not gone to the Cabinet yet, is to allow international students who are studying in Malaysian universities who are engineers in this field to work in the country,” Miti Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz told reporters during a press conference following the Miti Dialogue Session 2024.

“Right now, they are not allowed to work in Malaysia. Maybe we can look at areas where there are not enough Malaysians, especially in value added services such as] high technology sector, we can allow the international students to work in Malaysia for a period of time,” he added.

Illustrating the scale of the issue, Zafrul underlined that the electrical and electronics (E&E) sector requires 50,000 engineers, but Malaysia, on the other hand, only produces 5,000 engineer graduates a year not including foreign graduates in Malaysia and Malaysians studying abroad.

According to Zafrul, as Malaysia continues to pull investments into the E&E sector, and other affected sectors, the country needs to ensure that a sufficient number of talent is available for investors.

“The other day we opened AT&S in Kulim, Kedah, they needed 6,000 engineers, and previously Intel needed 5,000 engineers. Its (investments coming into the country) a positive, but at the same time, the country needs to ensure that the required talent is there,” he said.

Zafrul also highlighted the importance of enticing Malaysian workers and students abroad to return and work locally.

“This is where we need to ensure that the right pay scale and opportunities come because some of them, especially in the AI (artificial intelligence) sector, want to work in Malaysia but they don’t have opportunities," Zafrul said.

“And, now we’re saying that there are opportunities so we can also work with the Human Resources Ministry (MOHR) through TalentCorp and the various others (agencies) to start engaging the Malaysians abroad," he added.

He said Miti will set up a committee with the MOHR and the Higher Education Ministry to coordinate efforts in addressing the talent shortage issue, adding that it has also engaged with the national TVET council.

In the first nine months of 2023, Malaysia attracted RM225 billion worth of investments RM125.7 billion in foreign direct investments (FDIs) and RM99.3 billion in domestic direct investments.

This included various investment commitments from the technology sector, such as the likes of semiconductor giants Texas Instruments and Infineon, and US chip giant Nvidia.

More recently, Miti yielded RM2.8 billion of committed FDIs from two companies related to digital infrastructure and food manufacturing during its investment mission to Singapore earlier this month.