From taking the plunge into padi fields to immersing in big data, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon advises young people to brave the ‘new normal’.
YOUNG graduates nowadays wake up to find their dream jobs vanishing.
But the good news is that there are opportunities to venture into new sectors – as an employee or young start-up.
In China for instance, the big data industry is fast and furious – churning out young and budding entrepreneurs in the once remote Guizhou province.
The big data industry is among the latest addition to the Internet sector, using huge amounts of information and analytics for an intended purpose.
And over in Jiangsu province, young graduates, mostly from non-agriculture related disciplines, are taking the plunge into rice farms in Huaxi village – China’s wealthiest village – about 130km from Shanghai.
They went to Japan to learn farming that produces high-quality rice before returning home to be farmers. And they are doing very well in just two years or less.
These different scenarios reflect the new norm these days, says Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon who returned from a working trip to Guizhou recently.
“The big data industry is vast and all-encompassing and all set to enhance the way of doing business, the way of life and the environment,” says Chong who participated in the China-Asean Education Cooperation Week in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province, in July.
Guizhou is indeed the place to watch. Bypassed by development for a very long time, the remote and poor province has emerged as the hub for the big-data industry.
It has attracted worldwide attention and interest from IT big players to be part of the venture that received much support from the Chinese government.
Chong cited how a start-up in the big data business in Guizhou made six million yuan within six months.
“This is not just about making money. It is about using big data to create an efficient public bus service. And it (efficiency) not only benefits the bus operators and commuters but it is also a catalyst for development,” he adds.
He says that change is inevitable. “We have to have people with the right attitude and be adept at riding the wave of change to survive.”
Chong, also the MCA Youth chairman, is also optimistic for agriculture as a sunrise sector.
He set up Koperasi Petani Muda Malaysia (KPMM) or Malaysian Young Farmers Cooperative in 2015 after he criss-crossed the country for a closer look at the farms.
“There is great potential in agriculture. Many Chinese are involved in the agriculture sector and they are plagued with huge problems,” he says, adding that KPMM offers help to farmers or those interested in the sector in four areas – land, funding, technology and marketing.
Chong also says that e-commerce is definitely the way forward.
Malaysia’s Digital Free Trade Zone – a world’s first – is set to start operations next month.
The zone offers a conducive environment for digital companies to do business.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced in March that the Government aimed to double e-commerce growth from 10.8% to 20.8% by 2020.
While MCA and the Government reach out to the public, Chong says all he asked is for the people to be receptive and positive of the road ahead, be they graduates or non-graduates.
Commenting on graduates finding it hard to get jobs these days, Chong says: “A university education does not provide you with skills that guarantee you a job of your choice.”
A degree, he says, is not a ticket to one’s dream job or a coveted lifestyle, adding that an overwhelming sense of entitlement will lead a person to nowhere either.
He says job seekers, including graduates, should grab hold of any job opportunity and see it as part of a lifelong learning journey.
A right attitude plus creativity and innovativeness is crucial, he says.
“Be a problem solver and not a complainer. Solutions for problems like traffic congestion is big business,” he says.
While complaining or whining will not lead to changes for the better, Chong says complaints very often are sparks for ideas, too.
For example, Jack Ma set up Alibaba in 1999 after businessmen from China complained of difficulties reaching out to the global market.
Chong, 43, says a futuristic outlook that can help Malaysians stay ahead is also important.
The UKM economics graduate remembers watching the science fiction film The Matrix in 1999, the year he graduated.
“The plot is no longer pure fiction these days,” he says.
This is perhaps one of the reasons for Chong, who loves reading, to rank the topic on galaxy among the favourite topics he shares with his eldest son who is eight years old.
While academic excellence is important, Chong says he and his wife Chai Yoke Shyuan want their children to grow up healthy, happy and with an all-round education and a good attitude in making the world a better place.
“I like to have conversations with my son. This is a very important interaction. He has lots of questions for me.
“My wife is more of the disciplinarian who keep tabs on his homework,” he quips.