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Service professionals still relevant

08 Apr 2021 / 11:27 H.

Industrialisation has historically been a principal vehicle for economic development of many advanced economies.

Malaysia is no exception that visualises industrialisation as a catalyst for economic development.

In his book on The Conditions of Economic Progress published in 1960, Professor Collin Clark predicted that a nation would pass through three stages of economic progress.

As he wrote, “... as time goes on and communities become more economically advanced, the numbers engaged in agriculture tend to decline relative to the numbers in manufacture, which in their turn decline, relative to the numbers engaged in service”.

So far, the Malaysian economic progress has fitted well with Clark’s proposition. The period between 1958 and 1970 saw the dominance of the agriculture sector, which contributed to Malaysia’s economic development.

During this period, the Import Substitution Industrialisation where the agricultural sector had been the pillar of economic with around 30% employment opportunities, were created as compared with manufacturing of between 10-15%.

However, the contribution of employment in agriculture decreased to 14% in 2010 and further decreased to 10% in 2020.

In reverse, the employment opportunities in manufacturing increased substantially from around 10% in 1965 to 30% in year 2000.

This is due to government initiatives taken to encourage the export-oriented industries.

This strategy was embodied in the five-year development plans, which started with the Second Malaysia Plan (1971-75).

The contribution of employment in manufacturing somehow decreased and stabilised at around 26-27% in 2020.

Today, the biggest contributor of employment is the service sector where it rose from 40% in1970 to 63% in 2020.

The setting up of the regional economic corridors such as Iskandar Malaysia, Northern Corridor Economic Region, Sabah Development Corridor, East Coast Economic Region, and Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy have revolutionised the industrial landscape of Malaysia towards an integrated production and service-based economy.

Job opportunities in this sector is expected to dominate the other sectors in years to come, particularly when these economic corridors reach their maturity stage.

No wonder many institutions of higher learning in the country offered similar programmes such as business, accounting, hospitality, culinary arts, healthcare and the like, to accommodate the increasing demands of the workforce within this sector over the last decade. Berjaya University College (BUC) is no exception.

With service-focused programmes such as business management, supply chain, retail, hospitality and tourism, as well as culinary arts offered by BUC over the past decade, it certainly contributes to human capital development for the service sector.

Those who are involved in this field can be associated as service professionals. Of course, they need to possess customer-focused characteristics in addition to technical capabilities, such as showing signs of gratitude, observing small things that might be big to customers, effective communication, attentive listening, be humble, delivering the promise, and so on.

This is among BUC’s agenda to produce competent service professionals, which will ultimately contribute to GDP growth for the service sector.

In fact, wherever there are people who need services in any form, there you will find service professionals, that is, individuals who are committed to providing services in any field of business.

Service jobs are embedded in institutions around the world. Service professionals work in hotels, hospitals, schools, government organisations, or even in private organisations. Depending on the job arrangement, job titles and tasks vary.

However, the main purpose of a service professional is to help individuals get the services they need.

In the context of BUC, we offer academic programmes that produce service professionals, particularly in the areas of hospitality and tourism, culinary business, as well as business management, retail and communications.

Here, besides the technical courses that students have to master, they are also exposed to modules that make them ready to serve people who need services, such as Personal and Team Development Skills, Professional Development Skills, as well as Professional Services.

Particularly for professional services course, students will acquire and demonstrate essential professional service attributes like prioritising the job at hand, life-long learning, personal appearance, autonomy, creativity and emotional self/other-awareness.

The course will help them balance these and related professional demands effectively while working in the interest of clients, customers, guests, diners, accounts, visitors, end users and the like.

Back to the topic “Are service professionals really in demand now”, I think they are.

The experience of many developed countries, which were once heavily dependent on the manufacturing sector as a source of employment for their population, now employment in the service sector is a major contributor. Our country has been on that brink, as discussed with its statistics above.

Therefore, I am confident service professionals are relevant and will lead the country’s job market in line with Professor Collin Clark’s proposition over six decades ago.

Dr Ahmad Othman is Berjaya University College Poly-Tech professor. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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