Evaluating the Soft Skills Performed by Applicants of Malaysian Engineers

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1 Available olie at Procedia - Social ad Behavioral Scieces 60 ( 2012 ) UKM Teachig ad Learig Cogress 2011 Evaluatig the Soft Skills Performed by Applicats of Malaysia Egieers Azami Zaharim a,*, Ibrahim Ahmad b, Yuzaiee Md Yusoff b,c, Mohd Zaidi Omar c, Hassa Basri c a Head Cetre for Egieerig Educatio Research, Faculty of Egieerig ad Built Eviromet, Uiversiti Kebagsaa Malaysia b College of Egieerig, Uiversiti Teaga Nasioal (UNITEN), Malaysia c Cetre for Egieerig Educatio Research, Faculty of Egieerig ad Built Eviromet, Uiversiti Kebagsaa Malaysia Abstract The paper proposed a formula to calculate the soft skills performed by egieerig graduates. The equatio derived from a fidig of survey o employers preferece for employability skills. The iput collected from a sample of 301 egieerig idustries employers from twelve atures of busiess located i Kelag Valley. The survey addressed a umber of questios related to the level of requiremet of egieerig employability skills accordig to their idustry s eeds. The fidigs i terms of skills developmet derived differeces weight amog the skills required by the idustries. This study focuses o soft skills valued by employers that slightly higher tha techical skills for egieerig professioals. The paper has a suggestio for employers ad udergraduates o measurig the soft skills performed by youg graduates. Furthermore, employers facig evaluatio quality assessmet might fid this approach provides useful evidece for the assessmet process to the job iterviewed cadidate Published Published by by Elsevier Elsevier Ltd. Ltd. Selectio Selectio ad/or ad/or peer peer reviewed reviewed uder uder resposibility resposibility of the UKM of the Teachig UKM Teachig ad ad Learig Learig Cogress Cogress Ope access uder CC BY-NC-ND licese. Keywords: Egieerig graduates; employers; soft skills; employability skills; measuremet 1. Itroductio Today, every ew graduate requires employability skills to succeed. Leaders i govermet are callig for ew graduates to demostrate mastery of employability skills such as commuicatio skills, teamwork, problem solvig ad decisio makig skills. They wated the ewly graduates be able to kow-how to solve real-world problems. Cosequetly, higher educatio provider eed to esure that all graduates are qualified to succeed i work ad life i this ew era of the global ecoomy (Zaharim et al. 2010). Higher educatio provider, employers ad govermet eed to have a commo uderstadig of set of skills should be owed by egieerig graduates. As a result, several studies ad projects had bee coducted to fid this set of employability skills ad preseted a few umbers of * Correspodig author. Tel.: ; fax: address: Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selectio ad/or peer reviewed uder resposibility of the UKM Teachig ad Learig Cogress 2011 Ope access uder CC BY-NC-ND licese. doi: /j.sbspro

2 Azami Zaharim et al. / Procedia - Social ad Behavioral Scieces 60 ( 2012 ) frameworks related to employability skills (DEST 2002; Zaharim et al. 2009; Zaharim et al. 2010). I EDUCON2010, Zaharim et al. (2010) proposed a framework of egieerig employability skills for Malaysia amely Malaysia Egieerig Employability Skills (MEES). The framework shows a itegrated of techical ad otechical skills that comply with the requiremet of accreditatio body ad employers eeds. However, stadig i the way of itegratig such skills is about measuremet. The measurig skills are difficult, ad differet defiitios ad methods have bee used (Borghas et al. 2001). Measurig a studet s kowledge is discrete facts but measurig a studet s skills ad ability to apply kowledge is ambiguous situatios. Therefore, this study itet to develop a formulatio to measure skills based o the criteria preseted i MEES (Zaharim et al. 2010) ad the fidig i a study coducted by Yuzaiee et al. (2011). 2. Literature Review The employability skills refer to the required skills to acquire, keep ad doig well o a job (Robiso 2000). Skill is a ability to perform a specific task (DEST, 2006) ad employability is about havig the capability to gai iitial employmet, maitai employmet ad obtai ew employmet if required (Hillage, 1998). Liz Reiser explaied that there is a way to measure some of these skills (Elea, 2009). He said that it might be possible to assess decisio-makig skills by aalyzig the middle school participats selectio of high-quality college preparatory high schools. A report by Elea Silva, a Seior Policy Aalyst, revealed that the skills "ca be measured accurately ad i a commo ad comparable way" (Elea, 2009). Studies o employability skills differed with regards to direct or idirect measuremet deped o occupatioal title, qualificatio ad level of educatio, years of work experiece ad umbers of traiig (Ashto & Gree, 1996). Measurig the scores of the employability skills is subjective ad depeds o the perceptio of evaluators. The employability scores are determied by the particular combiatio of soft skills, ad by the persoal kowledge of the idividuals. 3. Methodology The data used i this study is a part of the data collected from egieerig idustries i the Kelag Valley, Malaysia for idetifyig employability skills of egieerig graduates i Malaysia. The survey focuses o techical ad soft (otechical) skills i a egieerig disciplie (Yuzaiee et al. 2010). I this paper, the focus is o data that were obtaied from questioaires regardig the level of requiremet of otechical/ soft skills. The resposes were collected from 301 out of a radom sample of 500 potetial employers of egieerig graduates aroud Kelag valley, Malaysia i September 2009 to Jauary The soft skills selected for statistical testig i this study are the soft skills required i the relevat literature (DEST 2002; Lee 2003; Hassa et al. 2006; Zaharim et al. 2009; Zaharim et al. 2010). There were fifty attributes used to examie the required employability skills as valued by employers whe hirig fresh egieerig graduates. These fifty attributes grouped ito te skills that are commuicatio skills (EES1), teamwork (EES2), lifelog learig (EES3), professioalism (EES4), problem solvig ad decisio-makig skills (EES5), competet i the applicatio ad practice (EES6), kowledge of sciece ad egieerig priciples (EES7), kowledge of cotemporary issues (EES8), egieerig system approach (EES9) ad competet i specific egieerig disciplie (EES10) (Zaharim et al. 2010). Based o previous study, the tagible skills such as EES1, EES2, EES3, EES4 ad EES5 are defied as soft skills ad the other are techical skills (DEST 2002; Lee 2003; Hassa et al. 2006; Zaharim et al. 2009). The respodets were high-rak officers i the compaies to assure accurate results. They were divided i six levels of positio i the orgaisatio, ad twelve types of idustry s ature of busiess as preseted i Table 1. Data collected were through face-to-face iterviews, telephoe iterviews, ad sow-ball samplig. About 337 out of 500 egieerig s employers respoded ad oly 301 usable resposes were aalyzed. The data collected was aalyzed usig basic statistical method to preset profile of respodets ivolved i this study.

3 524 Azami Zaharim et al. / Procedia - Social ad Behavioral Scieces 60 ( 2012 ) Table 1. Profile of respodets based o positio i compay ad ature of busiess. Nature Chairma Chief Officer Director Maager Seior Egieer Others Total % N N N N N N N N N N N N Total % N1 Healthcare ad Social; N2 Leisure ad Etertaimet; N3 Educatio; N4 Commerce,Trade ad Fiace; N5 Commuicatios ad IT; N6 Defece ad Security; N7 Trasport; N8 Agriculture ad Food; N9 Egieered Materials; N10 Eergy ad Natural Resources; N11 Built Eviromet; N12 Cosultig. The questioaire requires respodets to assess quatitatively o the level of requiremet of each idetified skill that should be owed by egieerig graduates. Each skill was measured usig a five-poit Likert scale represetig differet level of requiremet of skills. The resposes 1 idicates Extremely Not Required, 2 idicates Not Required, 3 idicates Slightly Required, 4 idicates Required ad 5 idicates Extremely Required. The weight, Normalised Skill Weight (NSW), idex ad level of requiremet of skills were aalyzed usig the multi-attribute value techique (MAVT) adapted from Fishbur (1967) da Keeey ad Raiffa (1976). The result has bee preseted i EDUCON2011 as show i Appedix. This paper is a extesio of the study preseted i EDUCON2011 (Yuzaiee et al. 2011) with the itetio to proposed a ew mathematical formula to measure the soft skills idetified i the study preseted i EDUCON2010 (Zaharim et al. 2010). 4. Data Aalysis ad Computatio of Results The NSW of five soft skills (coded EES1-EES5) calculated usig the weight of skills obtaied from a report preseted by Yuzaiee et al. (2011). The NSW determied by Equatio 1, adopted from Fishbur (1967) da Keeey ad Raiffa (1976). To evaluate the score for egieerig job applicat, Equatio 2 was derived usig NSW. NSW where NSW - Normalised Skill Weight X - Weight of skill i - Number of skills (i = 5) - th term i X 1 X x 100 (1)

4 Azami Zaharim et al. / Procedia - Social ad Behavioral Scieces 60 ( 2012 ) Employability Score V* S i 1 where V - Value of Normalised Skill Weight S - Score of skill obtai by applicat (Mark/50) i - Number of skills (i = 5) - th term (2) For this study, the calculatio usig Equatio 2 illustrated as followig: Employability Score = (20.5) S 1 + (20.4) S 2 + (19.4) S 3 + (19.9) S 4 + (19.8) S 5 Table 2 shows a example of employability score obtaied by three applicats usig Equatio 2 compared to percetage ad average score. Table 2. Example of score for three applicats Skills Code Weight NSW Full marks Cadidate 1 Cadidate 2 Cadidate 3 Commuicatio skills EES1(S1) Teamwork EES2(S2) Lifelog Learig EES3(S3) Professioalism EES4(S4) Problem solvig ad decisio EES5(S5) makig skills Percetage / Average Results ad Discussio The evaluators of job iterview judge the cadidate accordig to a differet level of preferece (1-50 poits). Accordig to Rya& Hughes (1997) ad agreed by Vick & Scott (1998) that the level of preferece should be realistic ad iformative to make it competitive choices. I additio, the rage of levels of preferece should provide eough variatio. The positive level of preferece should be used because it does ot seem reasoable for cadidates with egative levels of prefereces. Table 2 shows the example of employability score for five soft skills owed by three cadidates. Total mark, percetage, ad mea score are equal for these three cadidates though they have differet abilities. Equatio 2, the equatio for employability score gives differet value for these three cadidates based o the coefficiets of NSW assiged to each skill. The coefficiet shows that commuicatio skills (20.5) are the skill with the strogest effect o the cadidates, ad it cosidered beig most ifluetial ad required skills for the cadidates. Based o the coefficiets of NSW, teamwork skills raked as secod, ad professioalism as third required skills, while problem solvig ad decisio-makig skills are relative the least importat for the cadidate of egieer professioals. The example illustrated i Table 2 shows that Cadidate 3 is the first choice followed by Cadidate 1 as a secod choice to succeed i a job iterview. Cadidate 3 shows better competecies i commuicatio skills ad teamwork compared to the other two cadidates. This gives him better opportuity to succeed i the iterview.

5 526 Azami Zaharim et al. / Procedia - Social ad Behavioral Scieces 60 ( 2012 ) Coclusio Previous studies o employability skills cofirmed the sigificat of techical ad otechical skills (DEST 2002; Lee 2003; DEST 2006; Hassa et al. 2006; Zaharim et al. 2009; Zaharim et al. 2010; Yuzaiee et al. 2011). Soft skills are close related to skills required i various idustries icludig egieerig sector. Well-performed skills are the sellig values/attributes that employers lookig for i the egieerig etry level jobs. This study cotributes to the discussio o the measuremet of soft skills durig the job iterview i egieerig sector. The fidig shows that employers i the egieerig firm seem to be more iterested i graduates who ca commuicate well ad work i group effectively. They believed lifelog learig is less required tha the other four skills sice the skills ca be obtaied through job traiig. These results ca be expected as employer sped most of their time dealig with employees, for which excellet commuicatio skills are essetial. Egieerig graduates eed to realise that havig a good degree is o loger sets them apart from other cadidates i today s job hutig. Graduates must be able to market themselves by performig good soft skills as well techical skills. Ackowledgemet We would like to thak UKM for providig the research grat (UKM-GUP-NBT ad UKM-OUP-NBT /2011). Refereces Ashto, D. N., & Gree, F. (1996). Educatio, traiig ad the global ecoomy. Chelteham: Edward Elgar. Borghas, L., Gree, F., & Mayhew, K.. (2001). Skills Measuremet ad Ecoomic Aalysis: A Itroductio. Oxford Ecoomic Papers, 53(3), DEST. (2002). Employability skills for Australia idustry: literature review ad framework developmet. Employability skills for the future, a report by the Australia Chamber of Commerce ad Idustry ad the Busiess Coucil of Australia for the Departmet of Educatio, Sciece ad Traiig, Caberra. DEST. (2006). Employability skills from framework to practice, a itroductory guide for traiers ad assessors, a report by the Australia Chamber of Commerce ad Idustry ad the Busiess Coucil of Australia for the Departmet of Educatio, Sciece ad Traiig, Caberra. Elea Silva. (2009). Measurig Skills for 21st-Cetury Learig. Phi Delta Kappa, 90 (09), Fishbur, P.C., (1967). Methods of estimatig additive utilities. Maagemet Sciece, 13(7) Hassa Basri, Mohd Zaidi Omar, Zaiai Mohamed, Abag Abdullah Abag Ali, Badrulhisham Abdul Aziz, Abdul Hamid Hamido, Zaidi Mohd Ripi, Nik Abdullah Nik Mohamad da Azmi Hassa. (2006). The Future of Egieerig Educatio i Malaysia, Miistry of Higher Educatio, Malaysia. ISBN , Book. September Hillage, J. ad Pollard, E., (1998). Employability: Developig a Framework for Policy Aalysis, Research Report No. RR85, Departmet for Educatio ad Employmet (DfEE), Lodo. Keeey, R. L. ad Raiffa, H. (1976). Decisios with multiple objectives: Prefereces ad value tradeoffs. Wiley, New York. Lee Fui Tog. (2003). Idetifyig essetial learig skills i studets egieerig educatio, Moash Uiversity Malaysia. caterbury.ac.z/herdsa03/pdfsref / Y1111. pdf. Rya, M., & Hughes, J.. (1997). Usig cojoit aalysis to assess wome s prefereces for miscarriage maagemet. Health Ecoomics, 6, Robiso J.P.. (2000). What Are Employability Skills? Commuity Workforce Developmet Specialist, Alabama Cooperative Extesio System, 1(3) Vick, S., & Scott, A., (1998). Agecy i health care. Examiig patiet s prefereces for attributes of the doctor patiet relatioship. Joural of Health Ecoomics, 17, Yuzaiee M.Y., Omar M.Z., Zaharim A. (2011). Employability Skills for a Etry-Level Egieer as see by Malaysia Employers. IEEE EDUCON Educatio Egieerig 2011 Learig Eviromets ad Ecosystems i Egieerig Educatio. Amma/Jorda. Zaharim A., Md Yusoff Y., Omar M.Z., Mohamed A., Muhamad N., Mustapha R. (2009). Egieerig Employability Skills Required By Employers I Asia. 6th WSEAS Iteratioal Coferece o ENGINEERING EDUCATION (EE 09), Rodos, Greece, (pp ).

6 Azami Zaharim et al. / Procedia - Social ad Behavioral Scieces 60 ( 2012 ) Zaharim, A., Omar, M.Z., Yusoff, Y.M., Muhamad, N., Mohamed, A., Mustapha, R.. (2010). Practical Framework of Employability Skills for Egieerig Graduate i Malaysia. IEEE EDUCON Educatio Egieerig 2010 The Future of Global Learig Egieerig Educatio. Madrid/Spai14-16 April Appedix: Level of requiremet of each employability skills Skills Criteria No. Skills ad Criteria Mea Weight Idex Rak EES1 Commuicatio skills [1] 1.1 Speak i clear seteces Give clear directio Liste ad ask questio Preset ideas cofidetly ad effectively Uderstad ad speak Eglish ad other laguages EES2 Teamwork [2] 2.1 Fuctio effectively as a idividual Uderstad the role i a group Fuctio effectively i a group as a team member Accept ad provide feedback i costructive ad cosiderate maer. (Formig, stormig, performig, adjourig) 2.5 Work i a group with the capacity to be a leader EES3 Lifelog Learig [7] 3.1 Recogize the eed to udertake lifelog learig Possess ad acquire the capacity to udertake lifelog learig Egage i lifelog learig Set their persoal learig targets Pla i achievig their learig goal(s) EES4 Professioalism [3] 4.1 Uderstad the social resposibilities. (huma factors ad social issues) 4.2 Uderstad the cultural ad global resposibilities. (Awareess o cultural ad ature surroudig) 4.3 Uderstad the evirometal resposibilities. (Aware of evirometal eeds) 4.4 Commit to professioal resposibilities. (Be professioal as a Egieer). 4.5 Commit to ethical resposibilities. (Be accoutable for their actios) EES5 Problem solvig ad decisio makig skills [4] 5.1 Udertake problem idetificatio. (idetify problem i work place) 5.2 Implemet problem solvig. (use experieces to solve problem) Apply formulatio ad solutio. (use sciece, mathematics or techology to solve problem) 5.4 Be creative, iovative ad see differet poits of view i solvig problems. 5.5 Idetify the root cause of the problems EES6 Competecy [5] 6.1 Use the ecessary techiques for egieerig practice Use the ecessary skills for egieerig practice Use the moder egieerig tools ad software Work toward quality stadards ad specificatios Assemble equipmet followig writte directios

7 528 Azami Zaharim et al. / Procedia - Social ad Behavioral Scieces 60 ( 2012 ) Skills Criteria No. Skills ad Criteria Mea Weight Idex Rak EES7 Kowledge of sciece ad egieerig priciples [6] 7.1 Cotiue to acquire kowledge of scieces ad egieerig fudametals. 7.2 Apply the kowledge of egieerig fudametals Select ad use proper tools ad equipmets for particular job/task Access, aalyse ad apply skills ad kowledge of sciece ad egieerig. 7.5 Uderstad priciples of sustaiable desig ad developmet EES8 Kowledge of cotemporary issues [8] 8.1 Cotiue learig idepedetly i the acquisitio of ew kowledge, skills ad techologies. 8.2 Use iformatio techologies. (Computers, etworks ad electroic) 8.3 Use commuicatio techologies i the kowledge-based era Use computig techologies Read ews paper EES9 Egieerig system approach [10] 9.1 Utilize a systems approach to desig operatioal performace Utilize a systems approach to evaluate operatioal performace Desig systematically Aalyse egieerig desig Demostrate a kowledge ad uderstadig of egieerig system for maagemet ad busiess practices EES10 Competet i specific egieerig disciplie [9] 10.1 Cotiue to acquire i-depth techical competece i a specific egieerig disciplie. (electrical, highway, structure etc) 10.2 Apply techical skills i a specific egieerig disciplie effectively 10.3 Desig ad coduct experimets Aalyse ad iterpret data Apply kowledge i multidiscipliary egieerig Total requiremet of employability skills 40.6

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