Sunday September 9, 2012
Still the visionary
By AMINUDDIN MOHSIN
Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing shares his views on global issues affecting youth, building an innovative nation and student experiences at the university he founded.
IN most cases where a man’s name becomes a brand name, the man is bigger than the brand. Hairstyling genius Vidal Sassoon for instance.
Founder of Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing fits the same bill as his radical and far-sighted views on education have characterised his institution as an innovation university.
Ever the visionary, his insights on the constantly shifting landscape of global education are usually uncannily accurate and he is ever eager to share them.
“The youth are always looking to the future, it’s where their hearts and minds reside. They seek a place where their dreams can come true. They have a vision of the future they want and they are willing to work for it.
“So, as a society we have to engage them and provide them a means to build that future. With new technologies at our fingertips, it can be done. Change and innovation are only a button or click away,” said Lim.
He added that societal momentum towards becoming an innovation nation needs to pick up.
“We need to stop looking back into the past and start looking forward to the future instead.
“Empower our future generation and help them realise their dreams of a better future. Don’t harp too much or romanticise the past,” he said.
Lim warned that the future is a worrying prospect to the youth with unemployment becoming the world’s fastest growing concern.
In surveys, the youth have made it abundantly clear that unemployment is definitely one of their worries.
“We need to get the innovation economy up and running as quickly as possible. We have to become a talent hub that doesn’t just focus on talent retention but also looks at talent development as well.
“Future job markets will need the new jobs created through an innovation economy to cater to the influx of graduates and trained workers,” he said.
He added that industry help is required in order to efficiently move from an industrial economy to an innovation based economy.
“We have to engage industry players in our efforts to transform the economy because they understand innovation all too well.
“For them adapting to current trends and changing the way they do business is a matter of survival, and they do it everyday,” he said.
He elaborated that Malaysia needs to change its mindset on innovation, and start attracting and accommodating the best minds around the world to build their careers here.
“Globalisation is a reality. Countries with the capability to house these minds and build upon them will move forward and those that can’t will lag behind.
“The battle to secure talents will be even more competitive and aggressive in the future so we have to start now. Malaysia has the necessary capabilities to take in these brilliant minds and develop talent,” he said.
Lim cited the entertainment industry as an example of a sector that would benefit the nation greatly as a new source of income through the development of talent in the field.
“Creative industries will flourish from the transition to becoming an innovation economy. But even now, we should be building on our entertainment industry because we have a lot of great talents like Datuk Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin.
“We should use this to our advantage. Furthermore, we have a diversity of cultures here. Capitalising on this will boost the economy,” he said.
He illustrated how Limkokwing University of Creative Technology helped produce the 1Malaysia song and the designs for the national jersey.
Lim explained that time is of the essence and a more precise, measurable and concrete innovation blueprint needs to be established.
“It’s good that our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is enthusiastic about building a vibrant, creative and innovative nation, and has carried out many innovation initiatives and encouraged innovativeness across the board.
“But he can’t do it on his own, nor is he supposed to. Everyone has to pitch in and develop their own creativity and innovation in their own lives,” he said.
Lim believes that the innovation plan should encompass the whole nation; every strata of society should be involved and not just certain sectors.
“When a fisherman finds a way to fish more efficiently, he is being innovative. When a farmer figures out how to make his crops grow faster and more frequently, he is being innovative.
“Innovation is for everyone and everyone should work on it. Therefore, as a nation, we should strive for pervasive innovation that involves every citizen regardless of profession, background or creed,” he said.
This pervasive innovation also requires Malaysians to change the way in which they work and become more professional.
“Professional practice needs to be taken up by everyone in every sector but it is difficult when prowess and achievement are often left unrecognised in our work culture and society at large. We have to address this issue and start celebrating Malaysian achievements,” he said.
He stated that his staff travel to Africa and beyond to teach not only students but also trainers and teachers and it pains him to see their work go unrecognised.
“We have Malaysians who are experts in many fields, who train trainers across continents but no one knows about them.
“I hope to remedy that and commemorate Malaysians who have made their country proud,” he said.
Lim added that the university prides itself on giving its students working experiences that are as close to the real thing as possible throughout their studies and not just during internships and practical training.
“Our university receives projects from a plethora of clients from both the public and private sectors, and our students get the opportunity to work on these projects.
“They are exposed to real tasks; from designing advertisements and product packaging to writing copy and organising fashion shows,” he said.
Apart from the working exposure, studying at the university also provides an international outlook with 80% of the student population comprising international students, added Lim.
“Perspectives are exchanged constantly due to the sheer variety of cultures from Middle Eastern to Central Asian,” he said.
Lim pointed out that there needs to be a diversity in the methods used to gauge the excellence of higher education institutions.
“There must be many models of excellence; a ‘one size fits all’ gauge distorts the real picture. Academic excellence is just one model but that’s the model Malaysians are used to. Compliance and conformity isn’t excellence; you should look at learning outcomes, the faculty and job market desirability of graduates.”
Apart from its creative approach to education, its sheer mix of international students and a stalwart founder of innovative thinking, the university boasts branch campuses as far away as the United Kingdom and Botswana.
It continues to expand with plans to open more campuses at home in Kelantan and Pahang, and while most people are worried about unrest in Yemen, Lim said the university will be converting a refurbished castle in Sanaa into a branch campus.
Limkokwing University of Creative Technology is a contributor to the Star Education Fund.