IF you’ve just graduated with a diploma or bachelor’s degree, there are many apprenticeship programmes available to kick-start your career.

An apprenticeship programme offers on-the-job training for those entering the workforce. It also helps individuals to put their academic skills to practical use in the workplace.

Such programmes help fresh graduates acquire the skills and knowledge to succeed in the industry; they earn while they learn on-the-job; get access to mentors; and gain confidence as well as a career path advantage.

They may be hired by the company depending on their performance during their apprenticeship.

Most of apprentice programmes involve working full-time and on a rotational basis, from department to department.

Normally a two-year programme, it varies with companies and one will be deployed to a department based on one’s credentials and strength, as revealed by the apprenticeship programme.

Apprenticeship programmes provide a springboard to a future career.

In Malaysia, there are various apprenticeship programmes such as Digi CXO Apprentice Programme, Global Maybank Apprentice Programme (GMAP) and Cement Industries of Malaysia (CIMA) Technical Apprenticeship Programme (TAP) and CIMB Fusion Programme.

The Digi CXO Apprentice Programme is the career kick-starter that has successfully shaped aspiring talent into potential leaders across the divisions of the company.

This year, seven apprentices were selected from a more diverse pool of candidates for a full-year mentorship programme with top management team members from Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd.

GMAP is a specially designed two-year on-the-job rotation programme which includes a three-month international assignment to encourage cross-border exposure and networking among young talents.

Targeting chemical, mechanical and electrical engineering graduates from local and international universities, TAP is an intensive three-year programme on the cement production process at a plant.

It is designed to help graduates chart a career in the cement industry, specifically in cement production technology.

The CIMB Fusion programme with PricewaterhouseCoopers is a four-year joint employment programme designed to give fresh graduates a unique opportunity to gain work experience in banking while also working towards their professional accounting qualifications.

Higher Ed speaks to apprentices from these programmes on their experiences and aspirations.

BUILDING THE FOUNDATION

NINE months ago, Henry Low, 21, applied for the GMAP.

The Bachelor of Business Accounting, Banking and Finance graduate from Monash University saw a great opportunity to develop leadership skills, build a strong foundation in the banking sector, as well as get mentored by some of the best talent in the industry.

“The company looks for candidates who are resilient, adaptive and innovative, and who value integrity.

“I believe I meet those criteria and I’m open to learning new things during my apprenticeship,” said Low.

The programme has exposed him to all aspects of the banking industry and provided him with the chance to specialise in his division of choice, investment banking.

He added that he has been privileged to have a great mentor to advise him and help him to grow.

“To be successful in any industry, you have to be able to work independently and take the initiative. For example, I familiarise myself with the work of the team members and offer to fill in if they need to prioritise another project.

“Working in a team allows me to accomplish more than I can on my own. However, it is important to understand the dynamics of the team and the difference in character and views of others.

“The important attributes of a good team player are communication, empathy and selflessness.”

The opportunity to play a meaningful role within the team motivates Low to work hard for its success.

“To cope under pressure I try to stay focused on the task at hand, and take a breather every so often.”

Low aspires to take on more responsibilities and fill a leadership role in the next three to five years.

EXPLORING CAREER OPTIONS

FOR Athirah Azmi, 24, the GMAP allows her to learn about different divisions of the bank.

“It does not only allow me to explore career options but it is also a platform to network with like-minded peers both within the programme and the company.

“The apprenticeship has helped me to shape my career path. Joining the bank after graduation, I wasn’t sure of the area I would like to work in and GMAP allowed me to explore options,” said the International Studies and Political Science degree holder from the University of Chicago in the United States.”

She added: “A good apprentice is driven, passionate, eager to learn and ambitious.

“One needs to be a good team player and produce an outcome greater than what can be achieved individually. It means knowing and playing to each member’s strengths.”

For Athirah, a good team player has respect for others, is a good listener and works within the deadline.

She uses stress as a motivation to strive forward.

“I make a plan with a timeline. Each task lists out what needs to be done. It helps when I know exactly what I have to do.”

In three years, she hopes to climb the career ladder as a senior executive/analyst or assistant manager.

HONING SKILLS

Digi CXO apprentice Andrea Ong, 23, prides herself on trying new things and is hungry to learn from a mentor.

“The programme taught me to cope under pressure — take a step back and look at a situation objectively to derive an unbiased and rational solution.

“If we subconsciously channel our negative emotions and frustrations when making decisions under pressure, it may worsen the problem and potentially cause conflict.

“So, I always try to remain calm and composed while under stress,” said Ong.

As Digi’s digital learning academy offers tech nano degrees to help employees learn new skills, Ong pursued a mobile development course while working as a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) Apprentice.

“I spent my weekends on the course. It was challenging to juggle both work and studies but, with hindsight, it was worth it.

“It is great that Digi spends its resources to encourage personal development,” she added.

“The mobile development course has proven useful in my role in product development at the venture-building arm Digi-X.”

Ong, who graduated from the University of West England in International Business and Marketing, learnt design out of curiosity and the desire to express her creativity at university.

“As an apprentice, I use both my business acumen and design skills to generate ideas.”

She believes an apprentice should be innovative, dare to try new things and challenge the status quo.

Mentored by chief digital officer Praveen Rajan himself, Ong would very much like to sow the seeds of leadership in the next generation of apprentices by being a leader herself.

“Apart from being a good employee, I want to inspire people to chase their goals in life.”

Crediting her improved communication skills to her mentor and seniors at work, she said she is pleased with her progress although there is plenty of room for improvement.

DIRECT EXPOSURE

AFTER returning from studies in the United States, Khaled Amru Ambok Chening, 25, researched into companies which he could not only contribute to but also grow in.

He was drawn to the Digi CXO Apprentice programme, as unlike most management trainee initiatives, its participants shadow a CXO (chief executive officer) rather than follow a rotation in the company.

“I’ve always been keen on empowerment and nurturing an innovative mindset among Malaysian youth, and the apprenticeship gives me the freedom to inspire the next digital experiences for, hopefully, millions in the country,” said the graduate in International Business from San Francisco State University in the US.

“The programme offers exposure to high-level decision-making,” said Khaled, adding that the company understands that the value of an individual does not solely depend on academic capabilities, but rather how he expresses himself, steps up to challenges and understands that a brilliant idea can come from the most unexpected places.

“Digi looks for a well-rounded individual, one who is motivated to inspire others and generate innovative ideas in an everyday business environment while always seeking to challenge others as well as himself.

“The programme has brought about in me new aspirations and values by offering a window into the business environment.

“I really enjoy the innovative culture here at Digi, and I hope to help nurture the same environment at educational institutions nationwide.

“I’ve always seen myself as doing something that benefits the community, particularly youth and the underprivileged in the country.

“Hopefully, in three to five years, I will be involved in projects relating to enhancing education in rural communities through technology or paving a digital pathway for future leaders from universities and schools in the nation.

“I believe that through education and freedom to voice out within communities, innovation and progress follow.”

GAINING TECHNICAL ABILIITES

CIMA TAP production engineer Atifah Hazirah Rosly, 23, walks around the cement plant when under stress in order to get a fresh perspective.

“When I am faced with a difficult task, I divide it into sections and complete it one at a time.

“By doing so, I find it more effective and less time-consuming. Working in a team means putting aside personal goals and working well with the others to strive for a common aim.

“It requires effective communication while recognising everyone’s views. A good team

player is committed, reliable and communicates well. These attributes are important in

developing positive work relationships,” said Atifah Hazirah.

A chemical engineering graduate from the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus, Atifah Hazirah applied for the apprenticeship programme as it is a great way to get a headstart in the field.

“The structured programme, which includes on-the-job training and mentorship, not only teaches theory but also lets me practise.

“As a young professional, I can use this opportunity to develop my skills in a challenging environment.”

SUBJECT MATTER EXPERT

Mohamad Zaid Shamsudin, 26, believes an apprenticeship programme is a good platform to acquire both technical and leadership skills as it offers hands-on as well as soft skills training.

These abilities are vital for young graduates such as him to become a great player in the workplace.

Mohamad Zaid, who is undergoing CIMA TAP, said: “The programme equips me with the knowledge, skills and values to excel in the working world.

“It is another step in my career pathway as it imparts important skills which add value in becoming a successful process engineer.”

He added: “An apprentice should have high self-esteem, the ability to multi-task with minimum supervision, great communication skills, agility, passion for knowledge and flexibility.”

The degree holder in chemical and process engineering from Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam sees himself as a process/production engineer specialising in pyro-processing with accredited certificates in manufacturing engineering.

Eventually he wants to manage a team and become a subject matter expert in troubleshooting technical problems.

‘oNE OPPORTUNITY, TWO EXPERIENCES’

Group strategy assistant manager Vincent Lee Ko Meng at CIMB Group joined the CIMB Fusion programme with PricewaterhouseCoopers (a four-year joint employment programme), because of the opportunities to venture into different industries through a series of rotations at both institutions.

The “one opportunity, two experiences” idea to work for both institutions over the span of four years attracted him.

“On top of that, I want to pursue the ICAEW Chartered Accountant qualification and the programme provided the avenue to do so,” said Lee.

“I work independently at all times. It doesn’t mean working in isolation — I have a view in relation to my work but seek counsel when facing challenges.

“The programme has taught me many things but the two key takeaways are resilience and adaptability in any environment.”

While training to be a chartered accountant can be challenging, both institutions provide him with on-the-job experience to fulfil his training requirements.

“At the same time, mentorship is important to management trainees.”

For Melissa Mohd Sahril, a relationship manager at CIMB commercial banking division, who has undergone the CIMB The Complete Banker programme, one of the perks of the course is the presence of more than one mentor, who provides advice and insights gained through the years.

“The bank looks for apprentices with leadership potential because the programme essentially acts as a platform to groom them to helm organisations.

“It acts as a bridge between university and work life,” said Melissa.

“The assignments across the banking

group, including a three-month regional attachment with CIMB Niaga in Indonesia,

not only allowed me to understand it as a

whole via the synergy of different departments but also gave me the chance to work alongside and learn from experienced leaders in the region.”

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