Penang tech centre teaching data science & engineering

[Written in partnership with MaGIC, but the editorial team had full control over the content.]

“Did you know that on average, employers in the tech industry will need to retrain graduates for about 8 months on average before they are deemed ready for employment?” “

And that’s just one of the issues Howie Chang has identified through leadership positions during his tech career as a practitioner and responsible for recruiting in various capacities.

Nor are universities designed to change curricula, he said, and introduce new classes at the pace needed to keep up with changing industry demands, especially in the tech industry.

This leads to a significant mismatch between the skills that employers seek and those that students actually possess upon graduation.

Ultimately, new graduates, job seekers and employers big and small suffer. Knowing there was something he could do, Howie co-founded The Forward School in March 2020, headquartered in Penang.

Teach employable skills

To put it simply, the Forward School can be described as a School of Employment as a Standard, meaning that the way it teaches its students prioritizes employability.

What we mean by employability are skills that can be immediately put to use in a company, thus addressing the aforementioned problem of employers having to spend resources to retrain talent.

Seeing that this is quite a problem, I then wondered why universities didn’t seem to be doing anything about it.

Howie said: “Universities tend to focus more on research activities, as their world rankings are largely influenced by the number of articles their lecturers and professors publish in journals. “

So, unless there are major reforms across the world in the way universities are viewed, little will change. This is where Forward School comes in to make a difference.

“We are a project-oriented school and there are no big one-off reviews. Instead, you learn by doing, the fastest way to get up and running, ”Howie told Vulcan Post.

Students attending a class / Image credit: Forward School

“Second, we give them accreditation that matters. Students can earn certificates and accredited degrees in software engineering, data science, AI, etc.

According to Howie, this sets Forward School apart from typical bootcamp schools. To add, its programs cater to a wider range of students, ranging from PMS leavers to ‘lane changers’, AKA those changing careers, and even those in tech who just want to improve their skills. skills.

Forward School programs can be divided into part-time and full-time programs, with differentiated levels of complexity.

Difficulty Beginner Intermediate Advanced
Part time The Basics of Data Science Applied data science Applied deep learning
Full time Applied software engineering

Part-time programs run for 2 months each and students can take them on campus or online, subject to course plans.

Meanwhile, the Applied Software Engineering program spans 2 years and is a Level 4 accredited degree under Jabatan Pembangunan Kemahiran (JPK), approved by the Ministry of Human Resources Malaysia.

As a partner of Forward School with 8 other universities in Malaysia, students can also continue their education to earn a 3-year degree in a relevant field through a credit transfer or the Experiential Learning Accreditation Path (APEL ).

Guarantee jobs upon graduation

Another thing that stood out to me about Forward School was its applied software engineering degree.

While students can choose to pay the full course fee per semester, other funding options are available:

  • ‍ Income Sharing Agreement (ISA): Advanced registration deposit (3,000 RM), tuition fee RM0 + 15% of gross income for 120 months‍;
  • Education Loan by ECM Libra: Advanced registration deposit (3000 RM), tuition fee RM0 + 0% interest and repayment for 60 months‍;
  • Student sponsorship program: RM0 + Tuition Fee Linked with the sponsoring company upon completion of graduation.

What I found interesting was the third option above: a company sponsoring a student’s apprenticeship. My question to Howie then was how does that differ from a company that has to retrain talent while paying their salary? What prompts a company to sponsor a student?

“The difference lies in building a pool of talent that is both scalable and sustainable. Our recruiting partners who work with us take this seriously and understand the need to nurture and develop their talent pool early on, ”Howie replied.

“Sponsoring companies have access to their talents from the start, and due to the structure of our program, students work with their company once a week (full day) from year 1, semester 2 and up. “

By the time they graduate, they will be more than ready to enter the relevant job market. This is a clear example of the practice of Employment as a Standard of Forward School.

In fact, Forward School is so confident in its ability to prepare students for the job market in all of its programs, to the point that it offers guaranteed employment around the world.

“Tuition fees are refunded if a student does not find a job within 6 months of graduation,” Howie said.

That guarantee aside, this model of having companies sponsoring students who will join them after graduation is similar to how 42 KL works, with the main difference being its particular emphasis on coding skills.

Changing the educational landscape

Since opening its doors at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has trained more than 300 students in all of its programs, and Howie was proud to share that they also have more than 25 hiring partners on board.

Co-living and co-working space is available at the center, so students from other states have accommodation options, albeit limited. Thus, Forward School’s online learning capabilities fill the gaps.

Right now, the bulk of their students is made up of lane changers and corporate clients, but with accreditation of their Applied Software Engineering program, Howie expects significant growth as they will reach more SPM leavers.

In the future, Howie hopes that Forward School can also have an impact on students outside Malaysia and that their growth will be supported by MaGIC.

The Forward School team / Image credit: Forward School

Howie and MaGIC actually go back to when he was a consultant at InvestPenang after returning from an 18-year stay in Singapore.

Since then he has witnessed the agency’s impact on our local startup ecosystem, and with Forward School being part of Cohort 5 of the Global Accelerator Program (GAP), he can experience it firsthand. .

Through this, he is connected with like-minded founders and mentors, who have all refined his startup’s positioning and increased his confidence in running Forward School.

Much of the current model of higher education needs to change. The reality in today’s digital world is that we need to teach each generation how to learn, unlearn and relearn quickly so that they can transform the future of work, rather than being transformed by it. [These are] pain points that those of us in education and beyond might face.

Howie Chang, co-founder of Forward School.

  • You can read more about Forward School here.
  • You can read more content on education startups here.

Featured Image Credit: School Before

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