A study of manpower planning and occupational expectations of vocational stream students in Malaysia
Although manpower and educational planning have been used in Malaysia for a considerable time to ensure an adequate supply of qualified manpower for the economy, the problem of skilled manpower shortages still persists. Estimated employment targets forecasted by planners to meet the economic needs of the country often clash with the needs and capabilities of vocational students who are seeking employment in the labour market. These students face the problem of occupational choices. Sometimes their occupational preferences tend to be far removed from the demand of the country's manpower needs, resulting in shortages and surpluses in certain occupational categories. The upwardly distorted, educational system, the narrow range of available careers, inadequate careers information and limited careers guidance have frequently been cited as reasons why vocational stream students manifest these unrealistic career ambitions. A study of vocational stream students' occupational expectations could generate a wide range of information for formulating appropriate policies for the development of the vocational education system and the labour market. Unfortunately, despite the usefulness of such information, there is a paucity of research in this area. In view of the above, the study was formulated to achieve the following objectives: 1) to concentrate on the extent to which students of vocational schools are aware of national manpower needs and how their occupational expectations relate to them; 2) to explore the extent to which factors other than manpower needs may affect students' occupational expectations; 3) to investigate the role played by careers guidance in the vocational school in helping students to make their occupational decisions; 4) to acquire an understanding of the role of the technical and vocational education planners in relation to the way manpower and educational planning has developed and operates. To explore possible explanations for the persistence of manpower needs and students' occupational expectations, two kinds of data were used: sample surveys and interview data. A total of 420 Form V vocational stream students were surveyed. The interviews were conducted with three groups of key informants: 28 vocational stream students, 3 careers guidance and counselling teachers and 4 technical and vocational education planners. The analysis of the data confirms that: 1) a majority of vocational stream students were unaware of the country's skilled manpower requirements although there were efforts made by the schools to help them prepare for future occupations; 2) vocational stream students' occupational expectations were often not in accordance with the country's skilled manpower requirements. Vocational students' occupational expectations were unrealistic. Students tend to place priority on their own individual needs rather than being influenced by the occupational structure of the country; 3) except for job security and parents, other factors that affected vocational stream students' choice of expected occupations were not dominant. However, students' occupational expectations were negatively related to their fathers' present occupations; 4) the vocational course specialisation was a significant determinant in selecting expected occupations of vocational stream students, however, these did not make them renounce other occupations; 5) male vocational stream students were more likely to exhibit extrinsic reasons for job expectations than were vocational stream female students who showed a marked preference for people-oriented aspects of occupational expectations; 6) the secondary vocational schools' careers guidance and counselling programmes were generally appreciated and thought to be helpful, there is very little evidence that they provided the source of careers information; 7) there are limitations in manpower and educational planning models, and there is a lack of some of the conditions required for their optimal functioning. The secondary vocational schools are not demand driven, their output has not matched actual industrial requirements.