Smoothening Career Paths for Motivated School-leavers

By Ooi Tze Xiong

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Hands-on training takes up 70% of PSDC TVET curriculum.

AS A TEENAGER, Yee Ji Chang liked watching Marvel’s Avengers series. One particular character stood out. “Out of all the superheroes, I was a big fan of Tony Stark. I used to admire how, as a tech genius, he continuously came up with innovations, and this ultimately made it possible for him to become Iron Man.”

While Iron Man is as fictional as it gets, the movies inspired Ji Chang to delve into the field of technology. “Back when I was studying at Chung Ling, I wasn’t as academically inclined as my peers. However, I knew where my passions lay, and it was in engineering,” recalls Ji Chang. After completing SPM, he chose a path less trodden – a diploma in Electronics Engineering at the Penang Skills Development Centre (PSDC).

Yee Ji Chang.

The diploma proved to be a pivotal stepping stone for Ji Chang. “Unlike the typical classroom-based courses, PSDC puts greater emphasis on practical applications of engineering and technology. The diploma was 70% practical training and 30% theory-based. My instructors and lecturers had gained years of experience in the private sector, and their expertise in applied engineering was invaluable.”

He eventually graduated with the diploma in 2015 before furthering his studies at KDU, which offered a twinning degree programme with Northumbria University. “Speaking from my experience and that of my peers, very few universities, at least in Malaysia, can even come close to PSDC’s excellence in applied engineering and technology.”

PSDC’s School Leavers Programme

Ji Chang is just one of over 225,000 graduates who have passed through the gates of PSDC with a scroll in hand. For more than three decades now, this institute has moulded Penang’s tech workforce, contributing significantly to the growth of the Silicon Valley of the East.

PSDC was originally focused on upskilling the existing industrial workforce, but over the years, the institute strode towards building technical competencies among school-going youths. This is where PSDC’s School Leavers Programme comes in.

PSDC’s TVET students are exposed to up-to date world-class facilities and equipment.

Under this programme, PSDC offers two main pathways designed to expose students to the intricacies of engineering and manufacturing technology. Both full-time and mixed courses are available for SPM, STPM, SPMV and UEC takers who have passed stipulated minimum requirements. PSDC’s curriculum is also curated by a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)  comprising some of the institute’s member companies, such as Motorola, Inari, Sophic, Prodelcon and LBSB.

Those who are more practically inclined may opt for the Skills Certificate and Skills Diploma in Applied Engineering. Hands-on training makes up a whopping 70% of the curriculum, with theoretical classes forming the remaining 30%. Certified by the Department of Skills Development (JPK) under the auspices of the Ministry of Human Resources, this train-and-place programme comprises a variety of specialisations such as industrial automation, quality assurance, precision machining and manufacturing technology. Diploma graduates then have the option to further their studies in one of the Malaysian Meister Programmes, which are modelled after the famed German vocational training system.

Read also: PSDC Celebrates Penang’s Golden Jubilee of Industrialisation

Another more conventional choice is PSDC’s School of Engineering, which offers full-time courses from certificate to degree levels. Students can choose to specialise in either computer, electronics or mechatronics engineering. The degree courses, in particular, are designed in collaboration with Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UNIMAP), which also includes industrial training as an essential component for undergraduates. As a testament to PSDC’s standards, all courses are certified by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).


Since its inception in 1989, PSDC has been at the forefront of workforce transformation in Penang, forging close links with the private sector and academia. To date, PSDC counts over 230 companies among its members.

Students at PSDC, therefore, benefit from the institute’s various affiliations, with both multinationals (MNCs) and local large companies (LLCs). These extensive linkages, established from decades of building a technically-competent talent pool, have immensely contributed to the high employability rate of PSDC’s graduates.

Industry scholarship holders from Diploma in Mechatronic Engineering.

According to the graduate tracer study done by the Ministry of Higher Education (KPT) in 2021, 41% of PSDC’s graduates successfully secured employment, out of which 6% were also pursuing tertiary studies simultaneously with their employment. The remaining 59% of PSDC’s graduates went on to further their studies full-time.

The institute’s emphasis on vocational skills and applied engineering, on top of the more than RM80mil worth of investments in world-class facilities and equipment, has seen PSDC’s certifications being highly sought by the various manufacturers in Penang. As a mark of confidence in PSDC’s capabilities, several member companies have also offered scholarships and financial assistance for students and existing employees undertaking courses at PSDC.

As an alumnus of PSDC, Ji Chang successfully landed a job at a renowned MNC soon after graduating with a degree. “During my degree at KDU, I underwent an internship stint at Intel. My job application at that time was based on the diploma from PSDC. At the end of the stint, I received a permanent job offer from my superiors.”

Upon the completion of his degree, Ji Chang joined Intel and now holds a senior role in the validation engineering department. “During my time at PSDC, I gained immeasurable experience in applied engineering that you simply cannot find in most other universities. Engineering is not just about classroom-based lessons and calculations; it was the lab sessions at PSDC where I truly immersed myself in the real-world applications of engineering and manufacturing concepts. Indeed, the skills I gained are highly valued, not just at KDU where I completed my degree, but also at Intel, and they have been instrumental to my job progression as well.”

To find out more about PSDC’s School Leavers Programme, you can contact the following teams at PSDC (+604 643 7909):

- Applied Engineering Team at extensions 550, 551, 529 and 576, or email to
- School of Engineering at extensions 515, 539, 594 and 548, or email to

Ooi Tze Xiong

a Xaverian, currently works at a multinational firm at Bayan Lepas. After years of sojourning in cities across Malaysia and Singapore, he eventually decided to call Penang home.