Penang Dialogue 2018 – Penang’s Competitive Edge: Developing Talent for the Digital Age

AMCHAM was honored to host Y.A.B. Chow Kon Yeow, the new Chief Minister of Penang and The Honorable Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia, at the annual AMCHAM Penang Dialogue on 04 September.  The 2018 theme, “Penang’s Competitive Edge: Developing Talent for the Digital Age” attracted 200 members and guests including captains of industry from U.S. investors in Penang and senior representatives from key government stakeholders of Bank Negara Malaysia, Invest Penang, MIDA Penang and the Manpower Department.

The Chamber took the opportunity to present to new Chief Minister an Economic Impact Survey prepared by The Malaysian American Electronics Industry (MAEI), the Chamber’s Electrical & Electronics (E&E) committee, quantifying the contributions made by American E&E companies to the Malaysian economy.  The E&E sector has grown significantly and its contribution has grown more pronounced since the last survey conducted in 2014.

The 31 member companies responding to the survey were alone responsible for creating 80,000 jobs or more, most of which are held by Malaysians.  Of these, 16,500 were for skilled engineers and more than 5,500 workers dedicated specifically to high value-added research, design and development activities.  

This emphasis on creating high-skilled jobs was evident in the panel discussions emphasizing the strategic importance  placed by U.S. companies on developing Malaysian talent equipped for the digital age. Many of AMCHAM’s members are leading the charge towards Industry 4.0 and, in doing so, are putting together innovative programs to develop and future-proof their local workforce. Particular focus was given to the adoption of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) curriculums to ensure inclusive growth and create enhanced career opportunities for Malaysians across the skills spectrum.

Mr Ramzi Toubassy, President of AMCHAM said “It’s this type of commitment to investing in people and our local communities that makes U.S. investment so valuable – we stay for the long term and we grow together! The prosperity of U.S. companies here in Penang also means prosperity for the people of Penang and surrounding areas.”

Siobhan Das, Executive Director of AMCHAM, commented “AMCHAM’s E&E members have consistently supported the growth and development of Malaysia’s SMEs; on average each member company in the survey  works with 194 suppliers, counting only contracts worth at least 100,000 ringgit per year. More than 12 billion ringgit was spent sourcing goods and services locally within Malaysia in 2017. Furthermore, almost all companies surveyed have active Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs, with each company contributing up to 650,000 ringgit  per year or 150,000 volunteer hours to local community programs.”

Dato’ Seri Wong Siew Hai, the Chairman of the Malaysian American Electronics Industry (MAEI), emphasized how the growth of the E&E industry in Malaysia has been driven by strong collaboration between the public and private sectors: “AMCHAM’s MAEI Committee focuses on proactively engaging with government stakeholders, especially with MITI, and MIDA, coupled with the direct engagement with the Electrical and Electronics Strategic Council (EESC) from 2016 onwards, including support provided to the Electrical and Electronics Productivity Nexus (EEPN). American companies have helped drive many of the initiatives that have brought us to this vibrant juncture in 2018.”

Y.A.B. Chow Kon Yeow, Chief Minister of Penang, highlighted the 14.3 bn ringgit  of approved investments by U.S. companies into Penang since 2008, representing 30% of total approved investments and making the U.S. the largest FDI contributor to the Penang economy. The Chief Minister welcomed Boston Scientific, a leading U.S. medical device company, as one of the newest American investors in the state. Boston Scientific’s 375,000 sq-ft facility global manufacturing plant in Batu Kawan will create more than 400 high value jobs. Many of the U.S. investments in Penang are re-investments and expansion by companies that have been here for many years, and the Chief Minister congratulated an AMCHAM member, Benchmark for recently inaugurating a new International Procurement Office (IPO) and Design Centre in Penang, as well as global manufacturing solutions provider Jabil for expanding their Global Business Centre (GBC) in the state.

The Chief Minister concluded that ‘Penang is proud to celebrate the successes of U.S. MNCs in Penang and is proud to host many reputable American MNCs. We are confident that Penang will remain a thriving growth hub for American and other companies for many years to come.”