SMART entrepreneurs will tell you that the way to succeed in this day and age is to collaborate. And such is PKT Logistics Group’s Datuk Michael Tio’s philosophy to ensure not only the success of the company but also the growth of the logistics industry.

Not only does Tio think that there needs to be greater collaboration between the academic sector and the industry, he is also walking the talk by extending a hand to the education sector to help produce quality talent that will bring the logistics industry forward.

He notes that the lack of communication and cooperation between the two sectors has become an obstacle to boosting the employability of local graduates.

“Over the years, universities keep producing graduates but they forget that they need to collaborate with the industry (to make students more employable). So now, we’ve produced so many students, and many of them are unemployable,” he says.

Tio has been working with universities and participating in programmes to advocate bridging this gap.

SMART entrepreneurs will tell you that the way to succeed in this day and age is to collaborate. And such is PKT Logistics Group’s Datuk Michael Tio’s philosophy to ensure not only the success of the company but also the growth of the logistics industry.

Not only does Tio think that there needs to be greater collaboration between the academic sector and the industry, he is also walking the talk by extending a hand to the education sector to help produce quality talent that will bring the logistics industry forward.

He notes that the lack of communication and cooperation between the two sectors has become an obstacle to boosting the employability of local graduates.

“Over the years, universities keep producing graduates but they forget that they need to collaborate with the industry (to make students more employable). So now, we’ve produced so many students, and many of them are unemployable,” he says.

Tio has been working with universities and participating in programmes to advocate bridging this gap.

He is one of the Adjunct Professors under the CEO @ Faculty Programme carried out by the Ministry of Education. The programme brings together top chief executive officers and industry players into Malaysia’s universities to share their knowledge and experiences with students and the university community. Industry players have committed up to 30 hours a year to provide mentorship to university students and lecturers.

After an initial stage of lecturing, Tio now has a second batch of three senior lecturers under his wing as part of the second phase of the programme – ‘Coach by the pro’.

“If higher education has a lot of industry people like us to work with them, that will solve the problem of having industry-relevant students.

“It shouldn’t just be the responsibility of big corporations to make this collaboration happen. If any of the large companies that is successful take in students the same way we do, that will help Malaysia transform to become a more efficient and productive country,” he says.

Creating culture

One thing that Tio notes in the academic field that needs improving is building culture. It is important to foster the right culture that will rally everyone around a common vision to drive an organisation forward.

Lecturers that come under Tio’s mentorship have the opportunity to get up-close with him and observe the application of PKT’s transformation plan.

Tio is known for his efforts in transforming PKT from a traditional firm to a modern logistics player. It was the first local logistics company to build a sustainable warehouse and Tio has successfully shaped a culture at the company that attracts and retains young talent.

He hopes the knowledge shared and experience will help faculty members understand the basics of transforming a company. This will, in turn, help them transform their faculties, universities and the higher education industry at large.

“In the future, they will be able to strategise a transformation within the university itself and build a culture to make sure everyone work together to achieve the vision. After these lecturers have gone through the transformation programme of PKT, they can see for themselves how we carry out our transformation programme on a day-to-day basis, how we achieve our targets, how we manage people and so on,” he shares.

He emphasises the importance in getting employee buy-in to achieve the vision that has been set out by the company.

“I created a dream for everyone and made sure everyone is motivated to achieve the same dream with me. This is very important. And we do this through having the right corporate culture that we’ve created, the fast and open communication at the company, reduced hierarchy and having a casual environment,” says Tio.

“The experience over the past two months is overwhelming. It is very different from academia. In academia, our core business is two things: teaching and research.

“The way we approach problems and how we solve it is very different from the corporate world. For example, we have to start thinking like marketing people to recruit students. How do we make our product more attractive for them and how do we design the programme to ensure their employability?

“And the language is very different. How CEOs communicate with people and coordinate with their subordinates is very different. In academia, we work a lot with circulars and taking orders. So I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot in the process,” says Johnson Lim, senior lecturer at Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia’s Faculty of Technical & Vocational Education.

Similarly, Universiti Malaysia Perlis Deputy Dean of Academic Management Dr Shuhaida Yahud found the opportunity to observe the corporate culture at PKT rather refreshing.

“It is a good opportunity to see how corporate people manage their companies. It is very different from universities. So management at universities can make a lot of improvement by adopting these methods. There is a lot of potential for application later on,” she says.

Relevant curriculum

Apart from participating in ministry programmes, PKT also has its own efforts to reach out to the academic sector.

PKT started opening its facility for student visits sometime back in 2012 to expose logistics students to the industry environment. For the most part, these students found that they connected so well with the corporate culture at the company that they started applying to PKT to carry out their internships there.

Word soon got out to the faculty members that they had to come see for themselves what was so great about this logistics company that their students were raving about.

Sure enough, PKT soon found itself the envy of many.

It started collaborating with University Utara Malaysia (UUM) to offer their students opportunities for internship at the company.

This, says Tio, will ensure that students are aware of the industry environment and skills needed before they graduate, adding to their employability and giving them an edge in the market.

Additionally, PKT also takes an active role in providing feedback to the logistics courses at UUM to help ensure that the curriculum is still relevant to the industry.

“This has also helped the university brand their logistics programme because they have access to internships with us and because of their collaboration with us. A lot of people choose to study a programme if they know they can get a job after they graduate.

“And because of the relevant technical knowledge that the students have, there is an opportunity for them to work with us after they graduate if we find the students hardworking and knowledgeable.

“I was told that among the faculties at UUM, employability for the logistics section is 100% in the shortest time. It is one of their success stories and they are picking this up as a very good example for other faculties to follow,” says Tio.

Tio also sits on the board of other education-related organisations to provide industry feedback.

Tio hopes more successful SMEs and entrepreneurs will come forward to support programmes such as CEO @ Faculty Programme or to take the initiative to work closer with the education sector to help build a stronger talent pool in the country.

After all, it is part of them giving back to the community after enjoying a good run, he says.