Since its launch, APAcS STAR has thus far been an up-and-coming pilot programme by APAcS 15/16 the outcomes of which many are looking forward to, being the first of its kind at Level 14.
To understand better about its goals, mechanics and current progress towards achieving those goals, we interviewed the Project Director of APAcS STAR himself, Nazrin Kamarul Bahrain and asked him key questions about the project.
Read the interview here.
1. What are the objectives of APAcS STAR?
The main objective of APAcS STAR is to be a catalyst in helping the Students of 14 land a job upon graduation by
1) developing their interpersonal skills in accordance to the industry’s standards; and
2) providing networking platforms to our students with key industry players.
2. What are the distinguishing features of APAcS STAR that make achieving the objectives possible?
The objectives of APAcS STAR are achievable for the simple reason that they are relevant.
They are relevant to the students as potential employees, to APAcS as a student body, to UiTM as an institute of Higher Learning, and to the industry as the potential employers of our students.
We have designed this whole programme on the basis that there is a pressing need for something like APAcS Star from real feedbacks of the industry, and that basis is duly supported and fully backed by the vision, missions and objectives of APAcS, our Department of Professional Accounting Studies (DPAS) and the Faculty of Accountancy.
3. Could you share with us the mechanics of APAcS STAR in a summary?
APAcS STAR aims to be practical, relevant and effective in developing our students in the manner the Industry deems a ‘successful employee’ to be.
As such, the 1st and most critical element of APAcS STAR is the involvement of key industry players in the implementation of the programme.
That task was specially carried out by the Corporate Relations Department of APAcS and student ambassadors throughout the year to gain key industry players’ involvement in APAcS STAR’s events.
In retrospect, critical events such as Fit14, Raya Open Floor and numerous Ambassador events have had encouraging participations from industry players which are key to the success of APAcS STAR.
The 2nd most important element of APAcS STAR are the areas to improve which we refer to as the ‘Skill Categories‘.
My team and I have diligently spent the majority of our holidays at the end of last year to research and understand the ‘Employability Gap‘, which basically indicates that there is a gap between how ’employers expect graduates to be’ and how ‘graduates actually are’.
Countless of articles and hours of discussion were invested in dissecting the root causes of this Gap particularly in Malaysia, and we discovered the three common ‘skills’ that are consistently mentioned in the same breath as the Employability Gap, namely the Critical Thinking, Communications and Leadership skills.
Thus, those 3 Skills are what APAcS STAR wishes to develop in our students through relevant and practical events endorsed by key industry players.
The 3rd and final element of APAcS STAR is the concept of Traits, which is basically similar to the ‘Key Learning Outcomes’ in your ACCA or CIMA textbooks.
These traits are the specific characteristics or attributes that connote a specific Skill.
For example, under the Communications Skill we have the trait ‘Giving a Good Interview’.
What that basically means is that for any student to be up to the standard of the employers in regards to Communications, that student will need to know how to participate as an excellent interviewee.
The same thought process applies to all traits in APAcS STAR.
And how can the students gain those traits? Those traits are specifically spread across all of the events under APAcS STAR, with each trait being placed as a learning objective in an event that’s relevant to the trait.
Lastly, we are able to track the progress of all students by segregating all the events under 3 sequential levels which are ‘Knowledge Gaining‘, ‘Knowledge Applying‘ and ‘Knowledge Assessing‘ events.
The logic of APAcS STAR is that once a student has gone through the three levels of events for a specific trait; for example, ‘Giving a Good Interview’, we assume that the student is now able to ‘give a good interview’ because he/she has learned how to give a good interview in a level 1 event, tried to give a good interview in a level 2 event, and assessed by the industry in a level 3 event.
If you combine all the traits together and equip a student with the three Skills and sharpen them under the 3 levels, we can safely say that the student has a higher chance of landing a job than his friend who didn’t go through the same development as he did.
4. How has reception been by key stakeholders of APAcS STAR?
‘Positively skeptic’, I would put it.
By and large, all internal and external stakeholders that we have met and presented APAcS STAR to showed extremely encouraging immediate response to the overall idea and concept of APAcS STAR.
However, being only in its first year, most external stakeholders were understandably on the ‘cautious’ side in providing monetary injection into APAcS STAR.
I believe that with the first year of approaching its culmination and hopefully ending on a high, it will provide us with a concrete, stable and credible platform for our APAcS successors to build on and innovate further in the structures and operations of APAcS STAR, thus subsequently enhancing the trust of our stakeholders.
5. How has progress been so far?
The expectation that we had before the year began was a 1/3 active participation from our total students in all of APAcS STAR events.
Our Analysts have highlighted that the trend in students’ participation in APAcS STAR’s events is clearly promising, in high volume and achieving the expectations.
Coming to the beginning of the second half of 2016, our team met to discuss crucial issues and decided that we need to establish an absolute and specific number of expected Graduates of APAcS Star, as a driving mechanism to keep us focused and grounded for the second half of the year.
Thus, we have established a target of at least ’50 APAcS Star graduates’ for the first year of its inauguration, which our team in APAcS will carry on our shoulders as our mission.
A positive note is that our Analysts have studied the records and participations of the students and tallying with their progress; which positively suggest that we are on track to achieving the 50 graduates’ mark.
I am exceedingly optimistic in our progress thus far and have extremely high hopes in the longevity of APAcS STAR to become a prominent contributor to the ‘Graduates of 14’ being a highly sought breed of graduates by the industry.
Interview conducted by Tengku Nusaybah