By Ainun Ahmad and Iznan Tarip

In anticipating to enter Brunei’s labour market, gone were the days in which a simple degree certification reassures the capabilities of a graduate in taking a role and its responsibilities to an employer. In today’s working world, further transferrable skills are required in addition to academic excellence.

In align to realise Brunei vision 2035, the first Percambahan Minda (intellectual discussion) was set up last Sunday, 13th November 2016 at Brunei Hall, London. The event was organised by Brunei Postgraduate Society in the UK with the theme “1st Class is not enough”: Relevant Skills for Realising Brunei Vision 2035. As part of the vision to turn Brunei Darussalam into a nation widely recognised for the accomplishments of its well-educated and highly skilled people as measured by the highest international standard, the discussion aims to assist students in shaping their way of thinking as a nation-builder that requires them to not only think on what they want, but on what Brunei and its region need.

The format adopted for the session was a panel discussion with guest speakers Yang Mulia Cikgu Ahmad Faisal bin Haji Zainal Abidin, current Director of Studies of Brunei Students’ Unit; Yang Mulia Awang Muhammad Ayyub bin Haji Kamaludin, current PhD candidate in engineering at Imperial College London and is active in supporting UK students in his position as former President of Brunei Student Union; and Yang Mulia Khairunnisa Ash’ari, the Co-Founder and Community Engagement Director of Green Brunei currently studying in King’s College London under the prestigious Chevening Scholarship.

Some of the highlights from the discussion is the need to focus on latitude, love and literacy. As Ayyub explained, latitude refers to the breadth of skills and opportunities one can go after finishing his/her studies. He illustrated this latitude with the example of how only 30% of engineering students ends up doing engineering, 30% in banking and another 30% in consulting. Specialisation is not the only way to success, but interdisciplinarity can be a game changer and gives graduates the flexibility in a constrained job market.

Love refers to the feeling of connectedness from diversity, which is a key strength in a globalised world. Financial, economic, and political literacy were also called out to be lacking among Bruneian, and these should be improved. This can be done by knowing the vocabulary in the field as a first step.

Khairunnisa shared her experience after graduating from UBD in 2011. She volunteered a lot to fill her time, but still found them to be less fulfilling in the beginning. It was until she went to a youth conference where she met inspiring youth that made changes in their respective locality did she actually discover her passion. The lesson here is to push ourselves to go outside of our comfort zone by attending conferences to meet new people with diverse way of thinking.

She also shared one of her secret to being productive, which is to “Buat dulu, pikir karang.” or “Do first, think later.” Students need to do more and not to overthink. By exploring and experiencing, students can find what they are personally passionate about. From finding your passion to you get the energy to push forward even against obstacles and adversities. Only after finding her passion that people started to notice, and within 5 years of graduating, she received various award including the Queen’s Young Leaders Award and Pingat Indah Kerja Baik.

Cikgu Ahmad Faisal highlighted three aspects for students development: Knowledge, Skills and Attitude, or in short KSA. Academic knowledge and broad sets of skills are important, but the right attitude is even more important to have. For example, being egoistic in a workplace is counterproductive as it drags the whole team down. This is where the need to inculcate love within each other is needed, which goes back to the point raised by Ayyub.

In summary, the panel discussion emphasises the importance of active acquisition of skills and knowledge while working towards graduating; personal development to create a career path over preparation for a job title; and networking as resources for the future.