Monday, December 14, 2009

Malaysia: Lack of apprenticeship?

Over conversations the other day, we agreed that there's something lacking in the new working society. And with that, we're not only referring to the two-second attention Gen Y but the 30-something Gen X. We learned to manoeuvre our way in the corporate world to the best we know how, without someone to really look up to for guidance, example and inspiration. Sometimes our ways are heroic, sometimes in less than moral worthy tactics.

With the advent of Web 2.0 and the wide accessibility of imported media, it's really difficult to say we've not be given a chance. Opportunities to learn have been and will always be there, but I have to admit. Without flesh and blood, sometimes it's really hard to judge what's right and what's best when trapped in tight situations. Which I guess explains, why so many young people (all who are below 40), averse from responsibilities simply because they're like deers caught in headlights when the heat is turned up. Ironically, they just froze. Without an important figure for them to look up to and in some way, even mimic, how can we expect any improvement on the generations thereafter?

Personally, I'm appalled by the lack of management skills and even self-leadership in today's working class. Different layers of the corporate hierarchy they may be, but the end result does not change. I've been blessed to know a handful of senior managing executives who have imparted much wisdom on me - sometimes spoken softly and other times, whipped till I came around. There are colourful and creative ways on how I learned from them of which I'm indebted eternally, thankful today and always will be.

This topic came to mind again today when I was browsing through a magazine which talked about apprenticeship and why it is so important in these modern times. Mastering perfection on a certain skill takes years and even decades (in a couple of years time, I can safely say I have a decade of planning under my belt too, yay) which directly contradicts with today's notion of 'fast food syndrome'. Everything needs to be learned, done, eaten, completed, played, spoken in two seconds. Teaching and learning, to me, is like tango. It's not so much the cliche of taking two to make it work, more like it takes a lot of rhythm for two people to be in sync. A lot of compromise, a lot of hard work, a lot of investment - material and emotional to make it work. While we may find promising students, unfortunately there are only a handful of worthy teachers who almost always are taken for granted anyway.

I am and will always be willing to learn. As I mentioned before, I've been blessed greatly for having met those handful of wise souls I spoke about. They are worthy mentors to the very last atom in them.

And now, for me to impart these experiences and knowledge to others, at times seem like a great detest. I've worked hard for my apprenticeship and I beg of you to let me feel that it's only natural I hold on to my bestowed wisdom so selfishly. But two years of imparting language skills to non-English speakers in Japan, have finally knocked some sense into my hard little selfish head. It's the job of the teacher to inspire learning. My mentors have done me that favour unbeknownst to me. And here I was, picking my apprentices as if I was God sent. At least I thank Him for giving me that chance to have learned how to teach. I'm not good at it yet, but if you'd dance with me, I'd be glad to take your hand too.

If you are in a position to manage and lead, you'd suddenly realize that your everyday job seems more like a social responsibility than just an income generator. The old masters of Michelangelo's time probably didn't care if their apprentice stayed or left and they had extraordinary reasons to do so. Their students were out on a limb most of the time to make things happen anyway - out of fear, out of responsibility, out of survival - I don't know. Obviously, today's execs and interns are otherwise. I guess, when you sign up for something and especially if it means leading your team to somewhere, anywhere, yes it's partially a social commitment.

On a separate but related note, I read this line in Monocle today:

If you have a few million, then you can say you have money. If you have a hundred million, then you can say you have capital. But when you have several hundred million or even several billion, then that money is no longer your money. Rather, it's a resource that belongs to society. You have the power but even more importantly, you have the responsibility to put that resource to good use on behalf of society - Jack Ma, Chairman of Alibaba Group, China.

Same principles yo, same principles.


  1. What a day, what a time, what a year. If only I'd known about what was missing in my life a lot sooner.

    I'd been perceived as a person of learned quality when it came to everything they thought the papers could provide, when academically it never really showed. Discussion, lifelong peruse of the fact that I was merely going to class only for the sake of it, and that I was actually learning things in which that was so blatantly, obviously absent in most classrooms from Primary to University.

    That pretty much lead me to where I am now. Previously I was onto a not-so-healthy start of attaining an Animation diploma after enrolling in The One Academy(Sunway), and after noticing so many flaws in my own work I had struggled until it came to a breaking point where others, under the notion of the "fast food syndrome" you had described, the whole Academy was in an apparent mess; everything is about the money. Standards were fluctuating, with different lecturers spouting differences with ironic indifference. One could say he likes your shading, but another could say he does not. One could say he likes your idea, and another could say he does not I've left the place broken-hearted, due to the bad experiences and the majorly-intolerable community that resides there. Sadly enough, without the Diploma, but for some reason I'm still alive.

    One would say academics is all that matters in a world where Cambridge and Oxford is the rage for decades and centuries to come. When was this system established, 1200 years ago? That was in Arab then, and along the way mankind has always been evolving. The kings and queens of the monarchs, all over this world are mostly without those said papers, and so are most masters in the trade of variable artistry or even surgery of those days. Opinions mattered less, and skills mattered so much more.

    It's astounding, though. Could it be vanity? Could it be merely higher pursuits of a theoretical understanding? I'll never understand the need for papers, just so I could put some bread into an oven and make it.

    It's a little late, but Happy belated New Year, and an early Happy Chinese New Year to you.

    Yours sincerely,

    Why are the number of As given to us by people of perceived higher rankings of society, matter so much more than the As we write everyday?

  2. It's important to have the piece of paper simply because that is the system of modern society. While so, you shouldn't judge yourself so hard on it. The game begins only when you start working with REAL people. Not with coursemates and lecturers who... while some are great, some are not. But it all boils down to the old adage: Be positive and don't give up so easily. Good luck.