Day 2 of the Warwick Asean Conference (WAC) was equally as stimulating as the first with discussions circulating around the contemporary issues affecting the ASEAN region and the widespread impacts of COVID-19 on economies and the next generation. The second day was arranged into 3 sessions; the first was an economics and politics panel consisting of 4 experts providing valuable insight into the contemporary political and business issues of ASEAN. This was followed by a networking session that provided time for attendees to ask questions and seek advice from firms regarding their careers of interest. The final highlight was the embassy engagement session whereby students had the opportunity to converse with the ambassador from their respective home country.
The Conference began with another introductory speech from WAC’s chief coordinator, Tan Si Qi, who expressed how important it was for the ASEAN community to continue to work together as one entity in order to persevere through the constantly changing world. The pandemic is an example of how youths have persevered with hard work and resilience. By the end of this conference, we hope that those who attended will gain further motivation and ideas to build a constructive future together for ASEAN. WAC has provided a platform for youths for 7 years now, to ensure the new generation is aware and prepared to help tackle issues surrounding Southeast Asia.
Datuk SK Lingam, President of ASEAN-UK Business Forum (AUBF) and Chairman of Malaysian Link UK (MLUK), with the rich experiences he accumulated over the years as an International Corporate Consultant, addressed the necessity for ASEAN youths to prepare themselves for the plethora of opportunities and challenges brought about by the accelerating 4th Industrial Revolution and digital disruption. Amidst the changing landscape of future job trends, it is crucial to acquire digital skill sets and soft skills to avoid being disrupted by the economic impacts of COVID-19 and automation-transforming jobs. Moreover, Mr. Lingam acknowledged the significance of having transformative education systems and forward-thinking leaders to help young people adapt to the changing job requirements and assist them with sufficient resources to let them flourish. Datuk Lingam firmly believes that if workers are equipped with the right skills, the 4th industrial revolution will be highly empowering in raising living standards and ASEAN’s regional growth as a whole.
This circulated back to ASEAN’s goal to empower their youths because they are the region’s greatest asset to shape the future of the region. In addition to achieving an integrated community, Mr. Lingam also emphasised the importance of seizing opportunities within and beyond borders towards the rest of the world, because this will undeniably yield a multiplicity of benefits.
Economics & Politics Panel
WAC’s Economics and Politics panel session consisted of panelists with immersive international experiences. With Ravi Prasad (Economist at British High Commission Singapore) as the moderator, he facilitated the panel by discussing how ASEAN can provide a uniform response to the pandemic whilst striving to attain sustainable growth with Azli Mohamed (AirAsia’s Chief Strategy and Growth Officer), Julia Tijaja (Director at the ASEAN Integration Monitoring Directorate) and Renard Siew (Climate Change Advisor for the Centre For Governance and Political Studies).
The panel began with Ravi asking about the region’s approach towards COVID-19 and the insights gained from this pandemic. From their answers, it was clear that one should never waste the opportunities brought by any crisis. Whether it be digitally transforming your company’s business model, to collectively executing regional policies and frameworks, the ability to react quickly and constantly prepare for the future is essential in assisting ASEAN and its citizens to recover. Azli underlined how technology is a helpful tool in diversifying risk and a new source of growth as it enables firms to tap into new business models. If strategies are executed well, digital innovation has the potential to benefit the entire ASEAN ecosystem. Especially with the coronavirus causing a huge supply chain shift towards the region alongside the countries’ digital literacy rate, this has enhanced the region’s global attractiveness.
Following the question of what ASEAN’s next steps should be, Renard explained that the pandemic is merely a dress rehearsal towards the defining issue of our current generation: climate change. He stressed how 2021 is a year for the region to better dedicate themselves to combat this phenomenon. Despite Southeast Asia’s lack of concrete plans in the past, recent launches of ESG indexes suggest changes are being made to ensure our environment is being preserved in the process of generating profit.
The point where the US and China are important economic partners for ASEAN was also raised later on during the discussion which again demonstrates the importance of multinational collaboration as a contributor to boosting the region’s growth and prosperity.
The networking session was structured into booths whereby participants entered their room of choice from the 5 companies: CIMB, StashAway, ICAEW (The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales), Gushcloud International, and UKABC. Many invigorating questions were asked regarding how ASEAN youths should prepare themselves for their career paths which resulted in fruitful discussions. Overall, the companies expressed an optimistic outlook for the next generation despite these unprecedented times as the region is still a relatively young market compared to Europe and thus holds many undiscovered opportunities in the job market.
However, for students to make the most out of this, they should continue to refine their soft skills and seek to broaden their horizons beyond their academic field. In the age of digitalization, youths are also encouraged to adopt technological and digital skills which will open more doors to career opportunities in any industry. These factors, as highlighted by each firm, are attractive traits that will serve students well in the future during their job applications. Lastly, the importance of truly knowing one’s personal values and strengths is an essential starting point in helping individuals find the company that will be most suited to them.
Embassies Engagement Session
After a lunch break, participants gathered into breakout rooms to attend the final part of the conference. The session brought together professionals from Malaysia, and ambassadors from Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, and Indonesia, with aspiring individuals and students to discuss further prospects of their home country following the pandemic. COVID-19 was unanimously seen as a crisis that negatively affected the economic growth of each country. Nonetheless, although the pace of growth may differ, ASEAN countries are gradually recovering. The ambassadors explored how the new skill sets of youths in combination with policies and incentives to unite members, will propel the region forward to become the global center for trade liberalisation and growth of businesses and startups. Additionally, once a strong network is fully established between Asian countries, the region can do so much more together to achieve long-term sustainability.
High Commissioner of Brunei Darussalam to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Aziyan Abdullah First Admiral (Rtd) Pengiran Dato Seri Pahlawan Norazmi bin Pengiran Haji Muhammad delivered the closing address by expressing his gratitude for WAC’s coordinators and team, and guest speakers for delivering a dynamic experience for ASEAN youths to further aspirations and networks.
We truly hope that those who attended the conference have become encouraged to partake in building a harmonious community to make ASEAN a prosperous region with digital inclusivity and collaboration at its heart. This in turn will create a strong foundation to enable South East Asian countries to better adapt and grow as one united entity throughout the uncertain global landscape in the years to come.