The New Straits Times (Malaysia) is running a column today on “K-workers key to our survival” by Butt Wai Choon (MD of Microsoft Malaysia). The focus is on developing knowledge workers in the ICT sector of Malaysia. However, it starts with the following definitions which might be helpful as a “K-worker 101 primer” (emphases mine).
“But what exactly is a knowledge worker?
Many people tend to confuse the term with any skilled or trained worker, especially in the ICT sector, but this is not the case.
The difference lies in the understanding of what knowledge, information, tasks and skills mean. Information only becomes knowledge when you can utilise it to add or create value for your work and organisation.
Similarly, a knowledge worker is more than just an informed, trained or skilled worker. A knowledge worker has the ability to deal innovatively with the skills, tasks, training or learning acquired and has the know-how to enhance or create new value for his work.
A task worker, on the other hand, normally undertakes a rigid or structured process and follows a pre-determined set of tasks, often routine and repetitive in nature.
However, it does not mean that task workers are not essential for development. By their sheer numbers and volume of work, they are also vital for the maintenance of economic growth, and the aim is to ultimately move them up the value chain.
The term “knowledge worker” was first coined by well-known management guru Peter Drucker in 1959 (and refined over the next four decades in his books) to describe someone who adds value by processing existing information to create new information which can be used to define and solve problems.”

For South Africans, a section near the end is also highly informative:
“In an ideal society, knowledge workers are created by an education system (and subsequently nurtured by an employment system) which not only trains, teaches and prepares students (and employees) in their respective fields, but instills a sense of creativity, innovation and critical thinking and, most importantly, “know-how” to deal with change and stay ahead.
Our country is in a crucial transition phase. Although we have made much pro- gress in the area of education, we still lag behind many others and are not responding fast enough in producing sufficient knowledge workers.
The high level of unemployment among our local graduates, especially in the technology sector, is an indication that something is not right about the system.
It is a classic case of mismatch between supply and demand and this is where the Government needs to address the problem as quickly as possible.
The main problem appears to lie more in our current administration inheriting a huge bureaucracy from the past which, by nature and based on experiences in other countries, is resistant to change.
The key to creating more and better knowledge workers lies in a radical reform of the education system.
The promotion of the use of English especially for science and mathematics is also a major step forward and such efforts should be sustained and increased.
However, reform requires much more than training and teaching our students well in their respective fields of study and improving the contents for education.
It also requires an environment where students are encouraged to be creative, innovative, positive and constructively critical and to learn how to explore and take risks.

TomorrowToday Global