Growth on the fast lane
With much in the pipeline, TOC is gearing itself to be a global brand in automotive education.
AMAZING things sometimes happen in the blink of an eye and The Otomotif College (TOC) communications head Owen Leed can certainly relate to that.
No stranger with life on the fast lane – literally – Leed has seen his fair share of motor circuit moments in his time as A1 Team Malaysia commercial director.
Fond memories go back to the time of the team’s successes delivered by TOC brand ambassador Alex Yoong. but in hindsight, Leed opines that another poignant moment occured when the college approached the A1 team with the intent to be a sponsor.
Leed fondly remembers the brief first meeting which acted as a precursor to Leed’s long-standing relationship with the institution.
“I remember the meeting clearly as most sponsors want their brand to appear on the driver’s helmet or the car,” he says.
“However, TOC was different as they only wanted the brand name to appear on the driver’s sleeve.
“At that point of time, TOC was not as established as it is now, so it was a pleasant surprise to see their keenness to build their presence in the industry.”
Leed explains that the college was one of the few sponsors which took its relationship with Yoong and motorsport to a deeper level.
All the more impressive was the fact that the college’s CEO and founder Adelaine Foo had taken up Chinese opera at varsity before seeing the opportunity to establish an automotive college.
“It was a masterstroke as everything we do is affected by logistics and transportation,” adds Leed.
“And it was unique from the start as TOC sought to dispel the myths of the typical workshop where dirt and grease are commonplace.”
A quick visit to TOC’s campus alludes to this. Brightly lit, the floor is squeaky clean and students are busy popping hoods in their spotless uniforms.
The unique positioning centred on precision, discipline and reliability, has certainly carved a niche for the institution and TOC now has 60 trainers and 1,400 students.
It is certainly a vast improvement from its humble beginnings of five trainers and 10 students.
The college managed to make its presence felt locally in just seven years and Leed adds that TOC is now looking to expand by going to Australia.
Plans have moved far beyond the blueprint stages and TOC is currently negotiating with Australian authorities to establish a campus in the Gold Coast.
Explaining the rationale to go abroad, Leed explains that the college’s success can be replicated elsewhere.
“TOC intends to crosslink what it offers in Malaysia and an Australian campus would offer many unique opportunities like student exchange programmes and staff mobility,” he says.
“Presently, no one in Australia offers a direct diploma in automotive technology the way TOC does, and going abroad provides the college the opportunity to be a global brand.
“The ultimate ambition is for TOC to be regarded as the Harvard or Oxford of automotive education.”
Although Leed is the first to admit that such an idea may not be a reality in the near future, he is confident that the college has what it takes to become one eventually.
Spreading its wings and moving abroad, he says is a natural progression as the college has already proved itself with consistent growth, a great curriculum and good feedback from both graduates and employers.
However, Leed is quick to note that the institution will never divert its focus away from local operations.
“An overseas campus would serve as an excellent addition to the primary campus in Malaysia,” says Leed.
“We are, and will always be a Malaysian institution first, and we want our overseas campuses to convince people that Malaysian institutions are truly capable of delivering world-class education.”
The college is looking beyond Australia and reconnaissance trips have already been organised to Indonesia and Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.
Leed opines that the automotive industries in these countries are “crying out for skilled labour” and having branch campuses could address this need, he adds.
“We are monitoring the situation and although there may be barriers to entry in some of those countries, a move is not inconceivable,” he adds.
Although Malaysia is a relatively small market compared to the other nations on TOC’s radar, the college could, in fact, expand its domestic presence.
Leed says that a second local campus could be a possibility in two years and this would allow the institution to cater to growing demand and cater to different student markets.
“Such moves allow us to stay ahead,” says Leed. “We are the leading institution in this field thanks to a lot of hard work and first mover advantage but there have been copycats lately.
“It’s up to the college to maintain our market leadership and competitive edge by delivering superior service while expanding our reach – something all successful brands do.”
He adds that the college is looking to enhance its academic offerings and degree programmes could soon be added into the mix.
A proposed degree programme is currently undergoing accreditation with the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA)and Leed is optimistic that all will go well.
“We are looking at various possibilities and this includes partnering with overseas universities to offer degrees.”
Leed also stresses that the college will not get carried away by deviating from its automotive focus – expansion or not.
After all, it makes no sense to change a winning formula.
Thanks to an intimate understanding with industry players reflected by the college’s close relationship with automakers Citroen and Proton Holdings Bhd, the college’s syllabus is never out of date and this puts its graduates in high demand.
It must also be noted that a number of TOC graduates have gone on to secure offers from luxury car manufacturers like Lamborghini and Porsche.
“Of course, not every graduate will go on to work for such marquee labels but the fact is that they look at our graduates each year,” muses Leed.
“That is the standard of quality that TOC has come to be associated with, and we will continue working hard to meet the expectations of the industry, parents and society.”
The Otomotif College is a contributor to the Star Education Fund.