The development of the younger generation in all aspects including in the area of human capital is a priority of the present government, said Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

He said the government viewed youths as the generation that could ensure continuity in the country's development and thus should be involved in the policy development process.

In realising this aspiration, leadership skills are among the key competencies that need to be developed in the implementation of youth development programmes, he added.

"Every youth should possess good leadership qualities. At the very least, youths should be able to lead themselves.

"Youths who are capable of leading themselves would not only stay clear of unhealthy activities but also become patriotic citizens who can contribute to society with a keen sense of the social and volunteer service culture,” he said at the presentation of this year's Perdana Fellows to the cabinet here today.

This year's Perdana Fellows programme involves 82 youths, comprising 58 graduates and 24 undergraduates. About 42 per cent of the participants are from B40 families.

Muhyiddin said in line with the post-COVID-19 situation, the priority of participation in this year's programme was given to graduates, who comprised 70 per cent of the participants.

"I would like to extend the highest congratulations to all the participants. You have been selected from among 637 people who applied to join this programme and 298 who applied to the Corporate Fellows,” he said.

Muhyiddin said Perdana Fellows were like unofficial spokespersons of the government.

"I urge you to be the bridge between the government and youths out there, especially in presenting facts and government policies in the fight against COVID-19 and efforts to revive the national economy in the post-pandemic era,” he said.

Muhyiddin recalled the year Perdana Fellows was introduced in 2013, saying he had received the first batch and that all the alumni under his supervision had now joined the private and government sectors, with some having furthered their studies until the PhD level at leading universities of the world.

The prime minister said he had occasionally met them to get their views and inputs, especially on how the government could help the youth.

Muhyiddin said apart from leadership qualities, youth development programmes should also emphasise soft skills encompassing management ability, communication, interpersonal skills and problem-solving ability.

He said every skill set that was acquired should be enhanced with value-added knowledge according to their respective fields of experience and interest.

"Make use of this opportunity to learn as much as you can and share the expertise acquired with your friends out there who may not be lucky enough to be selected to join this high-level youth leadership training programme,” he added.

The prime minister advised the ministers involved to train the fellows like their own children, giving them guidance and setting good examples throughout the attachment period which would prove invaluable to the interns.

He said the ministers should be open to suggestions from the young trainees and treat their input as part of the process for formulating new policies.

Muhyiddin said a fellow, apart from gaining experience as an executive intern, is also responsible for preparing and tabling policy proposal papers related to the ministries they are attached to.

"These policy papers can be used as an input for drawing up new initiatives at the ministry level,” he said, adding that a policy paper based on an idea of a 2019 Perdana Fellows participant had given birth to a biodiesel programme for the transport sector.

The Biodiesel B20 programme, launched in February this year, had boosted the domestic demand for palm oil and would be continued under the new administration, he added.

Muhyiddin said the Perdana Fellows programme had been fruitful as some of its participants had become ministers, been actively involved in politics and non-governmental organisations, become operators of business startups, and served as special officers to ministers.

"The fact is that this programme is the best platform for the selected youths to hone their leadership skills and prepare themselves for the challenges ahead.

"The participants will have a personal experience of how the government machinery draws up new policies and make administrative decisions which affect the people, putting them in a good position to explain the procedures to the public, especially the younger generation,” he said.

He hoped that the Perdana Fellows participants would make use of the opportunity to deepen their experience and knowledge, especially on the government administrative process and corporate matters.

"My hope is that the selected youths, who are the country's prospective leaders, would use the occasion to show their abilities and qualities as such an opportunity might not come again,” he said.