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How are our Sabah graduates doing?


On the board: Visitors looking at the list of companies present at the recent SL1M roadshow in Sepanggar, Sabah.

On the board: Visitors looking at the list of companies present at the recent SL1M roadshow in Sepanggar, Sabah.

Skim Latihan 1Malaysia is a programme to help unemployed and underemployed graduates enhance their marketability with appropriate skills, knowledge and working experiences throughout the training process. It is a programme under the purview of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) under the Prime Minister’s Department and is done in collaboration with GLCs and private corporations.

IF you were to visit Sabah today, you’d realise that it quite closely resembles Kuala Lumpur city. What some Malaysians and tourists can definitely appreciate is its relative cleanliness, lush greenery and fewer skyscrapers.

The state, located at the northern tip of Borneo, has definitely come a long way. One of the biggest development projects currently underway is the upgrade and development of the Pan Borneo Highway, which is meant to improve connectivity between Sabah and Sarawak.

This, and the government’s efforts to make Sepanggar port – north of Kota Kinabalu – the country’s central port, would potentially provide more job opportunities for residents of Sabah, according to Minister in the Prime Minister’s department, Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

At a recent Sabah State Legislative Assembly, Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman announced that the state’s economy saw a growth rate of 35% from 2011 to 2016, while its gross domestic product (GDP) grew from RM59.3bil to RM73.8bil.

“It is currently ranked as one of the top five among the states in Malaysia,” he was reported to have said.

While there is progress in the economy, the same cannot be said for the state’s unemployment rate.

According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, Sabah’s unemployment rate in 2015 stood at 5% and increased to 5.4% last year. The figures are higher when compared to Sarawak, where the unemployment rate in 2015 stood at 3.5% but reduced to 3.3% last year.

One for the camera: Norashikin, Rahman (centre, in white) and Yakub posing with the children after handing out school bags and stationery sets at the launch of the SL1M open day.
One for the camera: Norashikin, Rahman (centre, in white) and Yakub posing with the children after handing out school bags and stationery sets at the launch of the SL1M open day.

Why is this the case?

Well aware of this issue, the people behind Skim Latihan 1Malaysia (SL1M) decided to conduct a roadshow for the second time in Sabah this year.

SL1M secretariat head Norashikin Ismail said this roadshow – SL1M’s eighth one in 2017 – also serves as a closure for all the SL1M roadshows conducted all over Malaysia this year.

Held at the Kota Kinabalu Industrial Training Institute (ILP) in Sepanggar on Nov 18, the roadshow drew 10,000 visitors, according to Norashikin. There were 30 companies present at the event, both from the government and private sectors. These include Petronas, Boustead Holdings, Apex Communications, Legoland, and even local companies such as Borneo Highway PDP and Kolej Yayasan Sabah.

The roadshow gave job seekers a platform to meet with big and small industry players, attend on-the-spot interviews and career talks, and even get their curriculum vitae checked.

Students and employers at fault?

Leaderonomics was one of the participating companies at the SL1M roadshow, where we helped students review their CVs.

From this exercise, we discovered that many of the students in Sepanggar had taken up a variety of courses and there wasn’t one particular area or field that the majority focused on. What was interesting is that some of the students admitted that it was a challenge to find jobs according to their field of study, especially the ones who picked sciences.

Mohd Fahrizuan Mohd Yusop, 24, who graduated with a masters in science majoring in medical physics said he was unable to find a job related to his field of study and was open to looking for jobs in other fields. He said the SL1M programme was good because it was a place for him to scout and see what jobs were available.

Another graduate, Mary Angelina Jud, 22, told us: “I studied marine science, but I realised it’s hard to get a job in this field.

When asked why she came for the roadshow, she said: “I came here because there is a lack of information on job demands in Sabah. I am looking for training in other areas such as accountancy or HR.”

According to Sepanggar acting Umno division chief Datuk Yakub Khan, the marine science field in Sabah is just beginning to see growth.

“In fact, the higher education institutions from Peninsular Malaysia are sending their marine science students to Sabah to conduct their industrial training or practical here,” he said.

So, is the issue then that students in Sabah do not know the right place to go to seek information on job opportunities, or are employers in Sabah not doing a good enough job of advertising them? Or could it be both?

Going out of one’s comfort zone

We also met a SL1M trainee, Siti Adaha Mohd Kasir, 23, who is currently attached to Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd (MAHB).

The biotechnology and management graduate said: “First, MAHB put me in human resources, and then they transferred me to the finance unit where I learned to do invoicing, something which I have never done before.”

With a smile, she added: “I get to learn something new. The experience helped me to build my soft skills, especially my interpersonal skills. It also helped me to be honest, as I was dealing with money.”

So what was she doing at the roadshow, you may ask?

SL1M trainees will only be absorbed into the company they are training under, if they perform well in their job. With this in mind, Siti said she is looking to be part of another SL1M training programme.

“It’s hard to get a job in my field (biotechnology), especially in research and development. That’s why I’m here. I want to develop different skills.”

Mixed reviews from employers

We stopped by the Legoland booth and spoke to Muhamad Helmy Abu Bakar from the company’s talent acquisition department. Having attended previous roadshows, he told us that he found this to be the best one so far.

“There is a hunger for jobs from these students. I can see that the students are not exposed to these kinds of job opportunities, especially from international brands,” he said.

Based on the experience of hiring SL1M trainees from the first Sabah roadshow, Helmy said students from Sabah are loyal to the employer.

Boustead Holdings Bhd corporate planning manager Mohd Najib Mohd Seth said: “Most of the students can speak English. Their communication is good. They are well prepared and confident.”

We asked how they compare with students from Peninsular Malaysia, and he said: “They are more confident.”

He said that some were indeed reluctant to move to KL, due to issues of rental and distance from family.

PMB Investment Bhd’s regional manager of Sabah Yong Yin Kong said some of the students he interviewed lacked preparation, did not update their resumes and were not very convincing. The jobs that PMB was hiring for were in sales and consulting.

According to Yong, some students, at times, get “scared” when they see an advertisement for a sales position.

In a nutshell

Since its inception in 2011, SL1M has directly and indirectly assisted about 140,000 students.

There are countless success stories of students who underwent the SL1M training programme, some of which are documented in a coffee table book, Faith.

Having seen the success of SL1M at aiding the country’s graduate unemployment, Rahman said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will be allocating RM40mil for SL1M to continue its efforts next year.

He said: “SL1M is expected to benefit some 25,000 unemployed graduates next year.”

With that in mind, companies, both in the private and government sectors, are encouraged to do their part to give back to the community by partnering with SL1M. Every youth in Malaysia, regardless of their background, deserves a chance at success.

Giving them the right opportunity and the right platform, will bring them one step closer to achieving that. And their future is in our hands – parents, teachers, companies, government and society.

To find out how you can implement the SL1M programme in your company, e-mail azatul.wahab@epu.gov.my. Do visit SL1M’s official Facebook at Skim Latihan 1Malaysia for latest updates and announcements.

SL1M , job seekers

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