GROWING up wasn’t easy for Pajilawati Sakibun. She lived in a rural village in Kudat, Sabah and is the daughter of a traditional fisherman. Her father was the sole breadwinner of their family and had to fend for his wife and nine children.
On days when his catch was small or when he was unable to go to sea, all their family would have was rice with salt. This story was shared by Skim Latihan 1Malaysia (SL1M) secretariat head Norashikin Ismail during a recent press conference.
Unlike her two elder sisters, Pajila had a desire to further her studies after completing secondary school.
“I can’t live in my village forever. If we don’t get out, we will become narrow-minded,” she said in an interview with Leaderonomics.
She got an offer to study tourism in Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Kedah. Despite failing to receive a PTPTN loan, she managed to pay her way through university with a loan, family savings and her personal income.
Upon graduation, Pajila was in and out of jobs for a year. She was watching television one day at home and saw an advertisement for SL1M.
She attended SL1M’s roadshow held in Kota Kinabalu and applied for a training programme at Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB), under Malaysian Aviation Group Bhd (MAG), and two weeks later, received good news that she would be posted to Kuala Lumpur to undergo an apprenticeship in the customer service division.
Today – four years later – Pajila is very pleased with her job as a customer service officer in AeroDarat Services Sdn Bhd – a subsidiary of MAG which provides ground handling services at airports. She has moved from working at the check-in counter in KL International Airport (KLIA) to handling passengers at the boarding gate.
Now, Pajila is able to provide financial support to her family – she can even save up and afford a car!
Some of her friends have, in fact, approached her to ask how she got her job.
When asked further about her financial responsibilities, she said: “My two older sisters are married and have their own families (to take care of). So, (a lot of the) responsibility falls on my shoulder.”
This is because her father is no longer working and two of her siblings are still in school.
“Everyone has their own set of problems. Thinking negatively of a situation won’t change anything. We have to be positive,” she shared.
Pajila’s story is just one of the many success stories of graduates who underwent the SL1M training programme.
SL1M was incepted in 2011, and with just 16 people making up its team, they have directly and indirectly assisted 144,440 students as of last December.
The programme – conducted in collaboration with government-linked companies (GLC) and private companies – helps underemployed and unemployed graduates enhance their marketability with soft skills and on-the-job training for up to 12 months.
The SL1M open interview programme kicked off at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS) on Feb 24.
According to a Malaysian Industrial Development Finance (MIDF) report published last year, Sabah recorded the second highest youth unemployment rate at 13%, after Kelantan (13.8%). What’s interesting to note is that this figure is the lowest in the last five years (2011 to 2016) for Sabah. This progress could likely be attributed to more job opportunities and more skilled graduates.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan admitted: “The reality is that we (Sabah) are still a bit behind compared to peninsular Malaysia in terms of development and human capital.”
He said that plenty was being done to improve the livelihood of the people in Sabah, such as the construction of the Pan Borneo Highway Sabah to improve road connectivity across the state and the development and operations of independent power producer in Sandakan to address the issue of acute power outages.
However, he said the state’s progress was not a responsibility that fell solely on the shoulders of the government, but its people as well.
“The time has come for the youth of Sabah to take responsibility to reduce the gap (in development and human capital) between peninsular Malaysia and Sabah,” he said.
This is one of the reasons why SL1M has made Sabah one of its key pit-stops in its year-long roadshow this year.
The Sabah open interview programme, which took place a week ago at Universiti Malaysia Sabah, drew a crowd of 15,000 visitors.
Forty-one employers – both small and large – had set up booths over the two-day roadshow to collect students’ resumes and conduct on-the-spot interviews.
Thoughts from SMEs
Effective March 1, all companies that are already – or will be – running the SL1M programme will have to increase each trainee’s allowance from RM1,500 to RM2,000.
As stated in a circular issued by the Finance Ministry, it is mandatory for companies to conduct the SL1M programme if they want to be considered for a government contract. The same circular stated that 1% of the value of the contract should be used for the SL1M programme.
Advanced Air Traffic Systems (M) Sdn Bhd (AAT), a medium-sized enterprise which specialises in installation, maintenance and integrated logistic support services, began their first ever SL1M programme last month and started off with providing an allowance of RM1,500.
When asked about the additional RM500 in allowance, human resources and administration senior assistant manager Zaniha Ismail said: “Our company is expanding. We will need to budget the 1% from the contract. We do have the budget, but we just need to re-calculate.”
She said that due to the value of the contract, the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) actually proposed that AAT take in 87 trainees.
“Our company is quite small. Instead of taking in 87 SL1M trainees, we requested to take in 20 trainees. Thankfully, EPU agreed to give us a rebate,” she added.
With regard to the capabilities of Sabah graduates – who are known more for their technical and vocational background – she said: “They have good qualifications. Our business is technical and so it’s easy to find competent fresh graduates here.
Brilliant Wealth Advisory Sdn Bhd, another medium-sized company that sells housing loans, insurance and other products for Great Eastern and OCBC, was present at the roadshow to recruit graduates for the role of personal financial adviser.
Johor Baru agency manager Patrick Tan shared that the level of confidence in some graduates, who showed up at the roadshow, was noticeably lower when they spoke English.
“This would be a problem if they work for big corporations. It is indeed one of the concerns. However, even though they can’t speak good English, their attitude is okay because they are willing to learn,” he said.
Bringing it all together
If medium-sized enterprises are able to help our graduates, so can large corporations.
“When I talk to companies, I tell them to try and put themselves in the shoes of graduates, especially the ones who are from rural areas.
“Companies shouldn’t complain that the allowance increase is troublesome because it is a training programme which is subsidised by the government,” Norashikin said.
She said this in reference to the fact that companies that sign up to be SL1M partners are eligible for double tax deduction or the SL1M-HRDF incentive.
No matter how big or small, all companies can do their part to help underemployed and unemployed graduates. It is just a small step towards making a big difference.
To find out how you can implement the SL1M programme in your company, e-mail to email@example.com. Visit SL1M’s official Facebook page at Skim Latihan 1Malaysia for the latest updates and announcements.