KUCHING: The Sarawak government aims to more than double the number of technical education graduates each year in the near future.
Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said “very aggressive” plans were being put into action for there to be at least 20,000 new technical education graduates annually.
“We should be able to add another 10,000 annually by next year or the year after that,” Taib said at the opening of the “Sarawak Education Development Expo: A Journey of Progress” in Kota Samarahan yesterday.
“With facilities presently available, we have about 8,600 technical graduates a year. Our aim of 20,000 a year is, in fact, a very conservative estimate. We feel we should add even more.”
Taib said the state government was filling in the gaps of whatever the Federal Government had not been able to fulfil.
“The Federal Government has done quite a good job, but it’s not enough, especially in the industrialisation context, so we are forced to be more aggressive.”
According to latest statistics, an estimated 18% of secondary school-leavers in Sarawak this year will pursue technical education.
The Chief Minister said while the state was producing enough university graduates, in the skilled and semi-skilled segment, “we are still very far behind”.
Taib quoted the words of a Penan parent he met recently at the end of his speech.
“A Penan from Long Wat who has just moved to Tegulang in Ulu Kapit said: Education is the only way to progress. I want my children to have a better future. I want them to be educated. I feel we are behind others because we lack education.”
The state’s emphasis on technical education would also lead to a more robust agriculture sector.
Too many rural landowners currently lacked skills needed to develop land, he said.
In recent months, the state government has been actively promoting technical education, which officials said was aimed at fulfilling central Sarawak’s rapid industrialisation, and also to curb the number of school-leavers who enter the job market without qualification.
The state government has announced it would build at least three new technical education institutes within two years.
New state agencies like the Tabung Ekonomi Gagasan Anak Bumiputra Sarawak (Tegas) have also been set up, aimed at encouraging more rural youths to acquire industrial skills.
Tegas, which organised the expo with the Education Ministry, noted that over the past 50 years, the state had only managed to produce 20,000 vocational-level technical workers.
Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office (Promotion of Technical Education) Datuk Len Talif Salleh, said the state’s main challenge, aside from building enough schools, was to change mindset. He added that many still viewed technical education as a second choice education for non-academic achievers.
The expo ends today.