KUCHING: Sarawak has to strengthen its educational institutions and human resource development in order to meet the need for technical workers, which is expected to increase with the speeding up of the proposed Baram and Baleh hydroelectric dams.
Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office Datuk Len Talif Salleh said the state faced a big challenge in producing enough skilled workers for the construction of the dams and their related development.
“Over time the need will be filled by our own people. But we have to synchronise our development by strengthening our institutions of higher learning.
“At the same time we need to strengthen our human resources to meet the demand for workers,” he told reporters after chairing a meeting on the upcoming Sarawak Career and Training Fair here yesterday.
Len was commenting on the announcement by Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud that the Baram and Baleh dams would be built simultaneously instead of one after another.
Taib had said that this was necessary to meet the energy demand of foreign companies keen to invest in the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).
“We already have the Bakun and Murum dams. But with the two new dams, we will be able to cope with higher demand for energy, especially from new investors in SCORE,” he said at the soft opening of University College of Technology Sarawak (UCTS) in Sibu on Monday.
Len said the state government would do more to promote higher education so that students would be informed of the opportunities to come.
He also said it would work together with institutions like UCTS to help fill their places.
“Two years ago only 60% of the available places in local institutions of higher learning were filled. Last year this increased to over 70%.
“We want to increase the number of spaces filled, whether in academic or technical education, and from there our graduates can be absorbed into the work market.
“For example, UCTS has 1,600 places to be filled this year and we will work with them to get students to enter. There is no reason why our children will not take up these places,” he said.
Len added that the state would also promote the creation of new job opportunities, particularly in SCORE, in order to attract and retain local talent.
“A lot of Sarawakians are now working in Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore or even the Middle East. We should create opportunities for them to come back.”