KUALA LUMPUR: The country needs a high number of homegrown talent to support the rapid development of the railway sector following government approval for seven projects that will add another 1,030km of tracks to the network, says Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
The Transport Minister said the rapid growth of rail transport requires a high number of experts, consisting of nearly 100,000 professionals, skilled and semi-skilled talents.
"The number of new talent requirements in the rail field is the cumulative estimate by rail operators as well as contractors involved in rail projects, consisting of planning, construction, up to the operations and maintenance phases," he said in his speech at the launch of Rail Industry Development Programme (RIDP) under the Strategic Industries and High Performance SME Improvement Programme (Prestige) here on Monday (April 19).
The event was also attended by Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.
Dr Wee admitted that most local companies are still lacking in technical skills and funding in order to be involved in the rail sector, as it requires high investment and technological capabilities.
"Following the matter, supply and maintenance contracts are mainly dominated by companies from China, Siemens from Germany, Hitachi from Japan, as well as Bombardier from Canada," he said.
"Realising the importance of development in the rail industry, the Transport Ministry has partnered with the Technology Depository Agency to conduct vendor development programmes for industry players.
"In an effort to develop this rail industry holistically, the Transport Ministry had established the National Railway Centre of Excellence (NRCOE), which serves as an integrated rail industry development centre," he said.
"In this regard, the NRCOE will focus on developing the capacity and capability of local rail industry players under RIDP.
"Under RIDP, local industry players will be identified according to their respective expertise and technology transfer opportunities from original equipment manufacturers (OEM), and will be matched with anchor companies to ensure local companies have the opportunity to increase capacity and capability so that they will remain viable and be able to compete," added Dr Wee.
He said the government will continue to provide support and guidance to local industry players that wish to strive to increase their expertise and capacity.
"Under Prestige and RIDP, companies will be told how to increase their capacity and marketability, and increase the percentage of local content to at least 45% for some of the components, by 2030.
"I have been informed that eight companies have been selected for this programme, namely EMIR Cool Asia Sdn Bhd, RSC Sdn Bhd, ATIQS Sdn Bhd, KTK-DOM Sdn Bhd, Malnaga Sdn Bhd, Majestic Engineering Sdn Bhd, Innoglass Sdn Bhd, and Interfleet Rail Engineering Sdn Bhd.
"The selected companies will undergo an international accreditation programme, which is the International Railway Industry Standard, so that they are eligible to participate in local rail projects and compete internationally. This is the first ever certification programme held for the rail industry in Malaysia," said Dr Wee, who added that further boost came from the matching grant provided by SME Corp, an agency under the Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Ministry, to help these companies upgrade their capacity so that they can produce higher quality rail products.
"Companies will also undergo the Professional Training Programme (Safety Rail & Sustainable Rail) and will be assisted in a more structured and targeted industrial capacity building programme.
"With RIDP, we will be able to reduce our dependence on foreign suppliers, and at the same time be able to reduce financial outflows," he said.
Meanwhile, Wan Junaidi said the rail industry had contributed a total of RM43.05bil to the country's economy, and is expected to produce 50,000 skilled workers by 2030, noting that ongoing rail projects include the East Coast Rail Link, MRT2, and MRT3.
"The implementation of the projects is expected to give opportunities for local companies in the supply chain, especially in engineering, maintenance, repair, overhaul, and the manufacturing of railway system components," added Wan Junaidi.