HOMEGROWN EFFORT UPHOLDS JOHOR’S PRIDE


The Kopeja team discussing upskilling development efforts with PRPC community relations manager, Haizam Idris (fourth from left). — THOMASYONG/The StarThe Kopeja team discussing upskilling development efforts with PRPC community relations manager, Haizam Idris (fourth from left). — THOMASYONG/The Star

SETTING up cooperatives or co-ops usually is a way like-minded individuals can create a business that mutually benefits them as a group.

For the people of Pengerang, Johor, forming a co-op eventually paved the way for the sleepy district to shed its quiet demeanour and assume a modern and technologically advanced outlook.

Located at the southern tip of Johor in the district of Kota Tinggi, Pengerang was once considered the land’s end of Peninsular Malaysia, right before the shores of Singapore island.

Previously populated by small villages that practised traditional economies such as fishing and agriculture, the subdistrict was identified by the Johor state government for a stimulant programme that will transform the rural landscape.

This led to the incorporation of the Koperasi Pengerang Jaya Berhad (Kopeja) in October 2018 with business operations starting in January the following year.

“It was previously made up of Taman Bayu Damai residents,” said Kopeja Sdn Bhd executive chairman Zebree Hashim.

Part of this co-op was to form a subsidiary to provide services and maintenance works as well as followed up mechanical works to the industries covering oil and gas, petrochemical, power plant and heavy engineering or fabricator – Kopeja Oil & Gas Sdn Bhd (KOG).

The experts at KOG with CEO Hafizan (middle, in black) provide on-site machining support to the oil and gas in Pengerang.The experts at KOG with CEO Hafizan (middle, in black) provide on-site machining support to the oil and gas in Pengerang.

“To ensure business continuity, we explored other business ventures through KOG, where there are many technical and operational project opportunities that exist in addition to running the existing diesel business,” explained Zebree.

“This oil and gas subsidiary is part of the many co-ops under the Malaysian Co-operative Societies Commission and was formed specifically to provide engineering services,” said KOG chief executive officer (CEO) Mohd Hafizan Ishak.

He added that KOG was also created in tandem with the development of the biggest petrochemical in the region, Pengerang Integrated Complex (PIC), that is part of the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) – which in itself is a megaproject development in Pengerang, dedicated for downstream oil and gas activities.

In addition to that, KOG also serves other entities within PIC.

“In fact, Kopeja had already started venturing into the diesel business since PIC’s early project phase.

“Indeed, we are excited to look beyond to further grow this business venture”, Zebree added.

Creating new opportunities

The service KOG provides directly relates to the development at PIC, especially in the transportation and piping of the oil and gases, using techniques that require hydraulic torque wrench, flange-facing procedures, milling and cold-cutting, among others.

PRPC CEO Kamal Bahrin Ahmad: ‘Our effort in helping the local community to upskill has provided education and employment opportunities, which have improved the livelihood in Pengerang.’PRPC CEO Kamal Bahrin Ahmad: ‘Our effort in helping the local community to upskill has provided education and employment opportunities, which have improved the livelihood in Pengerang.’Aspiring to position PIC as one of the leading petrochemical parks in Asia, park developer, PETRONAS Refinery and Petrochemical Corporation Sdn Bhd (PRPC) senior vice President and chief executive officer Kamal Bahrin Ahmad said, “In line with our vision to establish ourselves as the Regional Petrochemical Park, PIC is committed to continuously improve the local socio-economic and wellbeing of communities in Pengerang, as part of our holistic approach to sustainability that balances environment, social and governance (ESG) consideration.

“This pledge reflects the development of KOG, which is one of six local cooperatives that we support in growing its business ventures, while actively enabling job opportunities to the locals.

“On another hand, our effort in helping the local community to upskill has provided education and employment opportunities that have improved the livelihood of the youths and locals within the community in Pengerang.”

The introduction of PIC in Pengerang has generated constant interaction with a wide range of socioeconomic factors.

From matters related to the resettlement and livelihoods restoration of community members from the seven original villages, to protecting the wellbeing of the local community at Pengerang, PIC continues to support the business development of cooperatives, such as Kopeja.

In a sense whatever business it does returns to the community, using the model of a social enterprise, whereby the revenue generated from all these transactions are redistributed back to the shareholders, who are the local settlers themselves.

This model of doing business and returning the gains back to the society is more sustainable as compared to the continuous corporate social responsibility programmes that most corporations practise.

Kopeja executive chairman Zebree Hashim: ‘KOG was formed to provide services and maintenance works as well as followed up mechanical works to all oil and gas industries.’Kopeja executive chairman Zebree Hashim: ‘KOG was formed to provide services and maintenance works as well as followed up mechanical works to all oil and gas industries.’Simultaneously, KOG engages local youths and the communities, providing training in the oil and gas industry via the Skills in Oil and Gas (SOGA) programme, whereby local youths take oil and gas courses in local higher learning institutions.

After graduation, these youths will join KOG or companies that provide similar services to the PIC.

Revolutionising Pengerang

Hafizan shared that there are currently 320 trainees spread out in KOG or in other main PETRONAS contractor firms where their training will continue.

One of these is 25-year-old engineer Nur Amirah Hazlan, who has been working with KOG for a year, handling clients and pricing for the work provided.

“Being in the oil and gas industry was the most unexpected for me because I felt that getting chosen was going to be difficult.

“But alhamdulillah, I managed to pass the entrance interview,” she said.

“Working in KOG is a great opportunity – one that I am happy to secure.”

Nur Amirah also shared that being a woman was no different when working in KOG or indeed in the oil and gas industry.

“Even when I was taking my course, there were other women in my class, so that doesn’t pose any difficulty or challenge, although the perception is that oil and gas is considered a man’s job.”

“You need to have confidence in yourself and your work, but of course, saying that, you need to have the knowledge to back up your confidence,” Nur Amirah advised.

Hafizan elaborated that the programme was a collaboration between PIC and the Johor Petroleum Development Corporation Berhad (JPDC) to train local youths to participate in SOGA for PIC.

As it involves more locals, the plan suits the strategy well.

While there is no targeted amount to train, the need for recruitment will arise if there is a demand for manpower in PIC.

“We practise training and job placement,” said Hafizan, “we don’t just bring anyone and give them training without ensuring them a position.

“We will engage with potential employers in PIC for how many recruits they want to engage, we will interview the suitable candidates and then send them for training.

“Upon their graduation, they will immediately get their job placements.”

KOG will offer a short course in mechanical training within Pengerang as part of the SOGA programme.

Such is the case for supervisor Nashran Ishak, 29 from Pengerang, who has been with KOG since 2020.

Previously hired for maintenance and lifting in RAPID, Nashran only had some knowledge in on-site machining.

“Kopeja sent me to learn and to receive certification in Kuala Lumpur, which lasted a few months.

“After that, I was offered a place in KOG and have been training in machining, off-site machining and more here since.

“Before being certified, I only functioned as a helper. I could do the job but there was no knowledge or skill on why it is done a certain way.

He said KOG made it possible for local youths to upgrade their competency.

“The quality and safety of work becomes certain and with PETRONAS, how you work needs to be secure and safe.”

Nashran is currently training for a management role, which highlights how Kopeja and KOG elevate the standard of living for many folks in Pengerang.

Reviving local economy

Supervisor at KOG, Arashzarkashie Muliade, 25 said since the oil and gas industry has provided a viable source of income, there are more job openings for locals as compared to before.

He added that thanks to the oil and gas industry, Pengerang is more recognised among those outside the state.

“In the past not many people have heard of Pengerang because it’s right at the end of the state.

“Now if you ask anyone, they can tell you it’s the one that refines oil and gas.”

Arash said his challenge is in ensuring the technicians under him follow the prescribed standard operating system during onsite work.

Nur Amirah said that being a woman was no different when working in the oil and gas industry, despite the preconception that the industry is for men.Nur Amirah said that being a woman was no different when working in the oil and gas industry, despite the preconception that the industry is for men.

“While I had the basics before joining KOG, my skills were not up to par. With Kopeja I received training and certification as the co-op aims to give the best training to improve our skills.”

From that other supporting businesses started opening up.

“There are more shops nowadays and even international fast food chains are found nearby. These economic changes are for the better.”

Echoing Arash’s view is technician Sheikh Fazlan Sheikh Zainal, who said before oil and gas made headway in Pengerang, most people worked as farmers and fishermen or worked in the fields as rubber tappers or oil palm harvesters.

By introducing oil and gas, the state government created more jobs for local youths in the surrounding villages.

“Those who previously cannot find work today hold steady jobs and it also helped in bringing in investors to Pengerang.

Pengerang locals (clockwise from top left) Faezal, Fazlan, Nashran andArash agree that the oil and gas industry has created more jobs for localyouths in the surrounding villages.Pengerang locals (clockwise from top left) Faezal, Fazlan, Nashran andArash agree that the oil and gas industry has created more jobs for localyouths in the surrounding villages.

“With better infrastructure, such as better and wider roads and highways, travelling time has been much shorter.”

The 36-year-old shared that before joining KOG in 2016 he had already worked in the oil and gas industry for a different company.

“In 2019 I received an offer to join Kopeja and have been in KOG ever since.”

While Fazlan had the basics before joining KOG, he had very few skills, which he had since nurtured being with Kopeja, through training and certification.

His daily duties revolve around the instructions he receives from his supervisor or coordinator.

His peer and friend, Nor Faezal Nordin, age 42, was part of the first batch of trainees to join the KOG training for on-site machining and bolting in 2019.

KOG CEO Mohd Hafizan Ishak: ‘The programme was a collaboration between PIC and Johor Petroleum Development Corporation Berhad to train local youths to participate in SOGA for PIC.’KOG CEO Mohd Hafizan Ishak: ‘The programme was a collaboration between PIC and Johor Petroleum Development Corporation Berhad to train local youths to participate in SOGA for PIC.’

“In 2020 I was absorbed into KOG together with Fazlan, while other trainees received offers to other companies.”

Although Faezal was in oil and gas before Kopeja, he was trained in electrical and instrumentation.

During the shift he had to relearn from scratch as on-site machining is far different from his previous job.

“Oil and gas has brought many developments with a better economy for the region.

“On a personal level, this could mean a higher salary, while on a larger scale, the kampungs and the villagers have access to more jobs,” he said, citing the nearby development of Bukit Pelali as an example.

Before oil and gas was introduced many of the youths in his village would leave for towns like Pasir Gudang or Sembawang in Singapore for work.

A technician overseeing the flange facing process on-site. KOG instilslocal trainees with technical skills in the oil and gas industry to elevate thequality of life within the community. – Pic courtesy of KOGA technician overseeing the flange facing process on-site. KOG instilslocal trainees with technical skills in the oil and gas industry to elevate thequality of life within the community. – Pic courtesy of KOG

“Once RAPID opened, many them returned to find work closer to their hometown,” Faezal shared.

Looking ahead

Zebree said PIC has supported KOG’s progress in its development by providing extensive support, through procurement and consultation from the PRPC stakeholders.

“It also provided guidance on how to remain prominent and competitive among other oil and gas companies.”

His goals for the future is to take KOG even higher and to be recognised as the leading company in the Petronas-managed Vendor Development Programme - Extension (VDPx).

He also intends to strengthen KOG’s position as one of the preferred contractors in Johor, if not within the oil and gas industry.

This homegrown Johor company is the first and only local initiative that actively participates in the oil and gas arena – something many in Pengerang are proud of.

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