By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
“Based on qualified reports, the number of unemployed in Perak is about 29,000 or 3.2 per cent of the national average. Is something being done to address this problem?”
Unemployment is a nasty word as it conjures a state of helplessness and destitution involving an individual or a group of people. However, if one is unemployable due to reasons of education or qualification or experience, it conveys another meaning entirely.
There are the employed and there are the underemployed. The employed could consider themselves lucky as they have a job to do which inadvertently translates to a fixed income at the end of each month. The underemployed, however, face a different kind of problem. They are not doing what they are trained to do or qualified to do, like an IT graduate doing a salesman job or a medical doctor pedalling “minyak urut” at a pasar malam. Both suffer from an identity crisis and income deficiency. One does not have a job while the other has a job but is doing what he is not trained for. These problems are prevalent in our society and Perakeans are no exception.
Based on qualified reports, the number of unemployed in Perak is about 29,000 or 3.2 per cent of the national average. Is something being done to address this problem? The answer is a resounding “yes”. The question that is on everyone’s lips, however, is whether the “yes” is good enough or is it a mere shot in the arm done to please the burgeoning number of Perakeans without a job.
Each year the number of job seekers increases as students leave schools and institutions of higher learning. There are several such institutions in the state. Close to Ipoh Echo’s office is Kolej Poly-Tech Mara managed by Kolej Poly-Tech MARA Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA). It has seven campuses throughout the country.
The singular objective of the college is to train Malay youths in the field of information technology. The Ipoh campus accommodates some 700 students specialising in various Multimedia disciplines. Thus 700 new graduates leave the college annually. Of this number, some 40 per cent, for reasons of expedience, join the job market while the remaining 60 per cent continue with their education. This is just one institution of higher learning. There are several in the city, private and state-owned. If 280 is the base figure for one institution imagine if there are 10. The annual figure may easily reach the 3,000 mark.
Are these graduates employable? I speak from the viewpoint of an employer. The answer is both yes and no. Employees require on-the-job training to fit in. Question is whether the employers have the capacity and the time to train these greenhorns? Many may flinch at the thought of having to start from scratch. But it is a risk employers have to take in order to employ these youngsters.
The state government has come with a novel idea of finding (not creating) jobs for these job-seekers. Institut Darul Ridzuan (IDR), established in 2005, went on a state-wide tour to find suitable jobs for those registered with the body. Perak Umno Youth’s estimation of 17,000 job opportunities seemed grossly exaggerated when reality sets in. The movement’s optimism was based on speculation rather than on current needs. Perak PAS Youth Secretary, Salman Hj Saleh, questioned the MB’s sincerity in resolving the problem. Only about 2,000 vacancies were eventually filled. Salman took Zambry to task for making such a dubious claim. “Why the disparity in numbers?” he asked.
According to Aminuddin Hashim, Chief Executive of IDR and the initiator of the much-touted Perak Amanjaya Job and Career Fair launched in October, the base problem is compatibility. “The unemployed don’t have the skills that the employers require,” he lamented. Thus the age-old problem persists, despite claims to the contrary. We are not producing employable youths to meet market demands. Our education system is the culprit. A major overhaul is required. At this juncture, there is simply no political will to do the needful.