Tag Archives: Emily Lowe

Job Opportunities in Perak

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Cover Story

By Emily Lowe

During the ‘60s and ‘70s when tin and rubber were the main contributors to Malaysia’s commodity-based economy, Perak was considered the second most prosperous state in the country, after Selangor, in terms of per capita income. Besides Ipoh, towns like Kampar, Bidor and Taiping were vibrant, often associated with millionaires and Mercedes Benzes. With the collapse of the world tin industry in the early 1980s, Perak saw a turn of fortune. The closure of tin mines affected livelihood and this forced many to migrate overseas to seek greener pastures. The trend has since continued, with most choosing to remain where they pursued tertiary education.

Job opportunities in Perak-1

Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment is always an option

While statistics are not available, Pusat Kerjaya Amanjaya (PeKA), a State job placement agency, through a press statement issued on July 30, 2013, has acknowledged that many college and university graduates are finding difficulty in looking for their dream jobs.

Although PeKA was incepted in March 2011, and has secured gainful employment for 9241 job seekers via its portal www.jobsperak.com, the perception remains that skilled workers and professionals in Perak cannot get jobs that meet their requirements.

It is also worth noting that most vacancies offered at career fairs are for lower positions, and do not necessarily appeal to those with at least a degree qualification.

Questions that need to be asked such as:

  • Are there enough jobs for college/university graduates?
  • Are the youths too choosy about the nature of the jobs and/or the pay?
  • Do they have the necessary skills needed by the employers?
  • Ipoh Echo spoke to stakeholders, namely aspiring employees, potential employers and Non-Governmental Organisations for their views.
Melvin Navin
Melvin Navin

Employee Perspectives

According to Melvin Navin a/l Edwin Williams, 22, who will graduate from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) this December with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, looking for a suitable job in Ipoh will be tough. He said, “Ipoh is a small city and positions are always quickly filled. It may not be a problem looking for an in-house PR job but at this point, I am all for venturing beyond Ipoh.”

Khoo Ebel
Khoo Ebel

Khoo Ebel, 22, who graduated from the same university in May, also with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, believes that fresh graduates should not be picky when it comes to their first job. Currently working as sales coordinator at Kinta Riverfront Hotel, it is not her principal field of study, but she is beginning to like her job.

Ebel said, “I have always liked the hotel environment, and took up public relations for its wider job scope. No doubt, there is a lack of opportunity in Ipoh, but I wish to gain as much experience as I can first.”

Employer Perspectives

Alan Tan Hock Lee (Unisem)
Alan Tan Hock Lee (Unisem)

Alan Tan Hock Lee, Human Resources Manager at Unisem (M) Bhd, a semiconductor manufacturing plant in Simpang Pulai, did not believe that the quality of jobs in Perak is lacking. He countered, “There are quite a number of opportunities open. On the contrary, it is a challenge to find the right candidate to fill a vacancy. The youth nowadays are unwilling to work hard. Besides, they are looking for jobs that offer flexi-time.”

Tan continued, “The only economically viable industry in the country is manufacturing. Definitely, more has to be done to attract investors to set up their plants here, with incentive packages attractive enough for them to commit their investments.”

General Manager of Casuarina @ Meru, Chow Mun Lan, concurred, “There are a lot of job opportunities open. It depends on whether one is ready to take up the challenge or not. Job seekers are quite selective these days, as you know.”

Casuarina @ Meru, with 150 guest rooms, has scheduled its soft opening for November. There are more than 100 vacancies available across the board.

Chow continued, “We’re open to those without experience because training is provided. It’ll be an on-going learning process. Even though they may leave us at some point in time, at least they’ll be equipped with the relevant knowledge and skills.

“Therefore, I believe there are plenty of job opportunities in Ipoh, especially for those in the hospitality industry. Besides, internal staff will have priority when it comes to promotion.”

NGO Perspectives

Dato’ Gan Tack Kong, Chairman of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Perak, believes that the perception given at career fairs is grossly incorrect as most employers in the manufacturing industry prefer to advertise their vacancies through other media such as newspaper, headhunting agencies and online.

He said, “In the first six days of August 2013, there were 24 management-level vacancies offered by the industry via JobStreet, in the areas of Engineering, Purchasing, Production and Accounts, just to name a few. On the other hand, some multinational companies indicated problems in recruiting engineers in the areas of Research & Development, product development and costing. These companies are prepared to offer apprenticeship, and yet still faced difficulties in sourcing for suitable candidates.”

According to Lee Chee Ming, Chairman of the Perak Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Social and Economic Research Committee, the job situation is both a function and reflection of the economic activities in Perak. The higher the level of economic activity the more jobs will be created.

Lee Chee Ming
Lee Chee Ming

Lee opined, “For job opportunities, people and government need to invest in consumption and capital goods. A major problem lies with low capital expenditure. Perak has some 2.8 million people or approximately ten percent of the country’s population. The state, however, has been allocated less than two percent of the annual federal capital expenditure. We need a bigger allocation for infrastructure like roads, universities, gas pipelines, public housing, etc.

“Perak is in dire need of a gas pipeline to cater for the needs of industries in the Kinta Valley. The cost of laying such a line from Tronoh to Simpang Pulai is estimated at RM160 million. For over 10 years now we are still discussing  where the funding for this much needed pipeline will come from.

“The bulk of the capital expenditure and development under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) will go to Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley, Penang and Iskandar Johore. Most of the jobs created over the next seven years until 2020 will be in these three growth areas. If we have high speed trains that run at 300km/h connecting towns from the north to the south of Peninsular Malaysia, people can actually live in smaller towns and commute daily to work in larger cities. This will ensure a geographically more balanced development.

“Ipoh airport has recently been upgraded and the runway extended. We’ve yet to see the much needed direct flights to regional metropolitan cities like Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Connectivity and easier accessibility will not only bring in more tourists but also foreign investments.

“To encourage private sector investment, domestic and foreign, we need a business-friendly public delivery system that is second to none. Relevant authorities should hold frequent dialogues with trade associations and help their members to grow, expand and be successful. Successful businesses are our best ambassadors to attract new investors. This has to be complemented with an efficient and transparent public delivery system.

“Currently, it is people-driven, very much dependant on the availability of the officers-in-charge. We should move towards a system-driven approach where the process of application for permits and licences has a specific timeline. Rejections should have reasons stated and suggestions for the applicants to meet compliance. This will go a long way towards attracting new investments.”

Fahimah Mohamad Farid
Fahimah Mohamad Farid (internet entrepreneur)
The Bargain Palace (young entrepreneurs)
The Bargain Palace (young entrepreneurs)

Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment

Suitable jobs may be difficult to come by, especially for those without work experience. However, thinking out of the box, is it set in stone that fresh graduates must seek employment? If opportunities are difficult to come by, why not create one yourself?

The world is our marketplace, thanks to the Internet. Fahimah Mohamad Farid, 26, who prefers to be called Emma, is a diploma holder in batik art craft from the National Craft Institute in Rawang, Selangor. Emma sews felt owl plushies for sale under her brand name, Felt Ville, not only through the Internet but also at local bazaars.

Brandon Choy is a 16-year-old student of SMJK Sam Tet, Ipoh. He and two friends started a T-shirt designing and printing business in November 2011, offering their services to student clubs. Brandon said, “The decision to start The Bargain Palace was easy as there was a void. Besides, communicating with my peers isn’t a problem. Business was very tough initially, as we had to gain our clients’ trust first.”

Brandon’s partner, Gerald Leong, a fourth former at the same school, said the idea to go into business came about because he is not academically-inclined. However, there is no denying about the importance of education and plans to pursue a degree in electrical and electronics in Taiwan, and thereafter, establish a career overseas.

When it comes to job hunting, Gerald said, “It is easier to land a job if one is skill-trained.” Wise words from a 17-year-old lad.

Pasukan Petugas Khas Permudahcara Perniagaan

Pemudah Smoothing the way for Business

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By Emily Lowe

PEMUDAH or Pasukan Petugas Khas Permudahcara Perniagaan (Special Task Force to Facilitate Business) is a high-powered task force set up to address bureaucracy in business-government dealings. The idea was the brainchild of former Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, initiated during his annual speech to the civil service in January, 2007. In short, the inception of PEMUDAH was to effect greater improvement in the way government regulates businesses, enhances policies and revamps public sector delivery systems, if and when the need arises.

A Customer-Oriented Delivery System for Both the Public and Private Sectors

Perak was the first state in Malaysia to establish a state-level PEMUDAH in November 2007, following a proposal by the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers – FMM (Perak). While PEMUDAH Malaysia looks after federal policies, PEMUDAH Perak’s main focus is on state policies, which are sometimes raised to the Federal Government, if necessary.

PEMUDAH Perak encourages participation of all district offices, local authorities, government bodies, quasi-government bodies and other regulatory bodies in the state along with the private sector, with the aim of improving the state’s delivery system.

Vision and Values

Following guidelines from Putrajaya, PEMUDAH Perak also aims to achieve a delivery system for both the public and private sector that is not only customer-oriented but innovative and proactive, as is globally bench-marked.

PEMUDAH Perak looks forward to a proactive collaboration between the public and private sectors and supportive governing bodies based on reasonable business terms and conditions. The purpose is to intensify services integrity and create awareness of issues faced by the business community in the state.

Terms of Reference

  • To review the status of public services delivery system in terms of processes, procedures, laws and human resources and to improve upon these.
  • To benchmark the good practices in the public and private sectors.
  • To co-ordinate and organise programmes amongst public service agencies in order to reinforce the competitiveness of Malaysia, particularly Perak.
  • To address the relevant issues on public sector delivery system raised at State Exco meetings.

Composition of Committee

PEMUDAH Perak is co-chaired by the State Secretary, Dato’ Abdul Puhat bin Mat Nayan, representing the public sector, and FMM (Perak) Chairman, Dato’ Gan Tack Kong, representing the private sector. The Secretariat is made up of the State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN) and FMM Perak. It is representative of the composition at federal level where the Chief Secretary and President of FMM  (Malaysia) co-chair.

Other members include the State Financial Officer, Deputy State Secretary and Ipoh Mayor from the public sector; and Dato’ Francis Lee (REHDA Perak Chairman), Lee Chee Meng (Perak Chinese Chamber of Commerce or PCCCI), Peter Yates  (CEO Carsem), Chairman Leong Hua  Kooi of  Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI) Perak chapter and Dato’ Muhammad Muhiyuddin (Perak Malay Chamber of Commerce), among others from the private sector. The committee meets bimonthly on the first Friday of even months.

Restructuring Exercise

In 2011, PEMUDAH Perak underwent a major restructuring exercise. A drastic move was taken to open up membership to individual companies, instead of just business associations and chambers in Perak.

As part of its restructure, six focus groups were formed:

  1. Industrial Park Management Committee (IPMC)
  2. Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
  3. Human Resources
  4. Permits and Licenses for Business
  5. Properties and Land Matters
  6. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
PEMUDAH - Pasukan Petugas Khas Permudahcara Perniagaan
Dato’ Gan Tack Kong,
FMM (Perak) Chairman

A seventh focus group has been proposed – Security (encompassing both physical and online threats). These focus groups are jointly chaired by representatives from both the public and private sectors, all of whom are members of PEMUDAH Perak.

Co-chairman of PEMUDAH Perak, Dato’ Gan Tack Kong, is happy that the newly revamped task force is finally meeting its objectives and resolving issues.

Benchmarking

PEMUDAH, in general, uses the global index of “Ease of Doing Business” by the World Bank Group as a benchmark to check on the level of ease to conduct business in the country. Malaysia ranked 23 out of 183 economies indexed in 2011 but jumped five positions in 2012 to rank at number 18.

PEMUDAH Perak refers to key indicators set by the World Bank Group to improve on the ease of doing business at state level. These indicators include starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity supply, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, taxes, cross-border trading, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.

Challenges

According to Dato’ Gan, initially it was tough going for PEMUDAH Perak and the mechanism of streamlining the delivery system in the state was slow, as there was no proper system in place. “It wasn’t easy to change the mindset of those in the public service to see why a revamp was required,” he said.

However, the task force has been receiving full co-operation from the State Government since Dato’ Abdul Puhat, the new State Secretary came on board in December 2011. While addressing state policies is a manageable task, decisions that involve Federal Government policies are still difficult to reach. “One major difficulty is seeking Federal allocation for state projects,” said Gan.

Work in Progress

The plight of the Perak Pottery Association, which is currently facing an energy crisis, is of major concern to PEMUDAH Perak. Businesses in the pottery industry are grossly affected by the inability to procure good quality fuel at a reasonable price. As a result, some companies folded as they were unable to sustain their business due to the rising cost of fuel.

The Ceramic Park Industrial Area in Chepor, which was once only open to those in the ceramics business, is now occupied by businesses from other sectors as well. Hence, the park is now home to a mixed industry, which was not the original intention.

The problem faced by the Perak Pottery Association affects the whole country as nearly 80 per cent of ceramic products in the country are manufactured in Perak.

Proposals

The focus group on Human Resources proposes to establish a One-Stop-Centre (OSC), probably at the Immigration Department in Meru Raya. This is to facilitate the recruitment of foreign labour. Companies are currently forced to make countless trips to Putrajaya to process permits to hire foreign employees.

The focus group on Permits and Licensing, headed by Ipoh Mayor, Dato’ Hj Roshidi Hashim and Dato’ Francis Lee (REDHA Perak Chairman), has proposed that the lengthy licensing procedures be streamlined and checklists shortened. The Ipoh City Council has been tasked to provide the benchmark for other local councils to follow.

Success Stories

Since its establishment in November 2007, PEMUDAH Perak has reduced the cost of doing business and enhanced trade and business opportunities in the state, besides improving the public delivery system. Issues resolved include the speeding up of AP approval for the export of rock materials under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, speeding up the renewal application of mining lease for Kaolin (M) Sdn Bhd, which had been pending for two years and the establishment of the State IPMC (Industrial Park Management Committee).

Dato’ Gan is particularly proud of IPMC’s performance thus far, especially in the districts of Ipoh, Taiping, Manjung, Tapah, Gerik, Kerian, Teluk Intan and Batu Gajah.

Each committee is required to meet four times a year to address infrastructure issues that may crop up in their respective industrial estates. Local councils have been utilising the IPMC platform to lobby for Federal grants through Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA).

Shining examples would be the Federal grant disbursed to industrial parks in Perak under the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015). Tasek Industrial Estate in Ipoh received RM3.1 million for the upgrading of road and drainage, the Ceramic Park Industrial Area in Chepor received RM1.8 million for road works, while Kamunting Raya Industrial Estate in Taiping received RM3.4 million for road and drainage works.

With IPMC in place, PEMUDAH Perak is able to, within the shortest period of time, identify industrial land that has been left idle, and link these to interested investors quickly. This saves potential investors time and money.

On a more basic level, the approval of “Halal” certificates now requires only one month compared to three months previously, while land registration with the Office of Land and Mines now takes only one working day.

PEMUDAH - Pasukan Petugas Khas Permudahcara Perniagaan
Mohd Jaffrey b Mohd Zainol

PEMUDAH Perak

Even though the main objective of PEMUDAH, at both national and state levels, is to facilitate business, PEMUDAH Perak welcomes feedback from the general public on issues pertaining to streamlining of delivery systems in the public sector.

Mohd Jaffrey b Mohd Zainol, the Assistant Director for Investment and Industry at the State Economic Planning Unit, who also leads the Secretariat of PEMUDAH Perak, pointed out that one of the challenges faced by the task force is the lack of input from the public.

Go to http://www.perak.gov.my/index.php/component/content/article?id=188 for your complaint form (E-Aduan). This E-Aduan system is part of PEMUDAH Perak’s plan to move all paperwork online.

Future

Jaffrey hopes to see one-stop centres (similar to MBI’s) being established at all local councils. In time, the public sector will be setting a benchmark for the private sector to follow. The private sector, incidentally, has been very supportive in this aspect. “The proactive stance adopted by the business fraternity is simply remarkable,” he concluded.