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.
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.
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, 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.”
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.”
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 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.”
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.