Sabah lacks oil-gas sector skills: Don
Published on: Thursday, June 02, 2016
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Kota Kinabalu: Despite Sabah having abundant oil and gas (O&G) resources, there is a lack of skilled technical Sabahan manpower in the O&G industry.This situation was highlighted by Professor Ir. Dr Rosalam Sarbatly (pic), the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) in his presentation "Challenges and opportunities in developing the skill and talented human capital in oil and gas sector in Sabah" at the 5th Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition recently.

Dr Rosalam is also the executive director for UMS Oil & Gas Sdn Bhd (UOil).

"This is compounded by a lack of interest among many local students in science, technology engineering and mathematics, particularly from rural areas," Dr Rosalam explained, pinning his hopes on rural area students, as more urban students tend to opt for prestigious professions like architecture, medicine, law, accountancy and others.

"For primary schools, there should be development of interest in science and technology among pupils through organising school and state-level Science Fair.

"For secondary schools, there should be improvement of the students' fundamental knowledge of science and mathematics by providing more laboratory facilities and organising science and innovation competitions," Dr Rosalam suggested.

Post-SPM students or school-leavers, he said, should be offered technical vocational education and training opportunities to reduce the percentage of low-skilled and semi-skilled workers from 76 per cent to 50 per cent by 2020.

"There is a lack of skilled manpower to realise Vision 2020 of a high-income economy. In advanced countries there is an average of 30 per cent of the workforce expert in science, technology engineering and mathematics.

"For Malaysia it is projected at 500,000 or 3 per cent from a workforce of 15 million people. This is up from 85,000 or 0.7 per cent from a workforce of 13 million people in 2012."

"In 2012, the ratio of science students in secondary schools was 30 per cent of the total or some 135,000 students.

By 2020 projection, it is expected to increase to 135,000.

"As for the ratio of science students in tertiary education was 40 per cent or 40,000 undergraduates.

By 2020 projection, it is expected to increase to 70,000.

"Why is there a lack of interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)?

"This is due to the poor support in public schools (government schools) to support STEM subject delivery ranging from poor infrastructure, sub-standard science laboratory equipment.

"Science laboratories need to be equipped with tools and machinery to generate interest in STEM.

"When there is no or not enough equipment, there is lack of hands-on approach by students during laboratory work sessions," the professor said.

He reminded that under the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025, the Ministry of Education promised to ensure 100 per cent of schools meet basic infrastructure requirements by 2015 starting with Sabah and Sarawak. Now it is the year 2016.

The ministry also promised a second wave of upgrades will be done to improve the existing science laboratories and living skills workshops.

Dr Rosalam strongly recommended that existing science laboratories and living skills workshops be upgraded in tandem with the basic infrastructure improvements.

"This is essential to develop young talents – aspiring scientists, technologists, engineers and technical workers for Malaysia," he stressed.

"As for those who are chosen for tertiary education, they should strive to acquire the scientific and technical knowledge towards contributing to realising a high-income economy with high-level specialisation and development of expertise relevant to the O&G industry."

His closing thoughts were that UMS and UOil have clear plans to help develop the Sabah Oil and Gas sector for the benefits of the locals.

UMS co-chairs with Petronas and the Sabah O&G Industry Consortium for Human Resources.

Since 2003, UMS is also a member of the Labuan O&G Industry Committee. Currently service provider companies have struggled due to upstream capital expenditure spending cuts.

UOil Centre of Excellence started in 2008 has been offering numerous technical and specialised courses to cater to the O&G industry in Sabah with better English instruction academic institution collaborators such as Heriot-Watt University of Scotland and RIAM Institute of Technology.

"The opportunities to grow with an expanding O&G industry in Sabah can be realised by fulfilling human capital requirement through upskilling and reskilling with UOil besides the continual improvement of the existing education system for promoting interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," Dr Rosalam said.

Meanwhile, Ir. Syed Fadzil Syed Mohamed of the Product Certification and Inspection Department of Sirim QAS International S/B spoke on the IECEx Certified Service Facilities Programme at the same function and in UMS the following day.

"What is IECEx? It is the international standard way of doing 'Explosive Atmospheres (Ex)' certification.

"IECEx is a conformity assessment tool providing confidence that products, services and personnel covered by an IECEx certificate meet specified international standards or requirements.

"The advantages include cost savings – reduced need for additional testing and certification resulting in faster access to new markets, single assessment and certification, valid worldwide and improved safety with the assurance that equipment is manufactured and operated according to strict international standards.

"There is the possibility of instant verification of all issued IECEx certificates on www.iecex.com," he said.

In Brunei, all personnel in this training certification must be proficient in English, whilst even some teaching staff of tertiary institution in public discourse were found wanting in communication.

Meanwhile JobStreet.com says that oil and gas companies remain the most highly sought-after employers in Malaysia.

According to the Top 10 Companies 2016 survey, which drew the participation of over 7,900 respondents, oil and gas companies secured the two top spots for yet another year.

Coming in first for two years consecutively is Malaysia's state oil firm, Petronas. Second in line is Anglo-Dutch multinational, Shell.

Petronas group human resource management senior vice-president Datuk Raiha Azni Abd Rahman said, as a global energy player, Petronas believes in growing and developing people as a critical priority of business in order to successfully operate in today's challenging business environment.

"We are indeed honoured to receive JobStreet.com's People's Choice Award 2016.

"As such we strive to cultivate a work culture that is strongly grounded on Petronas' shared values of loyalty, integrity, professionalism and cohesiveness to attract, motivate and retain talent."

JobStreet.com survey found that across all position levels, 'benefits and incentives' surfaced as the main reason employees want to work with the top companies. With monetary gains being a key motivating factor, salary was stated as their next top reason.

Meanwhile, JobStreet.com said senior level participants chose 'working environment and culture' as their third reason behind wanting to work for a top company, while those under junior levels picked 'training and development' as their third factor.

In terms of challenges they expect to see when working for a top company, the first cited response was 'company politics', followed by 'harder to get noticed and promoted' and 'difficult to perform as expectations are higher'.

The Top 10 Companies: 1. Petronas 2. Shell 3. Google 4. Sime Darby 5. Maybank 6. AirAsia 7. Nestle 8. Intel 9. Tenaga Nasional Bhd 10. Public Bank

Factors that Malaysian employees look out for: 1. Benefits and incentives (85 per cent) 2. Salary (77 per cent) 3. Learning and development (71 per cent) 4. Work environment and culture (71 per cent) 5. Company reputation (66 per cent) 6. Career progression (58 per cent) 7. Leadership and management (56 per cent).


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