This is because the Government through the Human Resource Development Department (JPSM) is providing opportunities for youths to acquire living skills, commercial and technical skills that they can use to carve out a career for themselves.
The first opportunity is normally offered by higher learning institutions like the local and private universities for SPM leavers who excelled in the national exam or meet the requirement of the courses offered, said JPSM Sabah Director Billy Yumbod.
"But what about those SPM leavers whose poor results leave them ineligible to study at the IPTA/ IPTS?
And how about the dropouts?
"This is where the Government has established JPSM to play a vital role in filling the void and to produce quality and competent human capital in various fields to meet the labour market.
"Hence, we are offering alternative choices for them to learn and equip themselves with practical and technical skills which are in demand in Sabah and in the country," he said.
Billy said this to Daily Express in an exclusive interview at his office in Wisma Bandaraya here, recently.
JPSM comes under the purview of the Resource Development and Information Technology Ministry.
He said the second opportunity is offered by its Commerce and Technical Training Institute (ILTP) in Pantai Manis, Papar.
"We provide the second chance to local youths whose applications to pursue their tertiary education at IPTA/IPTS, are rejected. Therefore, these applicants who passed the SPM but not necessarily with flying colours can apply to study in our ILTP, Papar where we offer lifetime skills for them to be good at.
"The ILTP Papar issues the Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM) Level 1, and 2 for most of the courses.
The institute also offers SKM Level 2 and 3 but only for two courses, namely, administering and supervising computer system and information technology," he said.
Among the courses offered in technical fields are commercial vehicle maintenance, automotive maintenance, air-conditioning, wiring and welding skills.
In the commerce field, applicants can learn to be a hairdresser, beautician, assistant computer technician as well as pursue secretarial, clerical and administration courses. The duration of the courses is between 12 and 24 months.
"We receive many applications from those interested to acquire the skills in ILTP Papar but we give priority to applicants who come from poor and hardcore poor families, low income and based on merits.
"The SKM certificates issued by the institute guarantee the trainees get employed in the respective field as the certificates are recognised nationwide," he said.
Billy said local youths who only possess the Sijil Rendah Pelajaran (SRP) and Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) can also apply to study in the ILTP Papar.
Apart from this, he said the department also offers on-the-job training and learning of skills simultaneously in hospitality, tourism and oil palm plantations.
He said the successful applicants will be working in five-star hotels in the State capital and selected oil palm plantations in Sabah.
He added that only those with SPM qualification can apply for the on-the-job training in hotels while those with Primary Six qualification, SRP and above can apply for training at the oil palm plantations.
Billy said there is no quota for number of trainees to take up the on-the-job training as the department organises these courses based on demand from the tourism and oil palm industries.
According to him, the department also offers a chance for their former trainees to upgrade their skills and qualifications in certain courses related to hospitality, hotel management, tourism, diving and the oil and gas industry.
"We sponsor 20 applicants among former JPSM trainees to take up courses at diploma level with the Asian Tourism International (ATI) here like Diploma in Hotel Management, Diploma in Culinary Arts, Diploma in Pastry Arts and Diploma in Dive and Resort Management, among others.
"Those interested must possess the SPM qualification and a credit in English Language as hospitality and tourism sectors require the workers to be able to speak and write in English," he said.
Billy disclosed that JPSM through ILTP Papar is currently having a collaboration with Petronas to conduct two courses - welding and chargeman (wiring) - to cater to the shortage of manpower in the oil and gas industry.
"This collaboration is definitely a good chance for our former trainees as the two courses are only for those who have completed the welding and chargeman (wiring) courses in ILTP Papar and in possession of the SKM Level 2.
"We only allocate 20 trainees for each course and the welding course has begun in March while the wiring (chargeman) to be handled by the Malaysian Energy Commission will start in June this year.
"The best thing about this joint programme with Petronas is that the trainees can work overseas in the same industry as their technical skills are recognised worldwide," he said.
For dropouts, he said JPSM also provides a chance for them, particularly single mothers and housewives, to take up a two-in one special course in hairdressing and beautician skills for six months at Wisma Muis.
Billy said a JPSM certificate will be issued to the trainees upon completing the short course that is designed to provide several living skills that could generate money for them.
"There are two intakes for the course which is in January and July.
And successful applicants would also be given a monthly allowance of RM60.
"JPSM issues the certificates that are recognised by the government and the trainees can use them to work in salons and do freelance work to earn extra money," he said.
As for trainees who come from rural areas, Billy said the department provides hostel accommodation, that is if they do not have family in the State capital.
The department also helps those who have no academic qualification and thus are not qualified to enjoy any of these chances, provided they can at least read, write and count.
"We organise ad-hoc courses based on demand by community leaders for poor and hardcore poor households and dropouts É one class would normally have 20 participants to acquire living skills.
"Among the popular short-term courses that are in demand are like learning to cook certain Malay, Western and Chinese dishes, traditional and local delicacies, making steamed buns, biscuits, processed seafood, noodles and sewing, among others.
"The community leaders need to provide the venue for the short-term courses as we will be bringing the instructors or experts to teach/train them and necessary facilities to ensure the course runs smoothly," he said.
Billy revealed that JPSM has been allocated a total of RM6 million this year to organise such courses that are mostly carried out in rural areas like Long Pasia, Beluran, Kudat, Pekan Nabalu, Tamparuli, Tenghilan and Pitas, among others.
By having living skills like in cooking, he said, the participants can use the skills to open up small food businesses in the townships or work in restaurants to improve their living standard and enhance family income.
Last year, he said, a total of 203 ad-hoc courses were conducted where most of them were keen to learn how to cook a variety of dishes and so far, a total of 4,060 people have been trained.
Another type of ad-hoc course offered by the department runs between five days and six months.
One of the courses, he said is reflexology where the department will work together with another private agency to conduct the course if there was a demand from certain welfare non-governmental organisations to help their respective members.
"For example, we organised a reflexology course in which 20 participants 10 of them blind acquired the skill over two months.
"Other living skill courses would also be held like learning how to make traditional handicrafts, the art of batik designs, tailoring of women's and men's clothing, making pastries, repairing handphones and computers, among others," he said.
In future, Billy said the department plans to organise a domestic maid course here as there is a demand for such work and a need to cut locals' dependence on foreign labour.
On chances of JPSM trainees being employed, Billy said about 80 per cent of the trainees who have acquired various skills from the department have been employed in the respective fields while the rest are self-employed or working in different sectors.
He said the skills acquired could change the lives of the trainees provided they know how to use them wisely for their benefit.
"JPSM is all about providing training skills to make trainees' lives better and it is left to the trainees to decide how to use the skills to improve their life economically.
"If they use the skills sensibly, I am optimistic that they will not live the hard way or get poorer.
They must also make an effort to make a positive change in their lives by applying their skills to the fullest," he said, adding that all the courses are meant for the trainees to improve their living standard.