Steady supply of knowledge workers needed in Penang

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GEORGE TOWN (Sept 8): The need for a knowledge-based employment market is forcing industries here to place pressure on the state and federal government to train workers for the manufacturing and shared services outsourcing hub.

The Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Micci) Penang branch Chairman Brian Tan says there has to be a steady supply of trained workers for in the state as it increasingly becomes the chosen locale for investors.

“The Micci general council submitted a white paper to the federal government in June for the 11th  Malaysia Plan (2016-2020) which included our Penang input. It covered requests by the manufacturing industry here.

“We asked for more trainings to be conducted for the workers. In Penang, there are trainings and courses that are being run by the Penang Skills Development Centre (PSDC) and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

“Though there are more opportunities for workers to equip themselves for the industry, it is a long-term plan because we cannot simply produce knowledge workers within a year,” he said.

With more investments going into Penang, the underlying worry is the lack of skilled workforce, he told reporters after a Micci luncheon with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng last week.

He says the shortage could allude to the fact that trained workers are leaving to work outside Penang, thus the state has to be remain competitive to capture such workers and entice them to stay.

Last month, investPenang Director Datuk Lee Kah Choon pointed out that there were 11,759 vacancies in Penang, 41% or 4,865 of these were for production operators.

Lee added that a job portal, catering primarily to executive positions, revealed vacancies for 2,635 jobs as at July 31 this year with 74% being higher value positions for junior executives and above.

In view of job openings and the re-entry of Seagate Industries (M) Sdn Bhd, and newcomers SanDisk Corporation, and Haemonetics Corporation next year with a combined investment of about RM3 billion, Tan says a trained workforce is essential.

“There ought to be a 20-year plan to educate the workforce. However, if we compare our workforce among Asean countries, our English literacy is quite good,” he said.

Apart from training the workforce, Micci Penang also reiterated the need to carry out the RM353 million capital dredging of the North Channel so that large ships would be able to sail to the Penang port.

“That is a continuous agenda for us because we want the larger Panama vessels to come in to Penang to increase the transhipment here,” he says.