What inspires and drives Sarawak’s youths in their professional lives?

What inspires and drives Sarawak’s youths in their professional lives?

Our Vibes reporter goes to the ground and finds out the issues affecting urban and rural Sarawak youths as they navigate a complicated world

NO asset is more valuable for a country than a well-educated and mature citizenry. Equipping youth and molding them to become a vibrant force with the necessary disciplines, skills, and tasks – for their own good and the nation’s wellbeing – is a formidable mission that requires a national blueprint.

In 2016, Sarawak Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah told the Sarawak state assembly that 42% of the state’s 2.8 million people are youths who need to be harnessed and propelled in the right direction.

He said youth development must be pursued more earnestly, adding that the challenges faced by youths in the state are multi-faceted in nature.

He pointed out that unemployment and under-employment among graduates, school leavers, and dropouts, in addition to issues such as the high cost of living, social ills like teenage pregnancies, family breakups, juvenile delinquencies, urban poverty, underaged marriages, and alcoholism are areas that need critical attention.

According to the minister, to ensure that the youths would be more prepared, composed, and receptive to facing future challenges in a world impacted by futuristic technology, the government should take active measures to implement and formulate viable and holistic youth development policies, programs, and strategic initiatives.

To this extent, the minister is right. Youth in any society is the engine of growth and development as they provide the labour force for the production of goods and services.

They are also the critical masses of people whose action or inaction can help develop or ’cause a stall’ in the progress of their nation or in achieving a more stellar GDP. Along these lines, the role of youth in national development cannot be overemphasised.

The face of Sarawak youth

So who is Sarawak’s average youth or young adult?

A typical example is 32-year-old Grace Lim, a full-time human resource and personal assistant. Lim is also an ‘after-office-hour’ Grab driver and an urbane personality who sells insurance on the side.

When asked which one of the three jobs she prefers to be largely identified with, she says: “Wealth planner or wealth advisor. Basically, I am an insurance agent and it is in this profession where I get a huge dose of job satisfaction,” she tells The Vibes.

“This job gives me a nice balance between work and lifestyle. Here, I work in a positive environment along with other members, all within a like-minded team, learning and honing our skills and gaining business acumen.

“For me, selling insurance will eventually be my stable career and even more a profitable business venture which cannot be replaced by AI (artificial intelligence). I am working full-time in an office to earn my monthly keep in the interim, but this is not going to be my permanent career.

“While multi-tasking as an e-hailing driver, I get additional income and it is here too I find the opportunity to meet my prospective insurance buyers,” says the enterprising Kuching lass.

She says the product that she is peddling is not a daily consumable to be bought, used and discarded. According to her, insurance is a noble product and a future investment as well as a saving plan that comes financially handy when things go wrong.

“Insurance provides medical coverage, a future education fund a retirement plan, and legacy planning. As a wealth advisor, I do not just sell this product but create awareness for the man on the street to become insurance-savvy and be protected.

“There is a huge untapped market out there. With this good product in hand and an ever-growing market potential, I have the will and energy to make it big in this industry and be self-reliant,” adds Lim confidently.

Like Lim, Carolyn Kaloni is out to find her own niche area in the job market. She says while it is important to attain financial independence with a steady income, job satisfaction is a must, and therefore it must be something for which she has a passion for and an area where she can immerse herself as a professional.

“From a young age, I have aspired to be an educator and have put all my efforts towards becoming one and am today on a steady path towards achieving this aspiration as an early childhood educator in a well-recognised institution in Kuching.”

Carolyn’s interest in teaching was kindled while she was in secondary school, where she got involved in teaching young children in her church’s Sunday school.

She says the traditional concept of teaching in kindergarten has come a long way in the last few decades and today early childhood education goes beyond just academics or learning the 3Rs.

According to her, each child is unique with special combinations of abilities and talents which affect their learning process. Hence, each child deserves the opportunity to learn in ways that make the most of their strengths.

“Modern early childhood education offers newer approaches to learning which include social and emotional development, physical development and health, language literacy and effective communication, mathematics, creative arts, science, and social studies.

“Being serious and passionate about building my career path in this field, I am currently pursuing a diploma course in early childhood education at Wawasan Open University. After my diploma, I desire to continue my studies further in this area as I am confident of being successful in this career choice,” says the 25-year-old Gen Z persona.

Stanley Emprang is another young adult who represents Sarawak’s younger generation. Armed with a degree in chemistry in 2007, he has picked up experience working as a business development manager by working in various industries.

“I am now attached to a food and beverage company, leading a team of sales officers who market the company’s assorted food products.

“I am happy where I am today as promoting businesses and building a strong clientele is challenging and keeps me on my toes. I am passionate about marketing and I love the challenges that come with the job,” Stanley, who is single and lives in Kuching, told The Vibes.

He said working in a business-related environment for a long time has given him the opportunity to learn every aspect of wheeling and dealing in the vast business environment, where the bottom line is always on profits and growth.

“Probably one of the most important qualities of a good businessman is to have leadership qualities. As a business development manager, I lead a team and plan strategies, even willing to take risks without fearing the outcome. I enjoy taking initiative and even trying out something new independently.”

Asked what are his plans and aspirations in the near future, he said: “I hope to develop my own product and be an entrepreneur with a distinct identity of my own and remain successfully grounded in the business world. It is everybody’s desire to attain self-reliance and financial independence. This is what I am ultimately reaching out for,” added Stanley.

For Thompson Jirina (Tom) it has been a long and bumpy road in his career path since leaving school. Initially, he took on odd jobs such as being a general worker in a food-producing factory and a lorry attendant as well.

He later managed to get a vocational certificate as an electrician (level 1) from Inti College Sarawak and underwent a training stint as a fireman with Bomba Malaysia. This saw him heading to Bintulu where he found employment with a Petronas subsidiary dealing with petrochemicals. Tom’s job was as a safety officer with the company.

This was a turning point in his life as a young man. His high-paying job enabled him to settle down and start a family. “We were comfortable and life was a bit rosy for us,” said the father of four. However, Tom had a disrupted family life as he worked in Bintulu and his family lived in a village in Kota Padawan, near Kuching.

Despite this, Tom persisted as his monthly salary and allowances add up to a handsome amount, providing for the family’s upkeep and even with some extras for saving.

“Then came the pandemic, and it was a difficult time for us as a family. I was not allowed to return home for a long time as such movement of staff can bring infections to the Bintulu work bastion. But my children were growing older and needed my attention as well.”

Tom quit his job early this year and has returned to his family after serving the company for 15 years and eight months. However, the enterprising Tom has taken on a job as a Grab food deliverer during the interim. He is also selling telco services on a part-time basis.

“We are ok for now to go by. Though the food delivery business does not provide me with a big paycheck as in my previous employment, it gives me plenty of time to be with the family and the flexible hours of work are another advantage. I am hoping to find employment as occupational safety and health officer. I have the experience and qualification to take on this position and am hoping to be employed soon and grow with the company,” added Tom.

Propelling Sarawak’s rural youths

While youths in Sarawak’s urban centres seem ready and raring to take charge of their career paths and are aware of the direction that they want to take – youths in the state’s rural regions largely languish in social malaise and inertia.

While a few have successfully moved to the cities, armed with their secondary school certificate to pursue further education and have secured jobs as professionals – a good many of them simply vegetate, grounded in the picturesque outback of their farm and paddy fields.

Most rural youths aspire to be a part of the state’s oil and gas industry, as they see an essence of grandeur and success, being workers in off-shore platforms, where the pay and allowances are attractive.

However, it is costly to obtain the certificate of completion, and training is only done in Miri and Bintulu.

Some of these rural youths find employment in the nearby small towns, working in the minimarkets as sales assistants or in restaurants waiting at tables or working as dishwashers with little hope of a decent career path. And there are those who are into Foodpanda in the bigger cities.

Rural youths like their urban counterparts must be given equal opportunities and must never be discounted as a “lesser human capital”, says human and social activist Agnes Padan.

“With a huge landbank, rich in fertile soil and an aging rural population unable to till the soil, it is here, where the youth population can be harnessed into a gainful workforce if given the right nurturing and skills training,” Padan tells The Vibes.

According to Padan, rural youths need not migrate to cities to eke out a living. “But what is critically needed is the empowerment of the rural economy, where rural youths have opportunities to look to a brighter future.

“In rural places like Lawas, the state government’s assistance is needed to provide training in agriculture and other agro-related industries. Youths in schools must also be instilled with the idea that jobs are not only available in big cities and urban centres in smaller towns, but right under their nose in the very land that they are living in.

“It is essential that secondary school children who will be sitting for their SPM examinations be motivated and encouraged to embark on studies related to agriculture and agro-industries.

“They must be taught early to dream big in taking up agricultural studies and learn skills such as using modern machinery.

“A career in agriculture must be made to look attractive and sexy,” Padan says, adding that when such studies are completed, trained youths can return to their own lands and practice modern farming and contribute to the rural economy.

Padan says generally youths desire to earn sufficient income without being taken advantage of. For example, there are many youths who are interested to work in the automotive industry.

“To help these youths, training institutions should be encouraged to engage them and provide such vocational courses. Perhaps, the state government can negotiate with car companies like Mercedes Benz Malaysia to provide training, such as a three-year advanced modern apprenticeship course targeting youths in Sarawak’s rural areas.

“Through this provision, rural youths keen to start a career as passenger car technicians will be able to find a place in the mainstream of the state’s workforce.

“And car companies offering these courses can be provided government incentives to encourage them to train rural youths,” added Padan.

She says rural youths too, have dreams and aspirations. They need to be counselled and motivated, even if they are not academically inclined as there are plenty of alternative opportunities and they just need the empowerment to make something of themselves.

source – The Vibes

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