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Business Times (Malaysia): industry hit by shortage of skilled workers

EXTRACT: “It is very worrying, because you know that Malaysian deepwater development is booming now and foreign oil companies such as Shell are entering the local market in the hope of clinching new projects. “When these oil companies expand their operations here, they are going to draw people from the industry and local shipyards like MMHE can’t pay the salaries that the oil companies can pay,” Gomes said.

THE ARTICLE

Presenna Nambiar,
Published: Feb 12, 2007

WITH the increase in deepwater oil and gas exploration, an age-old problem has resurfaced – that of not only getting the right people for the job, but also keeping them.

“For (ship) repairs, we need to expand on capability and not just facilities, which is not easy. The oil and gas industry is now a booming industry and people attrition is really high,” Malaysia Marine and Heavy Engineering Sdn Bhd (MMHE) general manager of marketing and sales Manoel Gomes said.

He said the company is losing a high number of people to its rivals and other industries and thus, need to invest in capability development, due to the specialised nature of the jobs.

“It is very worrying, because you know that Malaysian deepwater development is booming now and foreign oil companies such as Shell are entering the local market in the hope of clinching new projects.

“When these oil companies expand their operations here, they are going to draw people from the industry and local shipyards like MMHE can’t pay the salaries that the oil companies can pay,” Gomes said.

To ease the shortage of skilled workers, MMHE has adopted a mentor-mentee programme that matches senior workers with newly-recruited employees.

The company’s management also holds talks with new entrants on the prospect of building a long-term career with MMHE, in the hope that it will encourage them to stay on.

Akademi Laut Malaysia (Alam) chief executive officer M. Adthisaya Ganesan blames the acute shortage of skilled workers in the industry to the shipping companies’ prejudices towards local professionals.

“Their excuse is that Malaysians are indiscipline, their productivity is low and they have the wrong attitude to the job,” Adthisaya said.

He said most companies also did not want to invest in training, not due to cost but just the preference to hire someone already in the industry.

“Unless the Government itself beefs up on its enforcement, they are still able to get away with it (pinching staff),” Adthisaya said.

It is understood that when the authorities hand out a domestic shipping licence to a shipping company, a period of six months is given to train Malaysians for the job, but more often than not the companies do not comply.

Today, almost 70 per cent of professionals in the shipping industry are foreigners. Alam is now training 666 cadets under its cadetship programme, in the areas of marine engineering and nautical studies.

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