| Siti Hajar |
DISMISSING the negative connotations surrounding the field of technical and vocational education in a society where a university education is better preferred, a number of young Bruneians who opted to be more hands-on in their profession have now found themselves competing successfully in a local job market already saturated with qualified faces fresh out of school.
Since the 1970 introduction of an educational field that mostly fills gaps in the service sector, the number of graduates trained in professions ranging from tourism to the oil and gas sector has flourished with each passing year, so much so that the Ministry of Education (MoE) recently placed special emphasis on expanding its services to provide secondary school-leavers with options aimed at enticing, promoting and developing home-grown talents.
In interviews with students who have invested years perfecting their technical and vocational trade, a revelation on the importance of an education such as this has resonated throughout the hearts of many young locals as the country seeks to supply dozens of industries with the necessary manpower to sustain national growth.
Some of these students have continued their studies overseas as they continue to work towards gaining relevant certifications in a world where being competitive is the key to success, whereas others have found employment in fields that are relevant to their education.
For Siti Umi Amirah binti Haji Ra’emi Maleek, her journey towards a degree in International Tourism Marketing Management from Cardiff Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom started from humble beginnings here in Brunei with a National Diploma programme in Travel and Tourism from Sultan Saiful Rijal Technical College. The practicality of the course opened her to the acquiring of skills and knowledge to further enrich her education experience.
“I gained immense practical skills through trainings in first aid and tour guiding as well as taking part in flight ticketing programmes as well as visitations,” she explained, adding that among the perks of technical education are its non-limitations to theory but also its practicalities that are relevant to real-life situations.
“Graduating from a technical institution gives students that extra hand when they leave for the real world either to a company or industry and it helps prepare them for when they venture overseas to continue their studies,” she said.
Upon graduation, she hopes to join the ranks of Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) educators to facilitate the growth of future leaders.
In contrast to mainstream educational programmes taught at university level, technical and vocational education provides its students with the opportunity to venture into areas that are less explored, making them the unique few who are able to fill employment gaps that perhaps many cannot fill.
A National Diploma holder in Information and Library Management currently working under IBTE as an instructor in teaching Diploma of Information and Library Science with qualifications that include an international Advanced Diploma of Library and Information Services, Zuraini binti Chucu explained that the challenge of technical and vocational education is part and parcel of understanding her chosen field.
An industrial attachment at two separate libraries both at the public and academic levels has enabled her to familiarise herself with real-life working conditions in a variety of environments.
“It gave me the opportunity to also expose myself to the integration of computers as part of the information and library management tools first hand.”
The educational programme itself, she added, was interesting and the six months she spent working had supplemented her knowledge of the field.
Like many other graduates, she assured that gaining employment as a technical and vocational graduate is not necessarily the obstacle because individuals in related fields are still needed, but rather, acquiring employment in the field itself is the challenge due to the lack of employment availability.
For their counterparts at Politeknik Brunei (PB), being educated in the technical and vocational field has led to a number of successes with some already employed by the biggest private sector names in the country, with experience from PB a significant contributor to their achievements.
After graduating from Jefri Bolkiah College of Engineering (MKJB) in Kuala Belait with a Pre-National Diploma in Computer Studies and a stint in the private sector, Mohammad Alimmin Azharan continued to pursue an Advanced Diploma in Web Computing under PB where he was able to further develop his creativity skills through projects and coursework.
“We had to conduct a number of presentations on our projects and work that have helped tremendously in my communicating skills and self-confidence,” and his hard work has led to a career with Brunei National Petroleum Company, where he has been provided the chance to “work in a field that I really enjoy being a part of.”
For a 2014 graduate under PB with an Advanced Diploma in Information System and Technology who has been offered employment opportunities in the field of IT, Mohd Dzulhakim Ilham bin Haji Mohd Yassin shared that PB was the “best route” for his future prospects, with the consideration that the IT sector is still in search of qualified human resource in tandem with its growth in the country.
“It is a decision that I do not regret,” he said, despite the field not being his first choice.
“I believe that the blended learning style and learning environment at PB have contributed to my success. Despite the struggle, I found that by doing so, I have learned faster and more independently. I found that was best suited for me.”
For more information regarding programmes these students have taken, the public is encouraged to attend the IBTE Open Day in March where they can participate in campus visits and attend classes and workshops as well as interact with students and instructors undergoing or teaching IBTE programmes.
Alternatively, the public can visit www.ibte.edu.bn for further details.