In line with its role that is to manage and handle the unemployment issues efficiently, transparently and effectively, the Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC) has taken proactive and innovative intervention.
Its role includes a job matching process coordinated by JobCentre Brunei (JCB), fostering cooperation with education industries to ensure local universities and technical education graduates are marketable and employable.
Based on a Labour Force Survey (LFS) that was conducted in 2019 by the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics (DEPS), the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) recorded an unemployment rate of 6.8 per cent, which indicates 16,234 people were unemployed.
Despite showing an improvement compared to LFS 2018, the country has continued to put forward efforts in ensuring the reduction of unemployment through the establishment of the MPEC.
Amid the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country last year, three objectives have been outlined, including: to support those in the private sector affected by the pandemic; maintain job security with means to protect the well-being of the locals, especially those in the private sector; as well as to continue generate jobs.
Companies are encouraged to work with the MPEC in supporting local employability and employment, which includes creating new and sustainable job opportunities and developing the right upskilling and reskilling programmes for locals.
As business activities have been affected by the pandemic, companies have been advised and called upon to take up opportunities to enhance skills, including upskilling or reskilling their local workers, while MPEC provides specific training such as online training, hands-on training whether in the form of current needs or a step towards human resources capacity building.
The collaboration also involves partnering with the information technology (IT) companies to provide programmes such as programming, analytic data and alike, that will assist the country towards Industrial Revolution 4.0; provide training such as reskilling and upskilling local tour guides registered with the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT); and providing training for those interested in the food and beverage sector.
The development of local workforce in meeting industrial demand is key to the growth of the country’s economy, as it will keep the people more equipped with necessary skills required to remain relevant in both present and future development. The energy sector is the most developed industry, where there is ample practical experience and it still continues to be a strategic sector going forward, and is comprehensible as one of the key sectors to focus on to develop the capabilities of the locals.
In October 2020, it was reported that since the outbreak of COVID-19, there had been over 40,000 job matching occurrences and over 6,000 interviews sessions have been coordinated by JCB, and that since January 2020, over 2,400 jobs had been filled by locals via JCB, while there were still over 2,000 vacancies that needed to be filled.
The Manpower Industry Steering Committee (MISC), a sub-committee under the MPEC, seeks to foster collaboration between industry players, regulators and training institutions.
Towards producing an industry-ready workforce, MPEC collaborated with other key agencies and placed employment and local capacity building the centre of their work plans and priorities.
With close collaboration across ministries and other agencies, there are still opportunities to be found in the midst of the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the immediate priorities during this period is the continuous creation of employment opportunities. With the current restrictions of labour mobility across economies, it is now more pressing to equip the locals and to get them into the jobs available in the market.
MPEC in collaboration with several ministries – including the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism, the Ministry of Development, the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications, the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Education, in their capacities as regulators – is currently identifying job positions for locals.
The construction sector offers a vast number of identified positions particularly at the professional, associate professional and technician levels, where we can start building a talent pipeline of skilled Bruneians. The sector contributed BND457 million to the GDP in 2019, and it is anticipated to continue to be a key sector in the journey to develop the nation’s economy to meet Brunei Vision 2035.
Programmes such as the ARMECS Bridging Programme are an added value for locals, where they are given the opportunity to work with professionals and can help to grow and diversify their talents. This is an example of one of the upskilling and reskilling programmes that has been rolled out, following the recent adoption of the Upskilling and Reskilling Framework designed to support those seeking new skills, and those who wish to develop other competencies.
The desired outcome of this framework is, firstly, to increase the involvement of employers in the development of quality training and learning programmes. Secondly, the implementation of programmes that are accredited and recognised not only academically, but also in terms of skills via the Brunei Darussalam National Occupational Skills Standards (BNOSS); and thirdly, the creation of an ecosystem that enables a wide range of learning opportunities via the expansion of training providers to boost the supply of local talents.
The hospitality and tourism sector has also benefitted from this, where the MPEC has rolled out similar upskilling and reskilling programmes with the objective of providing locals with experiential learning and industrial exposure. Several key stakeholders are also continuously working together, leading to the introduction of new training programmes, as well as an increase in new training providers.
Based on this framework, a new programme recently rolled out in August 2020 called iSkills Welding, and an additional six new programmes such as iSkills Scaffolding, iSkills Riggers and others, will be opened for enrolment in the first quarter of this year.