Tackle unemployment with innovation, urges minister

Wani Roslan

The issues of unemployment and manpower development are constant challenges faced by countries.

This was said by Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah yesterday.

“In Brunei Darussalam, we have been tackling these issues for many years. As we have seen so far in 2020, these issues have become even more severe as we confront new challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“This calls for us to be more innovative in our efforts to tackle unemployment and the development of our manpower. We have also seen how industry sectors are affected differently. We therefore need to react to these changes effectively and in a timely manner.”

Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew as Chairman of the Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC) made these comments attending the Market Engagement Day for Training Organisation at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) yesterday.

Based on the Labour Force Survey (LFS) 2019 conducted by the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics, the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) recorded an unemployment rate of 6.8 per cent where 16,234 people are unemployed.

Despite showing an improvement compared to the LFS findings in 2018, Brunei Darussalam continues to put in efforts to ensure the reduction of unemployment, through the establishment of MPEC last year.

The minister added, “The development of our workforce to meet industrial demand is key to the growth of our economy, as it will keep the people equipped with the necessary skills required to remain relevant in both the present and in the future.

“The energy sector at this point, is our most developed sector, where there is ample practical experience and it will continue to be a strategic sector going forward; and it is comprehensible as one of the key sectors to focus on to develop the capabilities of
the locals.

“Insya Allah, we will also move on to replicate this for other sectors, in our efforts to diversify our economy and reduce unemployment.

“Alhamdulillah, today is a good evidence of this tripartite collaboration. I would like to convey my congratulations to the Manpower Industry Steering Committee (MISC) Energy Working Group, the Ministry of Education (MoE), industry partners and the agencies involved in developing and rolling out the iSkill programme and organising Market Engagement Day for potential training organisations.

“I hope the collaboration fostered by the various MISCs will continue, and that the initiatives rolled out today to be the first of many more milestones to come,” he said.

The minister expressed his hope that through the MISC, “skill mismatches can be addressed effectively – where the locals can be upskilled and reskilled, with the right competencies and attributes, in order to stay relevant in the job market and to ensure their employability.”

He said potential training organisations play an important role in ensuring high-quality learning, by delivering the relevant training programmes in accordance with the set standards and competency frameworks.

The minister then mentioned that the MPEC introduced a few other initiatives, with many more in the pipeline, as part of the concerted and continuous efforts towards reducing unemployment and ensuring effective manpower planning.

He said, “JobCentre Brunei is a critical enabler in the manpower ecosystem, whose role is to connect local jobseekers with the available employment opportunities in the private sector, as well as a centre to provide local recruitment services for companies,” he said.

“This year, via JobCentre Brunei, the i-Ready Apprenticeship Programme has been extended to HND and TVET level, with the objective to increase the employability and marketability of locals through exposure to the working environment and on-the-job training.

“Towards inculcating the culture of lifelong learning and developing an agile workforce, the MPEC, in collaboration with the Lifelong Learning Centre under the MoE, also introduced the SkillsPlus Programme, which provides funding assistance to local jobseekers and employees in the private sector to uptake learning programmes in order to reskill and upskill themselves, in line with the economic needs. This programme is one of a few more to come.

“The MPEC is also reviewing key manpower policies and processes towards strengthening localisation through collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) and various other regulators. In doing so, the MPEC conducted various stakeholder engagements with ministries, industries and jobseekers at the grassroots level.

“One of the outcomes is the Jobseekers’ Survey, which aims to understand jobseekers’ behaviours, preference and challenges in their job seeking efforts. Input from stakeholders are critical in the policy review process.

“Additionally, to ensure inclusivity and diversity of the various manpower initiatives, the MPEC is also working closely with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) towards building the marketability of vulnerable groups including Persons with Different Abilities (PwDA).

“With that, through the commitment and partnership of all the relevant agencies, I am positive that together, we will be able to create an agile and proactive manpower ecosystem that is able to keep pace and respond to our industry and economic needs,” said the minister.