Northport takes training to the next level with NICE

By SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH

A REGIONAL training centre for port operation and management initiated by Northport (M) Bhd has made a difference for the port operator.

Northport International Centre of Excellence (NICE), as the programme is called, is one of the initiatives implemented by Northport to strengthen its workforce by retaining, developing and attracting talents. It plays a key role in promoting efficiency and improving productivity.

NICE and other complementary initiatives are meant to translate into a better bottom line for the port with growth potential in the years to come. Needless to say, these initiatives also impact directly to the work environment of the port operator.

“NICE plays a vital and strategic role in elevating the human capital competency and the quality of the staff,” Northport CEO Datuk Azman Shah Mohd Yusof told The Malaysian Reserve.

The programme officially began in 2014 and focuses on training and development designed for port operation and management.

Northport, a multi-purpose port, provides services such as container, conventional cargo, on-dock logistics and marine services.

The spark to create a regional centre of excellence came about when a number of Northport executives attended an Asean Port Association Forum a few years ago. The forum had raised the issue of elevating human capital in the port sector.

“We realised there was a need for such training to ensure a better performance. Hence, we adopted the formation of NICE as one of our main agenda,” he said.

Northport’s training programme consists of fundamental and advanced levels needed in running a multi-purpose port.

“It revolves around the training for port users in relevant areas including specialised skills in operating various terminal equipment, such as driving a prime mover.

“Most of our courses are certified by the relevant stakeholders. For equipment and operation training, our trainers have developed modules using materials from the original suppliers. Only then are the modules used to train other Northport personnel,” he said.

Specific skills and competencies are required for employees to operate Northport’s terminal equipment (Pic source MMC)

As of March 2017, Northport has 35 internal instructors certified by the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) to train other equipment operators at the port. Training and courses offered by NICE are HRDF claimable as NICE received HRDF accreditation in December 2016.

HRDF is an organisation under the Ministry of Human Resources that oversees the development of competent local talents to contribute to national growth.

“But if we need to conduct a large-scale training programme, we get the assistance from our suppliers,” he added.

Talent Crunch

On the industry talent landscape, Azman Shah said there is steep competition for workers, making it a challenge to finding good talents. Industry executives also sense a lack of interest in the younger generation to work in ports and workers gravitating to higher paying places like Singapore.

As with many other industries, shipping and logistics players are also finding it tough to retain their skilled staff. Some of them are enticed by other ports upon gaining a certain level of experience and training.

“The challenge is retaining the trained workers. Mastering skills involves a gradual learning curve. It would take a couple of years for someone to operate our terminal equipment at an acceptable productivity rate,” he said.

Equipment used in the ports is not easy to operate and will take quite a while to master.

“The training depends on the types of equipment. For example, for a prime mover driver to be certified, it takes more than 40 days of training and exposure. They not only learn how to manoeuvre the prime mover, but much more,” he said.

Northport conducts internal training as part of its education and career advancement programme for employees, as well as port users. The internal training also involves third parties like equipment suppliers.

“Our industry is unique. We can’t get the equipment operators trained anywhere else as the equipment used in this industry is very expensive. No training centre would like to conduct that sort of training,” he said.

As of December 2016, Northport has a total of 2,603 employees who are all locals. To date, NICE has conducted 86 courses involving 1,840 of participants since its inception.

Northport is a subsidiary of MMC Port Holdings Sdn Bhd, Malaysia’s largest port operator.