Empowering the rural poor towards a more sustainable future

The ultimate goal is to create more high-skilled workers via various education institutions that are parked under KPLB


IN 2006, one-third or 33% of the country’s population chose to live outside the cities and urban areas, while 6% decided to eke out a living by migrating to bigger towns and more industrialised zones.

The rapid urbanisation or rural urban migration process throughout the country had reduced the number of people living in the rural areas as the number shrank to 26% in 2014.

By 2020, the rural population is expected to be further reduced to only 20% or six million people.

The target is to have at least 80% of our students to either be employed, or to further their studies or to be entrepreneurs within six months after they finish their courses, says Rina

As it has been for generations, rural economic activities are mainly focused on agriculture and agri related businesses.

As such, it is vital for the government to draw up a comprehensive plan that can prevent further rural urban migration.

This could be the biggest challenge for Rural Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun.

For almost a year now, Rina has been working on certain strategies to empower rural folks towards a more sustainable future.

In a recent media conference in Putrajaya, Rina said livelihood in rural areas — agriculture, plantation and fishery — could be strengthened if productivity can be increased using modern technology in downstream activities.

She said the ultimate goal is to create more highly skilled workers via various education institutions under her ministry.

Human Capital Development
Rina said apart from improvements in infrastructure, education and entrepreneurship programmes would also essentially boost rural development and economic activities.

At the end of the day, it is pertinent to close the gap between the rural and urban developments.

She said a target has been set by her team to create employment for all the students who graduate from the institutions under the ministry within six months after completing their studies.

“The target is to have at least 80% of our students to either be employed, or to further their studies or to be entrepreneurs within six months after they finish their courses.

“So, in that sense, we need to ensure that these students have a high marketability rate and they must be able to fit the needs of the industry,” Rina said.

Various agencies under the Rural Development Ministry (KPLB) have so far produced about 46,000 graduates in total.

Various education and industry linkage programmes have also been initiated to increase the graduates’ marketability rate.

Universiti Kuala Lumpur Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology (UniKL MIAT) in Subang alone produces 2,890 students to join the aerospace and aviation industry, currently touted as the fastest-growing market in South-East Asia.

Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara), through its aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul arm, Asia Aero- Technic Sdn Bhd is also located within the UniKL MIAT vicinity, allowing the students easy access on practical training.

Currently, UniKL MIAT is adopting the “teaching factory concept” — the first maintenance training organisation approved by the Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia to offer aircraft maintenance technology programmes.

As a result, the institution produces hundreds of high-skilled graduates annually.

The centre now has a huge three-section hangar that houses small aircraft, from Cessna 150 to private jet HS 125, and also large aeroplanes like Boeing 727 and Boeing 737 that are set up for training purposes.

Rina said the ministry also offers some 30,000 opportunities for the younger generation to be part of its Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes which are handled by Mara, Kedah Regional Development Authority, Penang Regional Development Authority and the Community Development Department.

Various levels of TVET with 345 courses are now being offered at nine institutions, such as at the Mara Advanced Skills Training College, GiatMara, UniKL and Kemas Skills Training Academy in Gopeng and Seri Iskandar.

Currently, Mara’s main tertiary institution, UniKL, has more than 22,000 students and 13 campuses.

Entrepreneurship Programme for B40
At least five entrepreneurship programmes have been implemented since Rina came into office.

One of the programmes, the Rural Entrepreneurship Carnival, has attracted more than 2,300 players compared to only 400 previously.

“It is not only about having an expo. It is also a marketing strategy, with machinery showcases, as well as entrepreneurs’ engagement with all the related ministries and agencies so that issues could be channelled accordingly,” she said.

Another programme, namely Rural Entrepreneurs Technology aim to help start-ups with the proper machinery to learn how to enhance their productivity and improve quality of services.

“Rural entrepreneurs could produce quality products. In terms of marketing and branding, they have managed to secure orders. However, some have to decline due to insufficient workforce,” Rina said.

Besides the bottom 40% (B40) group, Rina said some programmes are also targeted at the middleincome bracket, Middle 40% group.

Via such programmes, Rina said a total of RM5.4 million is expected to be disbursed.

Among the recipients are 40 private doctors who are now operating their clinics under a scheme known as Uni Klinik.

“In the first phase, 20 doctors were trained with 18 clinics expected to be opened this year,” Rina said.

She said rural people’s livelihoods should also be diversified via entrepreneurial activities like sustainable rural tourism which will offer job options, especially for the youth.

Such a concept could encourage the younger generation to stay put in their hometowns.

The Long-term Plan
Rina said all the programmes by her ministry are part of the five-year 2018- 2023 Harapan Rural Development Plan that was launched in October last year.

She said in total, about 500,000 people have benefitted from the programmes so far.

The short-term and mid-term plans are also aimed at stimulating the development within the rural areas.

Rina said the plan comprises six main thrusts, namely infrastructure, economy, entrepreneurship, human capital, women and delivery system. The plan also includes 29 strategies and 94 programmes that would be implemented under the six thrusts including eight key programmes.

For the long-term plan, Rina said the ministry is expected to launch the Rural Development Policy 2020- 2030 by this year, comprising 10 major pillars.

The policy would address a systematic module in handling waste, as well as developing Rural Digital programme, which will ensure the rural residents benefit from the latest technological development, similar to what would be enjoyed by the urban folks.

Rina said the ministry was given around RM8 billion in the 2019 budget which would be spread out to manage about 15,000 villages around the country.