RAUB, PAHANG, 19 FEBRUARY :The atmosphere was carnival-like as students, teachers, friends and well-wishers gathered at Sekolah Kebangsaan Satak, Raub for empower Prihatin’s free hair cutting service for the school’s 100 underprivileged Orang Asli students here today. The community event was attended by the Batu Talam Member of State Legislative Assembly, YB Dato’ Aziz Kiram.

“empower Prihatin combines the Skills and Entrepreneurship Training with community service,” said Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John, Chief Executive Officer of the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC). “The free hair cut is a boon to parents, school authorities and empower participants as it saves money for the students’ family, while school officials would be assured that the students will be well groomed and adhering to school rules. For the empower participants, it is an opportunity to put their newly acquired skills to use and at the same time, promote their services to the local community.”

“empower has recorded marked improvements in income levels of participants, with some entrepreneurs earning as much as RM6,000 per month. We are very encouraged by the success of empower, which will be expanded to Dungun and Mersing later this year,” added Dato’ Issace.

The event also saw housewife Jamiah Nordin being chosen as the top performer among the participants of empower Raub Skills and Entrepreneurship Training programme. She had enrolled for the programme to supplement the family’s monthly income of RM500. Despite having minimal formal education, Jamiah managed to complete the programme successfully. Her diligence, attention to detail and the maturity she brought to her work caught the attention of her trainers. While still in training, the resourceful Jamiah began styling the hair of friends and neighbours, and the results were very well received asthey liked her neat, professional approach and sense of style.

Jamiah is one of many success stories of empower, which has witnessed several participants blossoming with successful careers or businesses from practically nothing. The hairstyling course under the empower Raub initiative alone had attracted the participation of 30 Raub residents.

empower is a twin-pronged human capital development initiative of ECERDC which focuses on Skills and Entrepreneurship Training for adults and Academic Skills Training for examination-year students in the East Coast Economic Region (ECER). Human capital development is vital for the rapid transformation of the ECER economy and in this context, empower targets academically weak students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and adults who are unemployed or underemployed, single mothers, those in low-paying jobs and aspiring entrepreneurs.

empower aims to enhance the participants’ skill sets and improve their academic results and employment and business prospects so that they are not left out of the Region’s new prosperity. Programmes offered reflect the needs of the job market as well as that of the community.

First launched in Bentong in 2010, empower is currently being implemented in nine ECER districts namely, Bentong, Temerloh, Raub, Cameron Highland, Lipis, Kuala Pahang in Pahang; Bachok and Jeli in Kelantan; and Kemaman in Terengganu. As at the end of 2012, a total of 11,426 participants, comprising 6,776 students and 4,650 adults have benefitted from the empower programme.

Other courses offered under the empower initiative include professional customer service, cooking, sewing, fashion design, baking, make-up & bridal services, mobile phone repair, computer networking and ICT-related training. Upon completion of the courses, it is estimated that up to 30% of participants will gain employment, while the rest will have sufficient knowledge and practical experience to start their own business, and the ability to generate income of between RM600 and RM1,500 per month, or even more.