LIPIS, PAHANG, 17 FEBRUARY :More than 100 empower participants and well-wishers gathered to celebrate the launch of Sumathi Collections Boutique today, yet another success story of the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC)’s empower human capital development programme. The boutique was launched by YB Dato’ Ir Mohd Soffi bin Tan Sri Abdul Razak, Pahang Exco Member who is also the State Legislative Assembly for Benta.

“Sumathi is one of our role models,” said Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John, Chief Executive Officer of ECERDC. “She has shown that empower truly empowers the local residents and the programme has provided her with the tools and guidance to rise above a life of struggle, and pursue a more enriching career. Besides running her own business, she is also employing others. We are very pleased with the ripple effect of empower that is generating more income for other members of the community.”

Prior to joining the Skills and Entrepreneurship Training programme under the empower initiative, Mrs. Sumathi Vasudevan, was a clerk earning RM 400 a month. After signing up for the sewing programme offered under the programme, Sumathi is now the proud owner of Sumathi Collections Boutique, earning a net income of about RM2,000 monthly. Initially, Sumathi held on to her full-time job as a clerk, sewing part-time on a rickety old sewing machine before striking out on her own, thanks to the encouragement by her family and empower trainers.

The boutique is a testament to Sumathi’s tenacity. Life was never easy for Sumathi and her husband who have two young children and an infirm mother, and struggled with food, school and medical bills. According to her trainers, Sumathi stood out from the start. She was diligent about her training – very proactive about learning new things, focused on improving her skills and getting as much knowledge as she could about sewing and building a business.

Dato’ Issace added that empower’s Skills and Entrepreneurship Training programme was aimed at enhancing the skill sets of the local workforce in the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) in a bid to improve their employment and business prospects. Courses offered incude customer frontline services, cooking, sewing, fashion design, baking, make-up & bridal services, mobile phone repair, computer networking and ICT-related training which would help boost the employability and marketability of participants. Programmes offered reflect the needs of the job market as well as that of the community.

First launched in Bentong in 2010, empower consists of the Academic Skills Training for students and Skills and Entrepreneurship Training for adults. The programme is currently being implemented in nine districts in ECER, 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.

The empower programme is a twin-pronged human capital development initiative of ECERDC, which targets unemployed and underemployed adults, single mothers, those in low-paying jobs and aspiring entrepreneurs, while its academic component targets low achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

To date, empower has recorded marked improvements in academic performance as well as income levels, with some entrepreneurs earning as much as RM6,000 per month. Following its overwhelming success, the empower programme will be further expanded to Dungun in Terengganu and Mersing in Johor this year.