MERSING, 13 OCTOBER 2013: Johor Menteri Besar, Y.A.B. Dato’ Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin today officially launched the empower ECER Mersing human capital development programme which involves the participation of 800 rakyat in the district.

Today’s event was organised by the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) in conjunction with the East Coast Economic Region (ECER)’s fifth anniversary celebration this year. Also present at the ceremony was ECERDC’s Chief Executive Officer, YBhg. Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John.

Later during the day, the Menteri Besar also visited the Boat Building and Repair Centre (BBRC) as well as the Terminal Jahitan (Sewing Terminal) in Mersing, both of which are implemented under the ECER Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EEDP) conducted by ECERDC in collaboration with GIATMARA.

In the evening, he also officiated the ground breaking of ECERDC’s latest EEDP project in Mersing, which is the construction of a Medan Ikan Bakar at Sungai Endau.

In his speech at the official launch of empower ECER Mersing, Y.A.B. Dato’ Seri Mohamed Khaled applauded ECERDC’s move in introducing its human capital development programmes in Mersing which will help improve the socio-economic status of the rakyat and enhance Mersing’s role and positioning in Malaysia’s tourism sector.

“Such programmes, which include empower ECER, Boat Building and Repair Centre (BBRC), as well as Terminal Jahita,n will provide direct benefit to the rakyat, which is in line with the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) which aim to create a high-income society in the country,” the Menteri Besar said.

“I was informed that empower ECER has already benefitted more than 22,000 locals in ECER to date. In fact, some earlier participants of empower ECER’s Skills and Entrepreneurship Training programme are now earning up to RM5,000 and even RM20,000 per month, and I hope such success will be replicated by empower ECER participants in Mersing,” he said.

empower ECER has been successfully implemented in 10 locations in ECER and Mersing is the 11th empower ECER location. The programme focuses on Skills and Entrepreneurship Training for adults and Academic Training for examination-year students in the ECER, particularly among those identified as academically weak and come from poor families.

The empower ECER programme in Mersing commenced in April 2013, with 400 students from six schools enrolled in the Academic Training programme. They consist of 160 students who will be undertaking Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination, 120 Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) students and 120 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) students.

The Academic Training programme involves remedial classes and motivational sessions for the students, who are taught learning techniques such as effective note-taking, mind-mapping and speed reading, among others, to enhance their academic performance while helping them develop their soft and social skills.

Meanwhile, the empower ECER Skills and Entrepreneurship Training in Mersing involves 400 adult participants enrolled in 10 courses. The courses are Bridal Make-up, Cake & Pastry Baking, 1Malaysia Cuisine, Hawker Management, Mobile Phone Repair, Handicraft, Haircut and Styling, Electrical Products Repair, Homestay, Massage and Reflexology, as well as Sewing & Design.

The Skills and Entrepreneurship Training programme focuses on the rural poor, who include the unemployed and single mothers. It offers courses that reflect the needs of the job market as well as that of the community. Apart from formal training, there is emphasis on confidence-building and development of soft skills.

In addition to empower ECER, ECERDC has also implemented the Boat Building & Repair Centre and Terminal Jahitan (Sewing Terminal) projects under the ECER Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EEDP) in Mersing, in collaboration with GIATMARA.

In fact, Mersing is the birthplace of EEDP, which saw its pilot project being launched in collaboration with GIATMARA in 2010. It involved the commercialisation of the Boat Building & Repair Centre that served as GIATMARA’s vocational training centre. ECERDC undertook the expansion of the boat building and repair centre, which was also retrofitted to meet the needs of customers, typically fishermen and boat-owners who play a key role in the thriving tourism business of Mersing. Six local youths who gained their training at the Boat Building & Repair Centre are now already employed.

The second EEDP success story in Mersing is the Terminal Jahitan (Sewing Terminal), which is another ECERDC-GIATMARA collaboration. Under this programme, ECERDC provides the funding for the project while GIATMARA provides the training and operational expertise. At the Sewing Terminal, GIATMARA trained jobless youths who were employed as tailors. Within a year, Terminal Jahitan flourished with orders from Government agencies, schools and cooperatives.

To date, Terminal Jahitan has provided jobs to 20 Mersing locals, who are now earning up to RM1,000 per month. Two of its participants have also become entrepreneurs, generating more than RM1,500 monthly.

ECERDC is also collaborating with SIRIM and Agrobank in the implementation of EEDP, which targets small-scale companies, typically start-ups from the Bumiputera and Commercial Industrial Community (BCIC) and SMEs with good growth potential. Participants selected for EEDP will be given technical assistance by SIRIM in terms of product development and packaging, as well as marketing and promotions. Six companies from Mersing have already benefitted from the EEDP-SIRIM programme.

Eligible entrepreneurs are also able to obtain financing by Agrobank to help expand their business, with ECERDC assisting them in topping up the interest rate for their loans.

Later in the evening, the Menteri Besar officiated the ground breaking ceremony of the Medan Ikan Bakar in Sungai Endau, yet another ECERDC’s project in Mersing under the EEDP initiative.

The project involves the construction of a floating deck, four restaurants which will serve Mersing’s famous grilled fish and other specialties, surau, lavatories and parking lots. Built at a cost of RM1.5 million and covering an area of 5,800 square feet, the Medan Ikan Bakar is designed to accommodate 140 diners at any one time. The grilled fish eatery is expected to become yet another tourist attraction in Mersing that will help benefit the rakyat in terms of job and business creation.

ECERDC Chief Executive Officer Dato’s Jebasingam Issace John said, in addition to human capital development programmes, ECERDC is also undertaking various tourism-related projects in Mersing, such as the Endau Rompin National Park Ecotourism Study which is currently in its final stage, as well as the upgrading of infrastructure and basic amenities in the Mersing Islands Archipelago.

“All these projects are expected to boost tourism-related activities in Mersing, which will create spillover economic effects to the rakyat in terms of new job and business opportunities,” said Dato’ Issace.

ECERDC is also undertaking other infrastructure projects to help boost tourism activities within Mersing, such as the upgrading of road from Kahang to Endau Rompin National Park, which already saw the completion of its first package, as well as the construction of a new coastal road from Mersing to Kuala Sedili Besar which is currently in the planning stage.