IN a quiet sub-urban neighbourhood in Ipoh, one company is making great strides in upskilling mainly SPM school leavers in technical and tunnelling skills in its bid to create a well-trained local workforce to build the nation‘s mega infrastructure.

This is none other than MMCGamuda Joint Venture (MGJV), the company entrusted with the significant role of delivering Malaysia’s first MRT project in a first of its kind role as the Project Delivery Partner. It is also the underground contractor for the country‘s pioneer Klang Valley MRT project.

To meet the need for skilled manpower and to deliver the MRT on time and on budget, MGJV initiated the TBM Refurbishment Plant, in Pusing near Ipoh, where the highly-complex Tunnel Boring Machines are sent for refurbishment and upgrading works.

Working on these machines are Malaysian youths who were trained at MGJV‘s Tunneling Training Academy (TTA) in Kota Kemuning, which was set up in December 2011.

With the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT Line slated for delivery to the Government in July, more than 900 skilled workers, qualified to work underground, are being prepared to work on the second line of the MRT.

(File pix) The TTA and TBM Refurbishment Plant not only prepares the trainees but also raises their prospects to earn more. Pix by Muhd Zaaba Zakeria

The Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putr ajaya Line or SSP will have 11 underground stations within the 13.5km tunnel alignment.

Gamuda Engineering managing director, Datuk Ubull Din Om said the TTA and TBM Refurbishment Plant not only prepares the trainees but also raises their prospects to earn more.

“Prior to joining TTA, some of the trainees were earning as low as RM900, but after successfully completing their course and joining MMC-Gamuda, their salaries nearly tripled with starting pay ranging from RM1,200 (tunnel crew) to RM2,500 (electrical and mechanical works),” he said.

At the refurbishment plant, 70 per cent† of the TBM parts used for TBM refurbishment are locally manufactured and almost RM50 million worth of local parts are procured from the local supply chain.

“Initially, we had to keep going back to Germany for refurbishment work required on the TBM because that‘s where the machines are from, and these costs were incurred in foreign currency.

“But over time, we ensured a proper transfer of technology by bringing experts from Herrenknecht AG to train our people at our very own TBM Refurbishment Plant.

“By getting these jobs done locally, we earn foreign exchange savings, which is very valuable in current times, given the volatility of the ringgit.

“But more importantly, we are upskilling our local workforce in a leading world technology involving TBMs and also providing them with jobs on our MRT project,” explained Ubull.

(File pix) Gamuda Engineering managing director, Datuk Ubull Din Om.

In a recent visit to the refurbishment plant in Pusing, the News Straits Times and Berita Harian met with the TTA graduates and trainees who are blazing the trail in acquiring the knowledge, skills and competencies.

Zul Fazreen Azhar, 26, is among those who benefited from the tunneling industry training school.

He had not expected a bright future due to his lack of higher education and skills, but the decision to enroll with TTA in the middle of 2013 proved to be a turning point in his life.

Zul Fazreen, the youngest of three siblings, realised that this would be a good opportunity to earn a better pay and improve the livelihood of his family.

Having previously worked in Port Klang doing wiring works with his uncle for over a year, the Sultan Azlan Shah Polytechnic graduate understands what it means to be stuck in low paying, menial jobs.

“When I first learned about TTA from friends, I was also attracted t the idea of working in the tunneling industry as it is totally new to me.

“I am proud to be part of the workforce behind the MRT project.

“Thanks to the quality and relevance of the training provided at TTA, I‘m able to upgrade knowledge, skills and performance to bolster my career prospects in the local construction industry.

“I truly appreciate the opportunity, knowing that demand for specialised skills is on the rise,” he said.

Zul Fazreen, who did his training with TTA between May and August in 2013, proceeded to work with MMCGamuda in September the same year as tunnel crew.

For Muhammad Izzat Arfan, 23, he still clearly remembers the first time he came face to face with the massive TBMs.

Kelantan-born Izzat, who used to work as part-time cashier at a Petronas petrol station, is grateful that he is now part of the machine’s operation, carrying out maintenance work at the workshop in Pusing.

“The programme focuses on cultivating the core skills and competencies that students will need for their jobs and life-long development.

“It also develops my ability to work together and interact with others, and gives me a sense of achievement,” said Izzat, whose prior qualifications included a Level 3 Malaysian Skills Certificates (SKM) and a Diploma in Mechanical Maintenance from the National Youth Advance Skills Training Institute (IKTBN).

He is looking forward to complete the final phase of his training and get involved in the tunneling works for MRT SSP line.

His colleague Baranitharan Kerishnan, who also went through the TTA programme, said it made him more confident at work performance.

“I find that I was able to take assignments more actively, learning directly from my superiors to improve my skills.

“At the same time, I’m optimistic of a better future now that I have the right skills set,” he said.

The 26-year old from Kuala Selangor, who worked as a Technician at Toyota Service Centre for a year from April 2011, enrolled with TTA in 2013.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Youth and Sports’ Youth Skills Development Division Director General Dr. Wasitah Mohd Yusof said the Youth and Sports Skills Training Institution (ILKBS) — which includes the IKTBN, National Youth Skills-Training Institute (IKBN) and Youth Golf Skills Academy (AKBG) — are happy to work with Gamuda Berhad as they are the leading company in infrastructure and property development.

“Being awarded the Builder of the Year from CIDB (Construction Industry Development Board) proves their credibility as our partner.

“The strategic alliance between the Youth and Sports Ministry and Gamuda has started since we signed More than 900 skilled underground workers are required to start works for the second MRT SSP line by the end of the year.

the Memorandum of Understanding on August 6, 2015 and it has benefited the students in many ways,” she said.

She added that through this collaboration, a new work-based training system had been introduced where it provides students at IKTBN Bachok and IKTBN Chembong with actual industrial experience, particularly in the field of construction and civil engineering.

The courses involved are Civil and Structure Supervisory (SKM3) and Scaffolding in which the ‘sandwich’ programme have been implemented.

In the sandwich programme, students will undergo training in the

campus and at construction sites.

“Presently, a total of 38 students are involved in the sandwich programme for both courses, which started in July last year,”she noted.

On another note, she said the Youth and Sports Ministry-Gamuda joint venture has also benefited ILKBS students for other courses in the mechanical and electrical discipline.

They are given the opportunity to participate in an intensive training programme at TTA, which prepares them to be mechanical and electrical crews for tunnel works.

A total of 42 students of IKTBN Pagoh Johor, IKBN Kinarut Sabah and IKTBN Alor Gajah from the Industrial Mechanics and Wireman/Chargemen course have been selected for the training in TTA and they are now working with MMC-Gamuda for MRT SSP line.

“It is truly gratifying to hear of the success stories we have with these students who were trained by TTA which are led by the industry itself,” said Wasitah.

With more key infrastructure projects on the horizon such as the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and the 350-km High-Speed Rail (HSR) between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, the partnership between MGJV and the government is deemed vital as the nation strives to be on track to produce sufficient skilled workers by 2020 and achieve the high-income nation status by then.

(File pix) More than 900 skilled underground workers are required to start works for the second MRT SSP line by the end of the year. Pix by Muhd Zaaba Zakeria
(File pix) The Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) refurbishment plant at Pusing, near Ipoh was set up in preparation for MRT Line 2. This facillity is a platform to develop high technology in Malaysia through cooperation with foreign contractors and suppliers. Pix by Muhd Zaaba Zakeria