“WHEN are you going to find a nice Bidayuh girl and make me a proud grandmother?”
I almost choked on my umai and rice balls.
I had just started this job – my first – with a utilities company in Kuching, and was still having trouble finding my way at work, not to mention navigating this world. Hadn’t even been a year and already Mum was talking about getting me hitched. I think she just wants to get me out of the house.
After graduating college, things were pretty much touch-and-go for a while. The first few weeks after graduation passed by in a blur of parties, drinking and more parties. We were young, stupid, bulletproof and invincible. At least I thought I was.
Things changed one morning, at the breakfast table. In between wolfing down spoonfuls of mee kolo, Dad quietly muttered “Son, in life, you don’t get any free rides.”
Actually, what he said was “I’m going to start charging you rent, you basement-dwelling freeloader. About time you paid your way around here.” But the first version makes him sound more like Tony Robbins.
Dad was right. He never had it easy. He started working to help the family out when he was just 14. Quit school cold and became an apprentice under Uncle Silas after his old man suffered a stroke. Uncle Silas had a small construction outfit in Kampung Gita, where we live.
It was backbreaking work. Dad started out hauling pieces of wood from one end of town to the village, and slowly worked his way up. There were no handouts, freebies or aid. The internet was still floating around in somebody’s subconcious.
These days, a fresh grad is spoilt for choice. LinkedIn, Jobstreet, job fairs, career days… there’s always something.
I’m not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, so it took me a bit longer to connect the dots, and I ended up doing things the hard way. The obligatory resumes were sent out, but no one bit. Months dragged on and the phone was not exactly ringing off the hook. I was starting to get worried.
Then, someone suggested I check out CBG Sarawak. A programme initiated by the state government, CBG was set up in 2009 to enhance the employability of fresh grads. It works by matching the needs of companies with the individual applicants.
Things are no doubt tougher now. The work environment requires participants to have certain skills in addition to their academic qualification, but due to the lack of work-related experience and skills, some face difficulty in finding jobs.
As a result, the state government, through the Chief Minister’s Department, kickstarted the Capacity Building Programme for Graduates. The objective was to build capacity for the participants through training and retraining. It is also to prepare is with the necessary knowledge and skills to increase our employability and marketability.
But it’s more than just a job placement mechanism. There’s a lot of real world expectations that are not covered in the classroom. Like how to talk to your superiors and treat your colleagues. May seem trivial but I have to admit, sometimes we’re clueless when it comes to these things. We can spend a whole year acting like a self-centred tool and not realise it.
Fast-forward two years and I am now paying my own way and Dad’s charging me rent. I’m not kidding myself. I’m no Elon Musk and won’t be figuring out the transportation needs for a world already suffering from overpopulation and fast-depleting natural resources, but I have arrived. It’s going to be an interesting ride…