KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15 — Long before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country and caused businesses to shutter and people to lose their jobs — some literally overnight — unemployment has been a problem in Lembah Pantai.
The urban constituency, which includes Bangsar and Pantai Dalam, has among its population a large number who belong to the upper middle class as well as those who struggle to make ends meet.
When Fahmi Fadzil became its MP in 2018, one of the things he wanted to do was set up a job and training centre to help alleviate the problem of unemployment in Pantai Dalam.
Tomorrow, that centre will officially open.
“Unemployment isn’t something that hit just recently.
“Even before Covid-19 came, we were already facing these problems and I had always wanted to help find a solution for folks in Lembah Pantai who are impacted by unemployment,” he told Malay Mail at his Lembah Pantai service centre recently.
Interestingly, it was a 63-year-old former printing plant in Bangsar — now a popular lifestyle hub comprising F&B outlets and event space — which gave Fahmi the idea of how to help the unemployed.
Working within the neighbourhood
The lawmaker noticed that many working in Lembah Pantai came from outside the neighbourhood and vice versa, those who live in Lembah Pantai work elsewhere.
“I saw people spent a lot of time commuting, I saw that among the B40 group in particular and I wondered if a solution could be found,” he said, referring to the bottom 40 per cent of the income group in Malaysia.
“Then I found out that APW when they were a printing plant… they hired people from Kampung Haji Abdullah Hukum nearby to be their workers,” he explained, referring to the outlet in Jalan Riong.
“And that was the inspiration for me, because today you don’t really hear so much about people who are from a neighbourhood getting to work in their neighbourhood.”
At least in Kuala Lumpur that this isn’t the norm. So where does this leave people who grew up in Lembah Pantai? Where can they work?
Fahmi said since the government is reducing local businesses’ dependency on foreign workers, this gave him the idea to promote local jobs that are available in his constituency.
“So I wondered if there was a way to find work ‘locally’,” said Fahmi.
Empowering Lembah Pantai
He explained that ultimately, there are four key things which he hoped the job and training centre can achieve.
Firstly, job matching. While there is no guarantee that one can definitely land a job, he said the centre will help connect a potential candidate with businesses that are looking to hire.
“The job and training centre is important as it can help them find work. I’ve got a case of a resident who lives in Kerinchi who recently lost his job in the F&B industry.
“So now I’m trying to match him with businesses in Bangsar. Once the centre opens, we will be doing this quite regularly but for now it’s case by case… so I hope that we can continue to do that,” he said.
Secondly, he said the centre will serve as a venue to host training sessions conducted by either academics or businesses looking to recruit new employees.
“I noticed that even at this service centre, we get requests from training colleges who want to come and reach out to people who live here (Lembah Pantai).
“So the centre will host these sessions,” he said referring to life skills workshops.
With the centre, Fahmi also wants to collect stories of Lembah Pantai folks which can then be shared with and inspire the community.
And last but not least, Fahmi is looking forward to using the centre as a platform for research work.
“One of my frustrations is when I ask for certain data, often we will get just ‘official announcement’ data.
“But when we ask for a breakdown of certain data, we often don’t get it. We don’t hear human stories from these announcements,” he said.
This is based on his observations — from visits to constituents — that reality is sometimes contradictory to “headline figures.”
“Because sometimes when we are in a rush to publish data, we miss these kinds of human stories… so I want to get these stories and bring them to Parliament or publish the figures to see how we can make things better, how to ensure that fewer families are left behind,” he said.