Farehana (right) and Mersal (second right) handing over the mock key for MRSM Bintulu to Azhar as Abang Johari (centre), Mohd Bakke (third right) and others look on.

BINTULU (Nov 9): The official launch of the MARA Junior Science College (MRSM) Bintulu on Nov 1, 2023, marks another notable milestone in providing access to quality education for students in Sarawak.

The new college is a collaborative effort between PETRONAS and the Sarawak government through Yayasan Sarawak and Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA), showcasing the power of public-private partnerships in advancing education.

At a ceremony witnessed by Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, PETRONAS Group Human Resource Management Senior-Vice President Farehana Hanapiah and Yayasan Sarawak Director Mersal Abang Rosli symbolically handed over the campus to MARA Director General Dato’ Sri Azhar Abdul Manaf.

Also present were PETRONAS Chairman Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh, and Deputy Minister of Rural and Regional Development Datuk Rubiah Wang, who represents MARA.

Rubiah said at the function that the cooperation between MARA, the Sarawak government and PETRONAS will drive the development of education in Bintulu especially in terms of human capital.

“MARA remains committed in ensuring the development of the entrepreneurial sector and will always place education as a priority.

“The Ministry of Rural and Regional Development will continue to be a “rural hero” in improving rural areas and help to elevate the economic standard of the people of Sarawak, especially in Bintulu,” she said.

Being the fourth MRSM in Sarawak, this 22,000 square-metre campus, which involves a construction cost of RM122 million, is equipped with the state-of-the-art facilities and latest equipment to cater to the requirements of students and educators and provide a conducive learning environment.

These include the administration and academic buildings, students’ and teachers’ accommodation, dining and multipurpose halls, surau, and sports facilities.

Sparking interest in STEM

Farehana, in a special interview with the media later, said PETRONAS is committed towards human capital development and education investment in Sarawak.

“One of the factors that drive our decision to collaborate with MARA and also Yayasan Sarawak is to encourage students to be involved in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

“We need more people with STEM education as these are the subjects that would be very important in the future development of the energy industry,” she said.

She further elaborated that PETRONAS’ ability to continue developing innovation, solutions and technologies hinges upon more students’ interest in STEM subjects to produce more specialised talents.

“In the case of Sarawak, investment into technology is going to be very critical. Sarawak has a lot of natural resources that would require more engineers and scientists to innovate ground-breaking solutions and technologies. This will ensure a long-term sustainable energy industry that will support the Sarawak economy as well as Malaysia’s development,” said Farehana.

In this regard, MRSM Bintulu is poised to provide students with access to quality education and spur their interest in STEM. Farehana also acknowledged MRSM as one of the education institutions that plays a pivotal role in nurturing talent in STEM fields.

“The maximum capacity of the school (MRSM Bintulu) is about 450 students but for the first cohort, we are targeting about 180 students from Form 1 and Form 4, with the intake starting from the next academic year.

“MRSM is also committed to bring their best teachers as well to be part of this new MRSM Bintulu.

“We are also very close to the industry in Bintulu, therefore, we hope to be able to attract more students who can see where they will end up once they graduate from university,” said Farehana.

Abang Johari (seated centre) with dignitaries and students from schools in Bintulu during the function.

Teamwork makes the dream work

As part of the partnership with PETRONAS, Yayasan Sarawak had offered the land for the campus’ construction, and this support, according to Farehana, has allowed PETRONAS to collaborate beyond just secondary school education.

The construction of the college began in 2018 but due to the Covid-19 pandemic that brought about manpower shortages and other constraints, the project was delayed.

With the assistance and support from various government agencies especially the Sarawak government, PETRONAS managed to complete the project.

Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh, in his speech, echoed the positive impact of the collaboration between all parties involved.

“In line with the aspiration to empower human capital development, PETRONAS with the strong support from all those involved has successfully completed the construction of MRSM Bintulu to be utilised to its full potential. PETRONAS would like to extend its heartfelt appreciation to the Sarawak state government and MARA in realising the success of this joint project,” he said.

“We hope MRSM Bintulu will become one of the best MRSMs not only in Sarawak but in the nation, there is a huge need for more STEM graduates from Malaysia to fulfil the demand of the energy industry,” said Farehana.

Apart from MRSM, PETRONAS is also looking at other TVET institutions to develop not only graduates but also skilled workers who are equally important in the industry.

“This is a thriving sector that has a bright future in the energy industry. We would need the best brains and best talents to join the industry,” Farehana adds.

PETRONAS Head Human Capital Investment Syed Mohammad Muhafiz Syed Mohd Bakar briefs Abang Johari about PETRONAS’ education investment and human capital development programmes in Sarawak.

Inspiring students to Discover PETRONAS @Schools

During the event, the Discover PETRONAS @Schools (DPS) programme was also held. Over 400 primary and secondary school students from Bintulu, Tatau, and Sebauh participated in engaging activities, including science shows and fairs.

Among the objectives of DPS are to inculcate interest in the energy industry, build and enhance PETRONAS brand awareness, strengthen knowledge and understanding of PETRONAS education sponsorship and establish sustainable network and mutual relationship for all parties, namely PETRONAS, Ministry of Education, schools, and students.

DPS consists of career forums and booths where interactive engagement and experiential learning were conducted by volunteer PETRONAS employees.

With rapid transformation in the energy sector, PETRONAS believes that change driven by education and capability development is indispensable. The national energy company is committed to nurturing wholesome and multi-dimensional talents who share their aspirations for a better future.