WorldSkills Expert Focus

We now turn the spotlight on an inspirational Expert whose passion and commitment to skills development for young people spans almost 30 years. Part eight of our series lands in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where we are honoured to introduce ...



I am the Senior Assistant Director attached to the Public Works Department of Malaysia, based at the national headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. I am in charge of special construction projects for the government. I am also involved in providing consultancy services to the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB). I am involved in developing the National Occupational Skill Standard (NOSS) and Written Instruction Materials (WIM) for the Department of Skills Development, Ministry of Labour and CIDB.

I have been involved with national skills competitions in Malaysia for 28 years. I was first appointed as the Plumbing and Heating Expert by WorldSkills Malaysia for the ASEAN Skills Competitions (ASC). This competition is the regional skills competition held among ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) countries. Following this, I was assigned the same role for the WorldSkills Competition (WSC) hosted by Japan, WorldSkills Shizuoka 2007. I have been involved in this position, on a voluntary basis, ever since. I have to admit that I have numerous jobs and responsibilities, but I contribute immensely toward these commitments because I am passionate about skills development in Malaysia, Southeast Asia and across the world.

On the way to Abu Dhabi ... Mahaindran (back row, fourth from left) with other WorldSkills Malaysia Experts and Technical Delegates who are preparing for the upcoming WorldSkills Competition.

Malaysia has 13 states and three federal territories under the federal government. Water supply in these states/federal territories is managed by the state government or private companies: there are numerous private companies involved in water operations. Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Air Negara (SPAN) – or, in English, The National Water Services Commission – acts as the regulatory body governing all of our water operators and state-run water departments. All approved suppliers of plumbing, waste and sanitary materials in Malaysia are also listed on the SPAN website.

A typical plumbing workshop and classroom setup in a Malaysian Industrial Training Institute.

Plumbing and Sanitary is taught in Malaysia, whereas Heating is not due to our hot climate. Malaysian apprentices in Plumbing and Sanitary can undergo training both in private and public-owned technical training institutes … there are five main government-run training providers, which are operating in the country:

  • Institut Latihan Perindustrian (“Industrial Training Institute”) is run by the government, under the Ministry of Labour. Centres can be found all over the country. Plumbing is taught, not in every institute, but in most of them.
  • Akademi Binaan Malaysia (“Malaysian Building Academy”) is found in specific states, and there are six centres in total across the country.
  • Institut Kemahiran MARA (“MARA Skills Institute”) is run by the Ministry and primary industries: it is like an early institute that conducts plumbing.
  • Institut Kemahiran Belia Negara (“National Youth Skills Institute”) is under the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and conducts training.
  • GIATMARA is a grass-roots training institution established under the company’s charter.

In my opinion, attracting Malaysian youth to enter into the plumbing industry is challenging. Not having enough students enrolling can be very worrying. Sometimes we see training institutes canceling a year/semester if there are not enough students enrolling for the course.

Over the past 28 years that I have been involved with the industry, we have seen a steady influx of foreign workers into the country. The government is trying to regulate this, but there is so much to do to help development of future workers in the plumbing industry. Due to the shortage of skilled workers in this industry, local contractors bring in foreign workers to ensure that plumbing projects are completed as per schedule. I don’t think this problem is going to be resolved any time soon; it could still be the same in 10-15 years.

Mahaindran (above, left) briefing competitors during WorldSkills Malaysia Belia, 2017.

Malaysian Plumbing and Heating competitors are selected for ASEAN and WorldSkills competitions in collaboration with our respective national training institutes. It all starts with internal competitions in these institutes first. The best five to 10 candidates, who are under 22 years old, will be selected to participate in our annual skills competitions, known as WorldSkills Malaysia Belia (WSMB).

This competition is organized in two parts. Firstly, there is a qualifying round that sees around 20–30 competitors competing for the final eight to 10 places. They are set a five-hour Test Project, covering gas pipe, hot and cold water piping system. Competitors achieving at least 70 percent marks will qualify for the final round. This next stage consists of an 18-hour Test Project constituting waste pipe, gas pipe, hot and cold water piping systems. At this point, gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded to the best three competitors. Prize money is also awarded.

The top two medalists from the national skills competition will be selected to compete in the regional competition, known as the ASEAN Skills Competition (ASC). This competition is held in alternate years to the WorldSkills international competition; the last one was hosted here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2016, and the next one will be hosted in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2018. In order to proceed to represent Malaysia at the WorldSkills level and train for the next WorldSkills international competition, a competitor must achieve a silver medal (at least) at the ASC. If a candidate doesn’t reach this level, they might not be selected to participate at WorldSkills. The gold medal is the mark we are all aiming for.

Presenting a tour of the plumbing competition area to the Minister and Deputy Minister from the Ministry of Works during WorldSkills Malaysia Belia, 2015.

The Malaysian Plumbing and Heating competitor for WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 is a young man called Mohd Ferdaus Bin Zakaria. He is 22 years old, and is the current national skills (WSMB) Gold Medallist and ASC Gold Medalist.

Mohd Ferdaus Bin Zakaria during recent training exercises in Labuan, Malaysia

He is from a beautiful island called Labuan, which takes just under three hours to fly to from Kuala Lumpur. Mohamad Rahmat Bin Zainal is a full-time trainer in Labuan for ASC and WSC. I visit them on assignment to make sure everything is on track and he is maintaining a minimum 80 percent performance standard across everything, in the lead-up to WorldSkills. Daily reporting of the training will be forwarded to the Expert every day through email and telephone conversation by the appointed trainer. Motivation and team-building courses are held every three months to keep the competitors focused and striving for excellence.

As I explained earlier, the Heating aspect of the international competition is not as readily available for us to train with in Malaysia. We are required to attach the competitor for special training in a hotel that has a heating system similar to the one specified in the WorldSkills 2017 Test Project.

Example of a WorldSkills Malaysia national competition Test Project.

The Test Project we currently use in the WorldSkills Malaysia plumbing competition contains only pipe work; it does not include sanitary fixtures. At the moment we do not have this sponsorship in our competition, so we work on a very tight budget. Things get broken and it can be very costly; in the past we have incurred losses due to breakage and damage. 

I would definitely like to see sanitary appliances and fixtures used in future national competitions if budget permits, or if there are sponsors. Further to this, I always prefer to see usage of local pipe materials, and focus on jointing techniques/methods that are commonly used in this region.

On the international side of things, I think that any pipe materials used in the competition must be widely found throughout the world and not just in a certain region. In Malaysia we always have problems getting the necessary pipes in due time for our training. We often have to order materials from other parts of the world, and by the time they arrive, we hardly have time to prepare for the competition. It is a problem. Something else I would like to suggest, is that all kinds of pipe joints should be incorporated in the international Test Project; not just press fittings and soft solder … there should also be hard soldering, threading and welding involved, too.

Finally, I also think an independent body should be set up to develop future Test Projects, comprising of representatives from all the continents. This would ensure that the selected Test Project does not provide an advantage to a competitor from certain region. It would also take a lot of extra work, pressure and responsibility from the one Expert who is currently assigned to developing the final Test Project. These are all personal opinions … but I definitely feel that we are moving in the right direction. 

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