BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The newly-formed Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC) is investigating companies accused of abusing the i-Ready programme and exploiting its apprentices, said the second finance and economy minister.

During the 16th Legislative Council session on Wednesday, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said the MPEC Secretariat is spearheading the investigation following reports of companies exploiting i-Ready trainees, including reducing their wages.

The council, which was established this year to address unemployment issues, is also probing companies who allegedly terminate existing employees to rely on the $800 i-Ready allowance.

The minister said some i-Ready interns also reported a mismatch of qualifications and job posts.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin, who is also minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, was responding to LegCo member YB Nik Hafimi Abdul Haadi’s question whether the government has reviewed the i-Ready programme since it was introduced three years ago.

She said there had been “two unforeseen positive outcomes” from the programme, including helping startups speed up their growth and the creation of an ecosystem that breeds success and entrepreneurial confidence among the apprentices.

The three-year i-Ready apprenticeship programme was introduced to provide unemployed graduates the opportunity to work in the public or private sector and increase their chances of landing a permanent job.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said only 37 percent of the 2,484 i-Ready trainees managed to secure permanent jobs, while seven have started their own businesses.

There are currently active 892 i-Ready interns.

In his budget speech, the minister said $26.1 million has been allocated for the i-Ready programme in the 2020/2021 financial year, up from $17 million in the previous year.

He added that MPEC is constantly assessing the effectiveness of the i-Ready programme, including the marketability and employability of Bruneians.