Countries across the globe are struggling to adapt to numerous changes that have started affecting the economy in every aspect. Jobs are being created and made redundant at a much faster rate as compared to any other times. The economies are getting disrupted frequently and with the aging workforce, the pre-learned skills are becoming obsolete before the employees’ working years are over.
Going back to the era in 1965; unemployment in Singapore was in the double digits with a major concern about the workforce illiteracy rate which was at 57 percent. And Singapore could have been like many of the other struggling nations had it not made constant efforts to turn the scene. Today, Singapore’s unemployment rates are among the lowest in the world. Its education system is amongst the top as per the PISA ranking. In fact, they are doing a lot of things right. The -nation has fared very well even when it comes to upskilling and retraining their worker segment. Among numerous nations, only two countries have designed a framework to help workers re-skill and remain employable - they are Singapore and France.
So, what is the skilling plan being developed to create a pool of better blue-collar workforce in Singapore? What recent steps are being taken towards training workers in Singapore? Let us try to seek some answers to these two prominent questions.
Boosting workers immunity to the effects of disruption
The statutory boards are given the task to build a much stronger and deeper link between workers’ education and employment. SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG) are making sustained efforts to raise workers' immunity to the effects of disruption. These two statutory boards even share the same offices and website with the aim to help update skills of the workforce over and over again throughout their careers. WSG has also launched more than a hundred ‘Professional Conversion Programmes’ to help professionals prepare for new jobs in the new economy. This program places professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) and was first launched in 2007 to help mid-career workers hoping to make a job switch. And now this is being used as an important tool against skill mismatch for imparting training of new jobs in the new economy.
Setting up of training committees by NTUC
The unions in Singapore play a critical role and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has organized itself to be an active agent of transformation. They help to communicate the required changes in the labor movement for promoting skills development. With the aim to win support and rally the workers to come on board, NTUC had made many efforts in this area. Over the next three years, NTUC has plans to set up company training committees (CTCs) in around 1,000 companies. With the aim of identifying the areas of training and skills that workers need to keep up with industry transformation, NTUC secretary-general named Ng Chee Meng recently said that the labor movement’s priorities remain in securing better wages, welfare and work prospects for workers. Workers need to be trained to not only keep up with the evolving changes but also to secure better work prospects within the industry.
Aiming for a probable benefit for around 330,000 workers, CTCs will be set up in firms across six industries ranging from manufacturing to lifestyle for upskilling workers. A team of experts in the training domain will collaborate with union leaders and industrial relations officers to implement CTCs. Training Need Identification will be done and then mapped with relevant expertise from universities, polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education (ITEs) to design training programs for workers. Till date, around eighteen companies, including ST Engineering and in-flight catering service provider Sats, have set up CTCs to implement training for workers.
In a recent panel discussion that took place at the Singapore Conference on the Future of Work at Raffles City Convention Centre, the Singapore National Employers Federation president Robert Yap said: "transformation is most effective when it is done preemptively...businesses must not wait for threats or crises to emerge.” To summarize, it is quite evident that Singaporeans make all efforts to ensure that their workers keep pace with the changing ecosystem and move towards becoming a quality worker force. Singapore likes to stay ahead of the curve in developing its workforce to compete both on a global scale and on a local level. Training, reskilling and up-skilling are taken up seriously to produce skill sets that are based on agility and future-readiness.