Thursday 23 August 2012

$4.5m scheme to get more locals into shipyard sector

Target is to hire and train 400 Singaporeans in next two years
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 22 Aug 2012

THE National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) yesterday launched a $4.5 million scheme to get more locals into the shipyard sector.

The investment is intended to reverse the existing trend, where under 30 per cent of the current 111,000 shipyard workers are Singaporeans.

The target: Companies willing to hire unskilled locals and train them for nine months to a year as welders and machinery operators.

To fund this training process, the WDA will give each company up to $6,300 to cover part of the cost of training each worker, who will receive a monthly training allowance of up to $600.

After completing their training, these workers will get a monthly salary of $1,500.

The NTUC and WDA hope to find enough firms to hire and train 400 such workers in the next two years.

More than 180 Singaporeans have already signed up for the scheme.

Launching the new programme yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Education and Information, Communication and the Arts Lawrence Wong said that the marine industry is one of the few "not that badly affected by the current global slowdown".

The sector earned $13.3 billion last year, and is expected to do well in the next few years, he added.

But Mr Wong said that the sector has relied heavily on foreign manpower in the past. "There will be an increasing shortage of Singaporeans in the next 10 years, if nothing is done to attract new locals into the industry," he noted.

Currently, companies in the sector can hire five foreigners for each local worker.

The ceiling was untouched when the Government cut the ratio of foreign workers in the manufacturing and services sectors this year.

NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How said the new training programme was one of several steps to draw more locals into the sector.

Yesterday, the NTUC also launched a plan to systematically train shipyard workers to become foremen, so that they can increase their monthly pay to as high as $2,800.

Since June, the labour movement has rolled out training-based plans to increase workers' pay in the cleaning, transport, childcare and hotel sectors.

One firm that signed up for the NTUC-WDA programme was oil and gas company Baker Hughes, which hopes to hire 10 to 15 workers under the new scheme.

While supporting NTUC's plan to increase workers' pay, the firm's director of manufacturing Steven Pounds made it plain that any pay rise will also depend on other factors.

"Any increase is going to be dependent on their performance, the market and the industry as well."

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