Friday 14 September 2012

$10.5m plan to get SMEs to hire S'poreans

By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 13 Sep 2012

ONE day after Parliament passed laws to clamp down on employers who break foreign labour rules, a new $10.5 million carrot has been rolled out to coax firms to hire more Singaporeans.

From today, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the retail and food and beverage (F&B) sectors can get a subsidy of up to $21,000 for each local graduate they hire and train. The subsidy for diploma holders is $15,000.

The programme, funded by Spring Singapore and run by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), hopes to draw 500 new graduates and diploma holders to take up jobs in the two sectors over the next three years.

It will ensure that Singaporeans continue to get "a good share of the jobs especially at the middle and higher levels" in these sectors, said NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How at the scheme's launch yesterday.

Under the programme, an SME hires a new graduate and promises to train him over 12 months. The employee earns a monthly pay of at least $2,500 during training and a $5,000 bonus after completing it. There will be a guaranteed job after the training.

NTUC director Yeo Guat Kwang, who is spearheading the programme, said graduates shun jobs in retail and F&B because of long hours and weekend work. They also complain of the lack of training and slow career growth.

"We cannot do much about working hours but at least the scheme will have a proper training and career plan," he added.

Some 27 SMEs have signed up for the scheme though no new hire has been recruited yet.

Among them is local caterer and restaurant chain operator Select Group, whose managing director Vincent Tan said: "The scheme can get graduates interested in working for SMEs."

The firm, which started an in-house training programme for graduates two years ago, has trained 15 executives. It plans to tap the new scheme to hire more graduates next year.

While welcoming the move, merchandising executive Loke Min Xiu, 26, said it still comes down to whether the new hire likes the job. "The hours are long and pay is not very high but I stayed because I like seeing people smile when I serve them," said the local university graduate who has worked in local fashion retailer Jay Gee Melwani Group for three years.

Yesterday, the NTUC also launched a progressive wage plan where professionals, managers and executives in retail and F&B can earn more than $5,000 a month via training and job restructuring.

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