Friday 28 June 2013

Slow start to WorkPro scheme

Only 40 firms tap govt initiative to help employers hire older workers
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 27 Jun 2013

A GOVERNMENT scheme to help employers hire older locals is off to a lukewarm start.

Although the WorkPro scheme launched in March has earmarked $170 million to be given to companies over three years, only $1.4 million has been "committed" so far, said its manager, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA).

The amount hitherto handed out - which the WDA did not disclose - is even lower.

The WDA had approached more than 4,000 companies to tap the scheme in the past three months, but only about 40 had signed up.

WDA chief executive Wong Hong Kuan said companies are holding back because of their lack of familiarity with it: "Such schemes always take some time for people to understand."

He added: "Obviously, we'd like more companies to come on board and that's where we are sparing no effort to engage them."

Language appears to be another obstacle, as information on the scheme is primarily in English.

But, said Mr Wong, "if there are people requesting information in other languages, we are prepared to consider".

He is not disheartened by the low numbers, saying the take-up rate is "very encouraging". He is confident more will use the subsidy.

To coax them, the WDA yesterday held a seminar at a five-star hotel for about 300 company bosses and human resource executives.

It also launched a new website, the Age Management Portal, to familiarise companies on the free resources that are available when they hire older workers.

At the seminar in Conrad Centennial, Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor urged companies to hire more older workers.

"In today's tight labour market, mature workers are a valuable source of manpower that employers can tap to meet their manpower needs," said Dr Khor, who is also Minister of State for Health.

She held up the Marriott Hotel for making changes so that older workers can continue to work there.

Mr Chan Chong Beng, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, is not surprised at the low take-up rate.

"SMEs need more hand-holding and they may find the scheme too complex," he said.

Mr Chan also suggested that the information on the scheme be simplified.
"Some of the SMEs do not have a proper human resource department, so the scheme has to be made really simple so that the SME bosses can understand," he said.

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