Thursday 10 October 2013

Most employers still provide staff training amid tight labour market

Channel NewsAsia, 8 Oct 2013

The majority of employers continued to send their staff for training in 2012 despite the tight labour market.

This is according to findings from the biennial Survey on Employer Supported Training by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Sending employees for additional training helped improve their skills, increased their motivation and sense of responsibility at work, according to most of the 3,500 bosses polled in the survey.

Despite the advantages, the number of companies which has sent workers for training has held steady for nearly a decade.

In 2012, 71 per cent of private establishments provided training to their employees.

MOM said the proportion was unchanged from 2010 and comparable to 72 per cent in 2005 and 2006.

Observers said the challenge is in getting smaller companies to begin to tap on government support that is available.

Mark Hall, vice president and country general manager of Kelly Services Singapore, said: "You know one thing is telling people there's funding available. The second is making it easier for people to access and use it. It's critical that those smaller organisations can utilise these excellent benefits available by the government."

This includes the Workfare Training Support, which helped cut net costs of training by nearly 30 per cent last year compared to 2004.

Employers that were most likely to send their staff for training in 2012 were from the financial and insurance services and construction industries.

However, employers from the wholesale and retail trade industries were the least likely to provide training.

Fewer professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) were sent for training in 2012.

In 2010, it was 63 per cent but last year the percentage dropped to 59 per cent.

There was a similar drop in the percentage of clerical, sales and services workers attending training.

In 2012, it was 51 per cent - a decline from 54 per cent in 2010.

However, more production and transport operators, cleaners and labourers went for training.

There was a 1.8 percentage point increase from 2010 to 58 per cent in 2012.

Mr Hall explained: "With the tightening of the budgets and companies looking towards more hands-on training and on-the-job training, we will always see the mismatch that the investment in them is less than the mass workforce."

MOM said the increase was supported by government initiatives such as the Workfare Training Support Scheme, which encourages employers to send their low-wage employees for training.

The survey also found that employers spent less on training last year.

MOM said this partly reflects the decline in the proportion of PMETs sent for training.

The training cost per employee incurred by employers decreased from S$511 in 2010 to S$407 in 2012.

After deducting training grants or subsidies and costs recovered from training incentive schemes, the cost per employee dropped further from S$449 to S$362.

With wider government support for training, employers' net training expenditure per employee declined by 4.1 per cent per annum from 2004 to 2012. 

Interestingly, only about half the companies said structured training helped raise employees' wages, or improved promotion chances.

"The workers actually are recognised because training is limited, and so they actually feel valued that the organisation has invested in myself to go for training. You will get a promotion or a salary wage increase if the organisation does well or if you have team skills, or the skill set required for promotion," said Mr Hall.

The report also said that companies with more than 200 staff are more likely to send them for training compared to smaller firms.

Fewer professionals sent for training
But more lower-wage workers undergo skills upgrading
By Amelia Tan, The Straits Times, 9 Oct 2013

TRAINING has dipped for professionals because bosses are unwilling to release them from work due to manpower shortages in a tight labour market.

But lower-wage workers faced no such constraints. A growing number have been sent for skills upgrading thanks to government subsidies, according to a survey released by the Manpower Ministry yesterday.

The biennial study found that 59 per cent of professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) attended structured training programmes last year, down from 63 per cent in 2010.

Some 51 per cent of clerical, sales and services workers were trained last year, a dip from 54 per cent in 2010.

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Chan Chong Beng said many firms are unable to set aside time for staff training due to manpower shortages.

He added that some employers are also reluctant to invest in training because workers are job-hopping frequently as they have more bargaining power in a tight labour market.

"Why would an employer want to train a worker only to see him getting hired by someone else after a few months?" he said.

The dip means bosses spent less on training last year, according to the Survey On Employer Supported Training. The average training cost per employee after grants were deducted was $362 last year, falling from $449 in 2010.

But at least the blue-collar workers saw a slight bump in their training. The proportion of production and transport operators, cleaners and labourers who went for skills upgrading courses was 58.3 per cent last year, up from 56.5 per cent in 2010.

In all, the average share of workers trained went down to 57 per cent last year from 58 per cent in 2010.

The numbers are not encouraging. Mr Patrick Tay, NTUC director for legal services and the PME unit, said firms are focusing more on day-to-day operations because of uncertain economic times.

Yet, employers who have sent workers on courses have found it can boost productivity and staff retention.

One such boss is Mr J. S. Wong, chief executive of information technology firm TalariaX, who sent four engineers for a project management course earlier this year. One of them has since been promoted to project manager.

"I want my staff to be able to see a career path in my company," said Mr Wong. "That way, I can better retain them."

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