Saturday 22 November 2014

Social service sector to get centralised recruitment scheme

By Imelda Saad, Channel NewsAsia, 20 Nov 2014

A centralised manpower recruitment scheme called Sun Ray has been launched for the social service sector.

The scheme, a first for the sector, will be administered by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS). The council will recruit, develop and deploy social service professionals to take on leadership positions across Voluntary Welfare Organisations in Singapore.

The idea for the scheme was announced by Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing during the Budget debate earlier this year. The aim is to address the shortage of qualified professionals in the sector, as well as help VWOs that are struggling to attract and retain talent.

Those on the scheme will get a more varied job scope, and better career development and progression, NCSS said, adding that it will also plan and manage career pathways for those on the scheme.

Individuals will be rotated across different social service organisations and relevant government agencies to gain exposure and experience. Each posting will last two to five years, with those holding more senior positions having a longer stay to make better “structural contributions”.

Those on the scheme will also take on inter-agency sectoral projects aimed at broadening their macro perspectives and enriching their portfolio. They will also get sufficient career progression and development opportunities, so that they can get a “good grip” on where they will be heading professionally, NCSS said.

They will also undergo a suite of training programmes, designed by the Social Service Institute, in areas such as leadership skills and social governance.


According to NCSS, the scheme will have two career tracks with multiple points of entry to bring in individuals with different levels of experience and competency – an organisational leadership track and a professional leadership track.

Those who aspire to head social service organisations will be put on the organisational leadership track, and they will be groomed to eventually occupy senior-level positions such as executive directors or centre managers. Those who wish to take on leadership roles in specialised areas such as social work, therapy or early childhood intervention will be put on the professional leadership track.

“For even more flexibility, Sun Ray has built in porosity between the two tracks to facilitate lateral movements, catering to those who might want to switch track in the course of their career,” NCSS said.

Mr Fermin Diez, Deputy CEO and Group Director of Human Capital Development at NCSS, said the council hoped to attract former social service professionals to return to the industry – especially those who left because of the lack of a structured career pathway.

“By offering a well-articulated career progression pathway, Sun Ray addresses these concerns and at the same time, offers them better career prospects than before. We are also hopeful that Sun Ray would encourage these professionals to stay on in the sector,” he said.


Addressing concerns over the scheme, Mr Chan said the initiative is not meant to cannibalise the existing talent pool, but to keep them in the sector.

"People will ask: 'Will I lose my good people to the rest of the sector?' I think in time to come, we will see the power of this idea. The idea is very simple - what goes around, comes around," said the minister.

"Even if we have to redeploy a good person out of a particular VWO, we are doing it for the individual and the sector. We would rather give our people the opportunities to develop within the sector, than to lose them."

He added that there are no plans to nationalise all social service employment, nor is there a need to.

"We do not need to do that, and I do not think it is healthy as well. I think many VWOs can and should continue to directly employ staff. The aim of the Sun Ray scheme is to build a core of leaders in both the Professional and Leadership tracks. Not everyone may find this suitable for them. They will have other career opportunities," Mr Chan said.

Fourteen social service organisations are now on the Sun Ray scheme, and there are currently 13 individuals on it. One of them is Vasu Govindasam, who explained why he decided to join the scheme: "At that point, there were other opportunities provided by other sectors, like the health and medical sectors, which met my career need. Now the opportunity is given to me again to serve in the social service sector with a new burst of life."

NCSS said it aims to hire and place at least 200 people on the programme by 2019.

Montfort Care, a network of agencies serving the community, is one of those who have come on board. Its CEO Samuel Ng said: "I hope that Sun Ray can transform the social sector from one that faces a talent drought, to one that attracts talent by the droves."

For more information on Sun Ray, call 6589 5500, email or visit

More in social service go back to school
Staff spurred by subsidies, more complex social issues
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 20 Nov 2014

MORE workers in the social service sector are heading back to the classroom to sharpen their skills, driven by the growing complexity of social issues and the availability of subsidies.

The Social Service Institute (SSI), the main training ground for social workers and other social service staff, saw enrolment for its four diploma and degree programmes doubling from 90 last year to 179 this year.

SIM University also saw 399 people enrolled in its social work degree programme this year, up from 267 two years ago.

Many of those working in the industry do so without much specialised training at first but as needs become more complex, they see the need to hone their skills, said experts.

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, who was formerly minister of state for social and family development, said recently that with the national demographic shifting to include more blended and reconstructed families, social needs will grow in size and complexity.

Ms Julia Lee, director of the social work department at Touch Community Services, said: "Nowadays, issues are multi-faceted and social workers are not really trained in specialised areas such as cyber addiction, so there's a need to refresh their skills even if they have been in the sector for a while."

Mr Alvin Koh, 27, senior community partnership assistant at Tampines Family Service Centre, said a diploma in social service allowed him to take on more responsibilities. He used to handle only referral inquiries and run programmes, but now he can assist counsellors in handling cases. He also got a $300 pay rise. "We get to discuss emerging social trends such as whether foreign workers are entitled to subsidies so that we will be more equipped to tackle such cases next time," he said.

Industry players say the increase in interest in these courses is also in part fuelled by more individuals switching to the social work field mid-career.

It is hoped such individuals will help to build up the sector, which requires about 150 more social workers every year to meet the needs of the growing and greying population here. Over the last decade, the number of staff in the sector has tripled.

More people are now inclined to hit the books also because of generous subsidies, the National Council of Social Service said. Previously, those who made the switch from other industries had to bear the full cost, but since last year, they have been able to tap Workforce Development Agency funding to defray up to 90 per cent of course fees.

Mr Melvin Yeo, 33, a former military expert from the Ministry of Defence, said it was difficult to make the change to become a social service worker.

"I have two young sons to take care of but burning the midnight oil is worthwhile because this job allows me to tap my strengths in relating with people to help them," said Mr Yeo, who is working and pursuing a bachelor's degree in social work.

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