Thursday 3 November 2016

Singapore workers will get help to take on new jobs: PM Lee Hsien Loong at dialogue with union leaders on 1 November 2016

Govt will also help businesses upgrade and create good jobs for Singaporeans, he says
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 2 Nov 2016

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night addressed concerns that workers had about jobs, as he outlined what the Government was doing to help businesses upgrade and create good jobs, and Singaporeans acquire skills for these jobs.

At the same time, the labour movement and Manpower Ministry will make sure workers facing layoffs are treated fairly, and match them with available jobs, he said at a National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) dialogue.

NTUC also announced the formation of a unit to identify future job trends, and match and train workers to take on the jobs.

The economy is slowing, Mr Lee noted, but Singapore is not in a crisis as it was when the 2008 global financial crisis hit.

A longer-term strategy is in place to grow the economy and create jobs, he told union leaders.

Mr Lee said that in 2008, the Government introduced measures that lowered business costs and protected jobs, and the medicine worked. "We recovered swiftly."

"It is not an infection that can be cured with one course of antibiotics... but taking vitamins daily (and) following a rigorous exercise and training programme."

Meanwhile, workers who lose their jobs amid these upheavals will get help. He noted that there are 63,000 jobs available at the National Jobs Bank and 13,000 workers have been placed this year, with more ready to be matched in 2017.

But workers need to do their part as well by adapting, he added. "(They) have to let old jobs go and get into new jobs."

In his speech before his closed-door dialogue, Mr Lee painted in broad strokes a picture of preparedness anchored by a broad strategy and what more is needed.

In this, workers, businesses and the Government each have a role to play, Mr Lee said, as he spelt out what they needed to do.

Workers can tap programmes under SkillsFuture to upgrade their skills.

Singling out professionals, managers, executives and technicians, he said these PMETs will get "personalised attention" in job matching because their skills are more specific.

Help for companies will cover 23 sectors representing about 80 per cent of the economy. They will get individual road maps that will transform them as well as help small and medium-sized enterprises.

Mr Lee is confident the various measures will bear fruit and one reason is the strong tripartite relations between unions, employers and the Government: "If any country can succeed, Singapore can."

Union leader Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab said Mr Lee's assurance to workers was timely. "The jobs are still there. My responsibility now is to bring the message to workers and prepare them for these jobs."

NTUC's new Future Jobs, Skills and Training unit to help spot opportunities
It will collect data on firms and industries where investments and jobs are over three-year periods
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 2 Nov 2016

Workers will get more help developing skills relevant to up-and-coming jobs with the launch of a new department by the labour movement next year.

The Future Jobs, Skills and Training unit will gather data on specific companies and industries where new investments and jobs will be over a three-year timeframe.

It will work with unions, professional bodies, government agencies, consultancies and educational institutes to identify opportunities, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said yesterday.

For example, if there are 15,000 jobs coming up in infocomm and technology, the unit would find out if they are in Singtel or in other companies, he said at a media briefing on the initiative.

Its findings will be shared with training providers and institutes of higher learning, which can use them to develop more relevant skills and training courses for Singaporeans.

The NTUC Education and Training Fund, which had a $200 million boost announced this year, can be used to support training programmes if national funding is not available, added Mr Tay, who will head the new department.

"We have lots of jobs but how we can minimise the mismatch of people to jobs will be a challenge for a long time to come," he said.

The unit will run pilot projects by 2019 in five sectors, said Mr Tay, who also heads the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower. These are: financial services, infocomm technology and media, precision engineering, healthcare, and early childhood and private education.

He added that ongoing work in this area is mainly done in matching people who are currently unemployed with the currently available jobs, but the new department will be more forward-looking.

Explaining the choice of a three-year timeframe, Mr Tay said: "If you ask any consultancy companies or any forecasting experts, with this current climate and current disruption speed, we are quite unable to predict anything that is beyond three years. Within this three-year timeframe, we should be able to suss out where the openings are through a variety of nodes."

The new unit was also highlighted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a dialogue last night with labour movement leaders, which was held because unionists were worried about the spate of bad news on the economy and job losses, said NTUC president Mary Liew.

PM Lee asked some 300 representatives who attended to strive to represent more workers and encourage them to improve themselves through SkillsFuture, adding that funding for some training programmes will increase.

By rallying workers to accept and adapt to change, the labour movement plays a very active role in restructuring, PM Lee said.

PM Lee also said the exchange of civil servants and people from the labour movement, which NTUC secretary-general Chan Chun Sing proposed, will help both sides better understand each other and the Government to make policies which respond to the needs of the workers.

Mr Chan said in a Facebook post that amid current challenges, "there are bright sparks with pockets of growth and jobs available".

Some workers have been displaced, he noted, adding: "Many have shown resilience by picking up new skills and adapting to new jobs in new sectors/industries. This is what I call 'placing today's unemployed into tomorrow's jobs'."

5-year plan to transform adult learning sector
Initiatives include online course marketplace with portal to benchmark training providers
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 4 Nov 2016

A five-year push to help workers stay relevant in a rapidly changing economy was unveiled yesterday - with initiatives that include a one-stop online marketplace of courses and training providers.

Through a Training Exchange portal, to be set up by the end of next year, training providers will be benchmarked against one another. Measures will include how much a course helps a worker improve.

The Training and Adult Education Sector Transformation Plan also maps out ways for trainers to keep pace with industry needs, so learners are armed with relevant skills. Instead of prioritising paper qualifications, the sector will focus on how the training that is provided leads to better outcomes in the workplace.

Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, who unveiled the plan, said that even as workers upgrade themselves, the adult learning sector also has to "continue to upgrade and pursue skills mastery".

His announcement at an Adult Learning Symposium came two days after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed workers' concerns over jobs in a slowing economy.

Urging them to adapt, Mr Lee highlighted how they can tap schemes like SkillsFuture to upgrade themselves. Many SkillsFuture courses are run by private providers.

Several key recommendations were outlined in the new plan, developed by the Training and Adult Education (TAE) Skills Council. These include working closely with the industry to quickly identify skills gaps and future skills needs.

Mr Ong explained: "Businesses and individuals are now looking for more than trainers or subject matter experts. TAE professionals must be able to understand the challenges of businesses, their skills requirement, and play a part to help them raise their game."

Training providers are also urged to find the right learning framework for different groups - from older workers seeking a career change to millennials keen to add a new skill - and explore new ways of teaching, including the use of virtual reality.

Trainers are also expected to upgrade their own skill sets, while providers are advised to share services to benefit from economies of scale.

A range of initiatives has already been rolled out, including the $27 million iN.Learn 2020, which helps training providers tap technology to deliver lessons.

Others are in the pipeline. A National Training Management System, now in its pilot phase and expected to be ready in 2018, will help training providers with tedious administration tasks, such as course enrolment and payment.

The SkillsFuture Study Award will be made available for the sector next year. Early to mid-career Singaporeans can tap the awards for fee subsidies for courses.

Mr Ong also stressed how the role of trainers goes beyond simply delivering lessons: they need to understand what motivates workers, and help them find job satisfaction and embrace lifelong learning.

Speaking at the symposium at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, he said: "Training is not just delivering a lecture and showing slides, but you dive into the dreams, hopes and fears of your trainees, and help them develop.

"If you are really good at what you are doing, you uncover their passions, you help them discover their direction in life... and activate their inner motivations."

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