SINGAPORE: SkillsFuture marks the start of a major new phase of investment in Singaporeans, to develop them not just in school but throughout life. Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin gave that commitment as he addressed the House during the Committee of Supply debate for his ministry on Monday (Mar 9).
To be successful in the next phase of economic development, Singapore must prepare and adapt to structural shifts that are taking place in the economy and the labour market.
The Manpower Minister said this as he sketched the future labour landscape, which will continue to be tight – given the moderated foreign workforce growth, and a “dramatic” slowdown of local labour growth due to baby boomers exiting the workforce and smaller cohorts entering the workforce.
Local employment growth will drop from 95,000 last year to around 20,000 per year in the last part of this decade.
Mr Tan said: “I am highlighting this situation not to signal a change in direction. There will be no change. We will continue to keep foreign workforce sustainable and allow it to grow at the current tight pace.
“Taken together with the slowdown on local workforce growth, companies must note that we will experience a significant tightening of the labour market going forward. If businesses do not become manpower-lean, and they do not become more productive, they will have great difficulty in finding enough manpower – whether local or foreign – to run their operations.”
MEETING NEEDS OF FUTURE ECONOMY
And coupled with technological advances, the challenge is to develop the local workforce to meet the needs of the future economy. This is where SkillsFuture comes in, said Mr Tan.
He elaborated: “This will be a society where everyone can maximise their potential and realise their aspirations. Where every Singaporean can take pride in being really good at what they do and are recognised for their skills, regardless of their academic qualification, regardless of the schools they come from, the uniform they wear, or the sector they work in.
“Underpinning this, there must be an open and level playing field for everyone to have a fair chance to progress based on their skills and effort.”
But for SkillsFuture to work, it will require the effort of all – employers, individuals, and the Government as a catalyst.
Mr Tan noted: “In this tight labour market, employers have to shift away from this ‘plug and play’ mindset to proactively develop every worker, providing career pathways and valuing their contributions as they advance. Employers play a critical role in this. If you do not develop those pathways, if you do not develop fair remuneration schemes, SkillsFuture, for all its rhetoric, cannot take off, if you do not play that part.
“One way to do this is through offering meaningful internships, participating in the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme, or being part of the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative. In turn, companies will have a more skilled workforce that enhances their competitiveness and productivity. We will reach out to businesses to share with them how they can benefit from the various SkillsFuture initiatives.”
CONCERNS OVER PROFESSIONALS, MANAGERS, EXECUTIVES AND TECHNICIANS
One concern that many Members of Parliament raised was that of the employability of professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs). They spoke of older PMETs being laid off and finding it harder to land new jobs, and asked how PMETs fit into the SkillsFuture framework.
Mr Tan said PMETs are in fact a key focus under SkillsFuture. There are the SkillsFuture Study Awards, the SkillsFuture Fellowships, enhanced funding support of at least 90 per cent for older PMETs, aged 40 and above, and flexibility in the training landscape, with bite-sized modular courses that can even be taken online.
A Place-and-Train programme targeted at PMETs, called Max Talent, will also be enhanced.
Said Mr Tan: “We will enhance the Max Talent Programme. In April 2012, we introduced the pilot Max Talent Place-and-Train programme, to help PMETs access good career opportunities in SMEs (small and medium enterprises), and at the same time, enhance the SMEs’ HR capabilities for better talent attraction and retention. In the past two plus years, there have been 1,000 successful placements, with a good six-month retention rate of over 80 per cent.
“Given the positive feedback, we will enhance it with stronger career development components, and will work towards matching 3,000 PMETs with SME jobs over a three-year period. The enhanced programme will be called P-Max, and is open to all PMETs at various stages of their career, including those who are currently unemployed.”
Other measures targeted at PMETs include stepping up placement and job matching efforts.
news source & image credits: channelnewsasia.com