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A FAST way to get foreign domestic workers up to speed

Under a new pilot programme, employers and employment agencies will be encouraged to send their helpers for relevant skills training courses and an introduction to Singapore culture.

SINGAPORE: Employers will soon get more opportunities to send their foreign domestic workers (FDWs) for courses to upgrade their skills, as part of a new support programme by the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST). FAST is a charity organisation supported by the Manpower Ministry. 

Under the six-month FDW Integration and Training (FIT) Support Programme launched on Friday (Aug 29), newcomers to Singapore will be offered courses including culinary arts, housekeeping and dementia care. They will also get to go for activities such as guided heritage and educational tours to better understand the culture and values of Singapore.  

BENEFITS OF THE PROGRAMME

One of the benefits under the programme is a year's membership at the Association's clubhouse. FDWs can take part in various activities at the clubhouse, including a game of billiards. They can also read books in their native language.

However, it is not just the workers who will benefit. Seah Seng Choon, president of the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training, said: "We would like to see employers benefiting from this scheme. For example, employers getting better trained workers, better assimilated workers, workers who are able to understand the culture in the homes and workers who are able to live happily in this country.”

MOU SIGNED WITH 14 EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES

In the pilot programme, FAST signed a memorandum of understanding with 14 employment agencies to offer a special package to prospective employers, which will include the heritage and orientation tour, FAST membership and five training programmes.

FAST will subsidise the bulk of the training costs through donations from corporate sponsors. Depending on the choice of training programmes, employers could have to pay up to S$145 for the package.

For the pilot, participating employment agencies will sponsor the fees for the heritage and orientation tour and a one-year membership to FAST's FDW Befrienders Clubhouse. Employers will also be given vouchers worth S$50 to enrol their FDWs for training programmes. 

Asset Agency, a small and medium enterprise which employs about 10 staff, said it will benefit from the programme too. The manager of Asset Agency Ms Tan Ai Lee said: "The employer will find that our agency is very reliable and is able to provide assistance for them if they need elderly care. Some employers would like their maid to be very good in cooking, so we can have this programme to assist them."

Subsequently, FAST will encourage employment agencies to absorb the cost or increase service fees for employers nominally to cover the training costs.

The six-month pilot will start next Monday and FAST will conduct a review at the end of the pilot. If the response is positive, it hopes to expand the programme to more employment agencies.

Singapore has about 224,000 FDWs and about 1,000 new workers arrive in the country each month. Under current regulations, they each have to complete a one-day Settling-in-Programme, which includes modules on employment conditions here.