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MTI seeking to transform businesses, local workforce

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) is seeking to transform businesses and the local workforce as it sets out its addendum to the President's address in Parliament.

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) is seeking to transform businesses and the local workforce as it sets out its addendum to the President's address in Parliament.

Businesses, it said, will be transformed through innovation to make Singapore more competitive and productive, while opportunities will be created for Singaporeans to get better jobs through higher skills.

One such Singaporean is 41-year-old senior engineer Lim Heng Chyn.

Mr Lim was among the first batch of Precision Engineering Master Craftsman graduates who received their certificates from Nanyang Polytechnic on Monday after juggling work and studies for two years.

The sacrifice was worth it as he said his pay increased by about 20 per cent since he took up the course.

"You can say that the pay is good and you really get exposed to more of these new technologies," said Mr Lim.

Industry players say the engineering sector has been traditionally shunned by Singaporeans. There are currently efforts to improve its image and professionalise the sector, so there is better career progression and pay.

Graduates of the programme who go on to get a Master Craftsman certificate by the Singapore Manufacturing Federation can look forward to a starting pay of at least S$3,500 a month.

Out of the 51 diploma graduates, 12 received certification.

Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran toured the polytechnic's precision engineering laboratory on Monday morning.

He said the centre is a good connection point between the industry and an educational institution.

Moving forward, there will be more of such opportunities as Singapore reviews its Continuing Education and Training (CET) landscape.

The Manpower Ministry is currently spearheading a review of the CET Masterplan 2020 to make the national CET system more responsive and relevant to the evolving needs of industries, companies and individuals.

"A CET framework must be something that prepares our people and gives them continuing ways to be industry relevant. So that's important, the industry input,” said Mr Iswaran.

“Then we need to create modular courses that are able to fit into the schedules of those who are already working but at the same time, give them the desired skills and the certification so it doesn't become an intimidating and one big long course. You can do this progressively and in the process you acquire certification."

He said the government is also looking at leveraging technology to make it easier for people to take up courses at their own time.

MTI is working with the manpower and education ministries, other agencies, as well as the industry to prepare Singaporeans for specialist, managerial and leadership roles as the economy transforms.

Observers said as the economy continues to restructure, CET becomes even more relevant.

"Today we often consider it to be the icing on the cake,” said Associate Professor Randolph Tan, deputy director of the centre for applied research at SIM University.

“When you go for CET, presumably you are in line for some bonus payout or even some promotion but I think going forward, especially in a time of restructuring like we're undergoing, it's not going to be the icing on the cake anymore; it's going to be a necessity for PMEs to remain viable in the job market."

Some 40,000 to 45,000 young Singaporeans are expected to enter the job market each year, over the next three years.

The Manpower Ministry said two-thirds aspire to hold Professional, Managerial, Executive and Technician (PMET) jobs.

Mr Iswaran said the challenge is to make sure there are enough of such jobs, as well as non-PMET jobs, to cater to the different segments of the workforce.

"We need to ensure that we create the kind of jobs and career opportunities that will meet their aspirations and, at the same time, we also have to ensure that our workforce has the right balance because you cannot just have PME jobs,” said Mr Iswaran.

“You need to have other jobs that complement them both in terms of higher level supervisory, (like) CEO-type positions, but also a larger base that supports the activities of PMEs as well. So I think this is where we need to take a total approach."

He added one important aspect is how Singapore is able to evolve as "a hub within the context of ASEAN".

Mr Iswaran said: "The ASEAN economic community will come into form from next year and what that allows us to do is to position Singapore as a node in a hub of activities -- a business seeking to have an integrated but distributed manufacturing system, for example.

“So I may have activities in different parts but the coordination and some of the higher value can occur from (Singapore). Therefore, what it means is we can create more of the PMET-type jobs here, but it will be supported by activities around the region. So I think this is one example.

“It's not the only way we are doing it. It's also the types and sectors we are working on. Clearly, certain sectors are able to generate more of the PMET-type jobs.

"But at the end of the day, we need a balance in our economy because we have a spectrum of capabilities and people, and we need to ensure that all different segments of our workforce are able to find their career path." 

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