SINGAPORE: A new programme was launched on Thursday (Dec 12) to help retail workers upskill and take on higher value roles.
The initiative called the Job Redesign Place and Train Programme for Retail Industry is part of ongoing Government efforts to help the industry in its transformation.
Two hundred training places will be available over the next two years, Workforce Singapore (WSG) said on Thursday (Dec 12).
Retailers will receive salary support of up to 70 per cent for employees placed on the programme for up to three months, while WSG will work with retailers to customise their training plans, the agency added.
Retailing is far from “being a sunset industry”, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Monday when she paid a visit to French sporting goods chain, Decathlon, which is testing out new retail ideas.
The company has taken up half the places available under the programme as it innovates and adopts an “omnichannel” marketing model.
Its outlet in Kallang is more than just a brick and mortar store where people go to shop. It is also where online orders are fulfilled.
Adopting an omnichannel model requires its staff to be retrained to take on bigger job roles.
“Because all these jobs that Decathlon offers have been redesigned, we are putting together a programme that will help job seekers go through the relevant training, so that they can perform effectively things like omnichannel, retail, in a context that is different from what they had before,” said the minister.
This comes as the retail scene is changing to meet the needs of consumers’ habits of combining online and offline shopping habits.
Online sales made up 6.9 per cent of the estimated S$3.9 billion in retail sales in September, up from 4.9 per cent in the same period a year ago, according to figures from the Singapore Department of Statistics.
Through the Place and Train programme, employees like Lim Su-Lin was trained in areas such as web merchandising and digital marketing.
The 47-year-old, who started out as a cashier almost four years ago, said what she learnt has helped her in taking on additional duties such as fielding online queries and analysing membership recruitment data, other than her in-store duties.
“The training wasn’t difficult, but overcoming my fear to pick up something new was,” she said.
She nevertheless was in favour of it because otherwise she said she would be left “obsolete”, and “can’t contribute back to the company (and) help my customers”.
Annatasia Juhari, a human resource and training leader at Decathlon, said that the company joined the Place and Train programme as they needed staff that can run their e-commerce platforms given more shoppers are going online.
“Things are changing. And companies need to change. They need to give more opportunities to their teammates, because there are talented people out there,” she said.
Speaking from her own experience of undergoing the courses and applying what she picked up in her job, Ms Juhari said that the lessons have made “the job more fulfilling and interesting”.
Employees like her have or will go through around 200 hours of in-class training in about 15 to 20 topics over three months, she said. These half or full day training sessions take place during the staffs’ shifts – staggered based on their and the trainers’ availability - with around six to 12 people in one class.
Equipping the staff with technological skills has helped to change the face of retail jobs, Mrs Teo said. It is no longer just about standing in the store and “just selling things”, she added.
As jobseekers come to understand how retail roles are evolving, hopefully they will not be afraid to transit into the sector where companies like Decathlon are hiring, she added.
In a separate press release, the manpower ministry said that since 2016, the Place and Train programmes have helped about 6,000 rank-and-file workers.