SINGAPORE: An existing government programme will be expanded to place 3,000 Singaporeans in technology-related jobs and train them over the next two to three years, said Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran on Thursday (Jun 4).
This is to allow Singapore to meet a demand for tech and digital talent, with the information and communications technology (ICT) sector continuing to grow despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The scaling up of the company-led training (CLT) programme will be done through partnerships with leading tech and non-tech firms.
The plan is to place and train more Singaporeans in “good tech jobs” that fulfil functions such as digital marketing, software engineering, cybersecurity and data analytics, the minister said in a speech delivered during the debate on the Fortitude Budget in Parliament.
As part of the CLT programme, which falls under the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) initiative administered by the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA), companies will hire fresh and mid-career professionals, and provide on-the job training.
The TeSA Mid-Career Advance programme will also run in parallel to create an additional 2,500 place-and-train opportunities for mid-career professionals aged 40 and above, said Mr Iswaran.
“Our goal is to help fresh graduates and mid-career professionals to secure these jobs, advance their skills and start a fulfilling career in one of the most promising sectors in our economy today.”
The ICT sector has been one of the bright spots in the economy despite ongoing uncertainties, the minister said. The sector grew 3.5 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of the year, creating 1,100 new jobs.
“Digital and tech roles are in demand within the ICT sector and also in the rest of the economy because every sector is seeking digital solutions,” said Mr Iswaran, although he cautioned that ICT firms may also be “more restrained” in their hiring decisions given the grim economic environment.
"We are doubling down in our effort to identify jobs across the economy - be they permanent jobs, temporary jobs, part-time jobs or traineeships,” he said.
“We will spare no effort to prepare and place our people in these roles - be they fresh graduates from universities, polytechnics or ITEs, or mature workers in our economy. And we will work closely with the labour movement and employers in this difficult but critical effort.”
READ: Fortitude Budget: More than S$500m allocated to support digital transformation of businesses amid COVID-19 outbreak
Plans to help businesses accelerate digital transformation are also afoot, with the latest being the Digital Resilience Bonus announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat as part of the Fortitude Budget last week.
As a start, the new scheme is targeted at the food and beverage (F&B) and retail sectors as they have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 fallout. Discussions are ongoing with the Ministry of Finance on how this can be expanded, Mr Iswaran told the House.
Under the bonus, businesses can receive a payout of S$2,500 if they adopt business process solutions and an additional S$2,500 if they build an online shopfront or e-commerce platform. They will qualify for an additional S$5,000 payout if they adopt advanced digital solutions like data mining and data analytics.
This hopes to encourage F&B and retail businesses to adopt digital solutions such as online ordering, e-invoicing, inventory management and e-payments so as to operate in a post-COVID new normal, said Mr Iswaran.
DIGITAL PUSH MUST REACH EVERYONE
Mr Iswaran said COVID-19 and its disruptions have brought home the importance of digitalisation for the economy, as well as digital inclusion for the society.
“Our digital push must reach all segments of our economy and society, like our hawkers and senior citizens, so that they too can benefit,” he said.
He pointed to the recent formation of the SG Digital Office, which is targeting to mobilise 1,000 digital ambassadors to help 18,000 hawkers and 100,000 seniors to go digital.
For instance, these ambassadors will be on the ground at various wet markets and hawker centres from June to help stall owners adopt SGQR codes for e-payment and avoid handling cash, according to the announcement on the new digital office on Sunday.
“This effort will mark a quantum shift in our digitalisation effort in the community, and greatly benefit the lives and livelihoods of our people,” Mr Iswaran said.
A new Hawkers Go Digital initiative will also give hawkers who sign up for the unified e-payment solution and fulfil minimum transaction requirements a bonus of S$300 per month over any five months. Hawkers who have already adopted the unified e-payment solution are eligible for this bonus.
The aim is to get more than 18,000 stallholders at wet markets, hawker centres, coffee shops and industrial canteens to adopt cashless payment by the middle of next year, said Mr Iswaran.
Digital adoption among seniors has been rising, the minister said, noting that smartphone usage among this group have more than doubled over the past five years.
But more will be done through the Seniors Go Digital Programme, such as introducing one-on-one coaching at community places, options for seniors to sign up for small group learning with their friends and other hands-on learning opportunities.
IMDA is also working with telcos to offer better mobile data plans for seniors, said Mr Iswaran. Financial assistance will also be given to lower-income seniors who cannot afford devices and data plans.
These new initiatives will complement existing digital inclusion programmes, such as the NEU PC Plus and Home Access that ensure digital access and connectivity for low-income households and persons with disabilities.
“We have and will continue to enhance these programmes to meet the changing needs arising from COVID-19 and the circuit breaker measures,” he said.