SINGAPORE: A new programme to encourage younger hawkers to join the trade was officially launched on Monday (Jan 20).
The Hawkers’ Development Programme - first announced in September last year - is part of a joint effort by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and SkillsFuture Singapore to sustain and promote the hawker trade.
It is the “first structured apprenticeship programme” for hawkers, said Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor who was present at the launch held at Ci Yuan Community Centre.
The programme comes on the back of feedback from young hawkers on the need for mentorship and guidance from veteran hawkers, said Dr Khor.
In March 2019, Singapore nominated its hawker culture for the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Culture of Humanity.
While hawker culture has been an intrinsic part of Singapore's food heritage, attracting new hawkers into the trade hasn't been easy.
“There are challenges that make people hesitate – long hours, hard work, business risks. So just passion alone, although it is a very good starting point, is not enough,” said Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung, who was also present at the launch of the programme.
NEA hopes that the Hawkers' Development Programme will address some of the problems, making it easier for younger hawkers to enter the trade permanently. The agency expects to train at least 100 aspiring hawkers in the next three years.
A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed by Nanyang Polytechnic’s Asian Culinary Institute and the Federation of Merchants’ Associations to promote the programme among their network of aspiring and existing hawkers.
HAWKERS’ DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME
There are three stages in the Hawkers’ Development Programme:
- The first stage, which will last for five days, is meant for aspiring and existing hawkers. They will learn basic food safety and hygiene, basic cooking techniques and business and marketing techniques on social media and food delivery apps.
- The second stage is where aspiring hawkers will be apprenticed to experienced hawkers for two months. After this stint, they can apply to NEA’s Incubation Stall Programme or bid for a stall in NEA’s monthly tender.
- The third stage will allow aspiring hawkers to test their business plans and cooking either through the Incubation Stall Programme or stalls released through NEA’s monthly tender. The Incubation Stall Programme offers a 40 per cent average rental rebate for 15 months. Experienced hawkers will also offer support in the first three months.
Aspiring hawker Gary Lim, 39, who joined an abridged version of the Hawkers' Development Programme, wants to join the trade out of his love for hawker food.
“Although it has a lot of challenges, I think it’s a trade that requires a lot of hard work and love. It’s also a trade I feel I should, as a Singaporean, pass down the heritage to my kids and my kids’ kids … It’s something that’s close to my heart because I’ve been eating at hawker centres for a long time,” he said.
The Hawkers’ Development Programme was created after suggestions from the Workgroup on Sustaining the Hawker Trade, which include hawkers, operators and food advocates.
Interested parties can find out more about the programme on NEA’s website from today. The training will start in April.