SINGAPORE: Come 2023, National Service (NS) personnel will be able to engage all related services – from the pre-enlistment medical to the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) – at a new one-stop hub the size of nine football fields.
“MINDEF (Ministry of Defence) has also decided to build a central facility to better respond to the needs of the NS community,” Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in his Committee of Supply debate speech on Friday (Mar 1).
The NS Hub, located opposite Cashew MRT Station at Bukit Panjang, will host medical centres for medical reviews, a fitness conditioning centre for IPPT and an e-Mart for buying NS equipment. The hub will also use technology like facial recognition, automation and analytics to improve visitor experience.
The Central Manpower Base at the Depot Road camp, where the pre-enlistment process is conducted, will move to the hub. The vacated building will be repurposed.
“A new NS Hub will bring together different services which are now scattered across Singapore,” Dr Ng said, noting that for instance, pre-enlistees currently take their IPPT at Toa Payoh Stadium, pre-enlist at Depot Road Central Manpower Base, then attend medical reviews at the Military Medicine Institute in Kent Ridge.
“The new NS Hub will bring greater convenience to the NS community by acting as a one-stop centre for all NS-related services,” the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said in a release on Friday.
REMOVAL OF OVERSEAS NOTIFICATION
Beyond that, Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How announced several other measures to improve the NS experience, aimed at showing support and encouragement for national servicemen.
“Our national servicemen have to balance their personal and NS commitments, and we must strive to increase convenience for them by reducing administrative burdens wherever possible,” he said.
“This will help them to focus on their training. We will also maximise the potential and tap into the abilities of our increasingly educated pool of servicemen so that they can contribute even more meaningfully.”
For starters, MINDEF and the Ministry of Home Affairs will from Mar 1 remove the overseas notification requirement for trips shorter than six months.
Currently, NSmen travelling for more than 14 days but less than six months have to notify the agencies of their overseas travel and contact information.
“Removing this notification requirement will not compromise operational readiness as there are other exit measures in place,” MINDEF said.
For instance, operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) are still required to apply for an exit permit before travelling for more than six months, while those on operational and mobilisation manning still need to seek permission from their units before travelling.
“Control measures could be tightened if the need arises,” Mr Heng said.
CONTRIBUTE DURING RESERVIST WITH CIVILIAN EXPERTISE
Mr Heng also announced that NSmen can now contribute to defence with their civilian expertise earlier in their Operationally-Ready NS (ORNS) training cycle. This expertise can include “relevant and important” skills like nursing and info-communications.
Previously, NSmen had to complete the full 10-year training cycle before converting to a role that allows them to use their civilian expertise.
“Now, if found suitable, they can be deployed to roles such as nursing officers and network communications officers after completing two High-Key In-Camp Training stints and have served five ORNS years,” Mr Heng said.
MORE SKILLS COURSES FOR NSFs
As for full-time national servicemen (NSF), MINDEF will help with their transition to studies or work by introducing three initiatives by mid-2019.
First, NSFs can use S$350 worth of Electronic Pre-Release Employment Programme (E-PREP) credits on about 3,000 selected courses, including SkillsFuture Series courses that focus on priority skillsets such as data analytics and cybersecurity, and a range of Massive Open Online Courses offered by SkillsFuture-approved training providers such as Udemy.
“These expanded offerings will help NSFs refresh, update or acquire new skills that aid their transition to further studies or to join the workforce,” MINDEF said.
Currently, NSFs can use their credits to subscribe to about 200 online courses offered by local universities and polytechnics. These credits are valid up to one year after NSFs complete full-time NS.
Secondly, MINDEF will work with Institutes of Higher Learning to develop modular courses for E-PREP that will grant NSFs credit exemptions for higher education programmes after their Operationally Ready Date (ORD).
For example, NSFs can use their credits to take up a course offered by a polytechnic. Upon admission to that polytechnic, they will be granted partial exemption from one module.
Lastly, MINDEF will provide a career orientation experience for NSFs near their ORD through the conduct of customised SkillsFuture Advice workshops at the Enhanced Career and Education Fair (ECEF).
A pilot with NSFs attending the ECEF will be conducted in March, following trial workshop sessions with the Basic Military Training Centre and the 30th Battalion, Singapore Combat Engineers in January.
MINDEF and the Singapore Armed Forces will also trial an initiative called NS Memories to “strengthen engagement and promote support for NS”.
“Our servicemen have told us that sharing photographs of their NS experiences in camp would help build a strong sense of community,” Mr Heng said.
As part of the initiative, NSmen will be given access to non-sensitive, individually tagged photos of themselves and fellow servicemen that document their entire NS journey, from full-time NS to post-ORD. These might include training, cohesion activities and other “memorable events”.
These photos will be stored on a digital platform, and NSmen will be able to view, download and share them on their social media platforms.
Mr Heng said an active infantry unit will trial the initiative for three months in mid-2019. If proven successful, he said MINDEF will expand the initiative.
“MINDEF is exploring suitable online platforms for NS memories, and will assess the development of features and functions based on feedback from the trial participants,” it added.