The COVID-19 pandemic and recent turmoil in Europe have made predicting economic outcomes tough for both economists and businesses alike. In response, Singapore’s ministers recently revealed a strategy to grow industries that are envisioned to play a key role in the country’s economy within the next decade.
Manufacturing 2030 is making progress
Speaking on the third day of the Committee of Supply 2022 in Parliament, Trade and Industry (MTI), Minister Gan Kim Yong revealed that the Manufacturing 2030 initiative, which was unveiled last year by MTI, is “already making good progress”, with the sector growing by 13% so far. It has also received S$ 8.5 billion in total fixed asset investment, which will create more than 6,000 jobs locally.
To continue this momentum, Minister Gan also shared a new job initiative that will further support companies to create attractive jobs in manufacturing, particularly for local graduates from our polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education (ITE).
Local businesses and talent will matter
There are aims to grow the country’s exporters and raise our export value from S$805 billion to at least S$1 trillion, and to double offshore trade value from US$1trillion (S$1.36trillion) to US$2 trillion(S$2.72trillion).
Crucially, a strong core of local trading companies will be needed, with “global scale, and who are highly innovative”, Minister Gan elaborated.
To that end, Minister of Manpower and Second Minister for Trade and Industry, Dr Tan See Leng, shared how important it will be to strengthen the capabilities of a broad base of local enterprises, as part of a key pillar of their strategy, named Enterprise 2030.
MTI will launch a Singapore Global Executive Programme later this year, which aims to help local companies with global plans to build a pipeline of young local talent to take on regional or global leadership positions.
In addition, in partnership with SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), MTI will develop industry-relevant training courses in emerging growth areas such as robotics and Industry 4.0 under the SkillsFuture Queen Bee programme.
Examples of “Queen Bee” companies include Bosch Rexroth, IBM, Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital and Prudential, for the manufacturing, information and communications technology, community care and financial services sectors.
These companies receive different forms of support, depending on the skills interventions that they deliver to the sector. For example, companies like Bosch and IBM are funded to deliver training in emerging and in-demand skills in their respective sectors.
SSG also provides funding support to companies like Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital and Prudential to hire “Skills Managers” to identify skills gaps and formulate skills solutions for other companies in their value chains.
These partnerships have expanded opportunities for companies, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to upskill their workforce with emerging skills to support transformation efforts.
Traineeships end, but Mid-Career Pathways Programme extended
Some positive news was the conclusion of the SGUnited Traineeship Programme, which according to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), will not be renewed, with an improvement in the local hiring market recently.
More than 11,700 had undergone the programme, with eight out of 10 nabbing full-time jobs with either their traineeship companies or elsewhere, as of December 2021.
However, mature job seekers will still be able to tap on the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme, which offers paid attachments for mid-career individuals. Moving forward, it will be available for mature workers aged 40 and above, with each participant to receive a monthly allowance of $1,800 to $3,800.
Companies will have to foot a slightly greater share of the monthly allowance, with government support decreasing from 90% to 70% instead, though.
Minister Tan also elaborated on MOM’s priorities at the Committee of Supply, saying: “Over the past two years of battling COVID, our manpower policies focused on shoring up local employment and keeping foreign workforce policies responsive. We want to build an inclusive and comprehensive labour market, where businesses can access the manpower needed for their growth. And where continued growth leads to a more equitable and progressive society.”
“The recovering economy provides us a better and firmer footing to do so now.”
He then shared MOM’s three priorities: to “upgrade, uplift, and uphold” Singaporean workers.
On the first, he said: “The first focus is to upgrade the capabilities of locals. We will strengthen support for locals so that they are equipped with skill sets to take on jobs of the future.”
He elaborated on the second priority, saying: “For our growth to be sustainable, we must ensure every Singaporean worker benefits from Singapore’s growth and no one is left behind.
“Hence, our second focus is to uplift our vulnerable workers and mature workers.”
Last but not least, he talked about the importance of upholding inclusive and progressive practices at the workplace, adding: “We will continue to support our workforce to meet caregiving needs at home, to support their mental health and well-being.”
The “greening” and digitalisation of Singapore’s economy
Minister Tan also shared plans for a whole-of-government green economy, which looks into the jobs and skills that will be transformed and created as a result of this green transition.
“It is thus important that our workers are equipped with the necessary skill sets to thrive in this fast-changing environment,” he said.
In addition, on digitalisation, he believes that technology such as artificial intelligence will enable the automation of tasks, which will allow Singaporean workers to deliver higher-value work to enhance productivity and improve performance.
“In 2021, we announced that Jobs Transformation Maps would be launched to map out the impact of technology and digitalisation on individual jobs over the medium term. These provide very detailed, job-level insights to help businesses and workers prepare for future jobs and skills,” he said.
“To support our scale-up of these programmes, I set up the Jobs Taskforce in September 2021, to derive strategies to increase the placements of local workers into our key sectors, such as information and communications technology (ICT), manufacturing, and financial services.”
“For example, our Career Conversion Programmes (CCPs) support employers to reskill jobseekers and workers for in-demand job roles. They provide targeted support to workers whose job roles might be at greater risk of redundancy.”
A Singapore reskilling success story
Minister Tan referenced Mr Cheng Kim Ann, a 30-year-old Singaporean who was previously in the aircraft maintenance industry.
He had just completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and wanted to seek out opportunities in the aerospace sector when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Kim Ann re-evaluated his career options and came across a job opening for a manufacturing and equipment engineer with Micron Technology.
It was shared in Parliament that to help him assimilate into his role, the company put Kim Ann on the CCP for the electronics sector in Nov 2020. During the three-month programme, Kim Ann was introduced to the processes in the semiconductor industry, which he had to apply in his new job role.
Coupled with the on-the-job training provided by Micron, he quickly picked up the new skills required and moved on to learning more advanced skills.
Minister Tan concluded: “Ultimately, support for workers will require a whole-of-society effort. I urge all Singaporean businesses and employees to ‘help us to help you’!”
“The Government will provide the necessary support for businesses. But businesses must be willing to set aside time to train up the local workforce.”
“And employees must also be willing to reskill and upskill.”