New measures riding on SkillsFuture credits to be introduced

New programmes to help workers and employers make better use of the SkillsFuture credit scheme will be announced this month, said labour chief Chan Chun Sing.

They will cover two areas.

One involves working with academia to introduce courses for bosses of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as professionals, managers and executives (PMEs).

The other will have the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) stepping in to help employers boost their human resource capabilities.

Mr Chan, NTUC's secretary-general, disclosed this yesterday at a dinner to recognise 25 progressive SMEs, but he did not give details.

CATERING TO DIFFERENT NEEDS

The different pieces mean that different people get different things because there are different needs.

MINISTER OF STATE FOR EDUCATION, AND COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION JANIL PUTHUCHEARY, on providing relevant schemes for all.

He also urged companies not to look at the Budget in isolation.

The new measures in it are a continuation of efforts started several years ago to retrain workers and help companies restructure, said Mr Chan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

The SkillsFuture scheme was also raised with the Government feedback unit Reach.

Reach said on Wednesday that some people wanted greater clarity on the scheme's purpose. They felt the recreational courses on the list of eligible courses would not help workers gain skills relevant for the future economy.

Getting workers ready for the future was also a main issue at a closed-door Budget dialogue held by the People's Action Party Seniors Group on Wednesday.

It wants the Government to do more to help older Singaporeans get jobs and remain employable, its statement said yesterday. Participants raised concerns about prejudice against older workers and the plight of middle-aged PMEs who are laid off.

It suggested, among other things, making it mandatory for employers to extend the re-employment age from 65 to 67, and that companies redesign jobs to make them more suitable for elderly employees.

Some practices make it hard for older workers to take on a job, the group said. One example is the security industry, with workers having to do 12-hour shifts, six days a week. Such conditions are too onerous for the elderly, they added.

Participants also urged the Government to do more to help PMEs acquire new skills. Skills mismatch, they said, is a major issue for middle-aged PMEs who cannot find jobs after they are retrenched.

This group will be hit the hardest with layoffs rising, they added.

At three separate Budget dialogues last night, issues discussed included job security and help for the lower-income group.

The new Silver Support scheme, which will give quarterly payouts from July 1 to the elderly poor, was discussed at a dialogue attended by 200 Indian grassroots leaders. Sales director Giriesh Gopal Krishnan, 28, asked whether payouts can be made more frequently.

Minister of State for Education, and Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary, who chaired the meeting, said the scheme is just one of several programmes to help those in need.

"The different pieces mean that different people get different things because there are different needs," he added.

Separately, Senior Minister of State (Defence and Foreign Affairs) Mohamad Maliki Osman said housewives at the dialogue he chaired were glad they qualified for Silver Support.

They saw it as the Government acknowledging their work in raising a family, he told reporters after the meeting with residents of East Coast GRC and Fengshan.

There were queries over the First Step grant that gives $3,000 to a child's Child Development Account without requiring parents to first deposit a matching amount. At the Reach Facebook session, several people asked why the grant is only for babies born on or after March 24 this year. They wanted it to be backdated to Jan 1.

Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Sun Xueling said: "As I understand it, policies have to start on a specific date and this typically starts from when the announcement is made."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2016, with the headline 'New measures riding on SkillsFuture credits to be introduced'. Print Edition | Subscribe