Workers will get help to adapt: Yaacob

The Government will work with members of the Malay/Muslim community to adapt to technology and the future economy, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday.

Dr Yaacob, who is Minister for Communications and Information, was speaking to reporters after a dialogue on Budget 2017.

About 50 participants, including professionals, students and members of voluntary welfare organisations, attended the forum organised by Mendaki. They asked if more could be done to help older workers aged 50 and above - who are not quite adept with technology, yet are not able to retire just yet - to learn new skills. Also, could more be done to get young students ready for jobs that do not exist now, they asked.

Dr Yaacob, who is also Mendaki chairman, told participants they could work together to assure various groups that help is available.

"For example, if you've lost your job, you need to seize some of the opportunities created by the Government to do a conversion programme into the growth areas."

This week, the Manpower Ministry announced extra support for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) and rank-and-file workers who were laid off or out of work.

The Budget has help for workers to adapt and for small and medium-sized enterprises to transform, Dr Yaacob added, noting that he sensed uneasiness among some in the community over the pace of change in the economy.

He also acknowledged that workers aged between 40 and 50 with children and elderly parents to support, as well as mortgages to pay, may have the hardest time adapting. But Mendaki is prepared to help this group of PMETs, he said.

Also at the forum were Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Saktiandi Supaat, executive director of Singapore Management University Lim Lai Cheng, and Future-Moves Group chief Devadas Krishnadas, who shared their views on disruption, new jobs and the importance of having deep skills.

Mr Mohamad Salleh Ahmad Sarwan, a director at the Singapore Maritime Academy, who was at the forum, said: "There are many pathways available for youngsters to prove themselves."

The younger generation needs to remain hungry, he added. "We can give them a broad-based education and get them to be technically competent. But the individual needs to have the soft skills to be ready for the future workforce."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2017, with the headline 'Workers will get help to adapt: Yaacob'. Print Edition | Subscribe