Despite labour crunch, firms still send workers for training

Sakae Holdings vice- president Gladys Lim has gone for seminars to build up her skills and knowledge. The ITE graduate says she is thankful her bosses saw her potential and gave her projects for her to grow.
Sakae Holdings vice- president Gladys Lim has gone for seminars to build up her skills and knowledge. The ITE graduate says she is thankful her bosses saw her potential and gave her projects for her to grow.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Companies say improving workers' skills results in higher productivity

Companies are heeding the call to send workers for structured training and rolling out more programmes to support this, even though it is often hard to free them up during work hours.

They are willing to do so, say bosses, as it ultimately results in higher productivity - better skilled workers can take on more responsibilities and make fewer mistakes, while greater efficiency also ensures a smooth workflow despite the labour crunch.

Said Mr Mohamed K. Rafin, chief corporate officer of the Park Hotel Group: "Training helps us to do more with less."

The benefits of training have led several firms in sectors such as hospitality, logistics and engineering to support new plans to roll out structured skill programmes for workers.

On Monday, the Education Ministry announced that it was working with schools and firms to provide structured on-the-job training for polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates.

But sparing workers for training also means having to deal with inconvenience and higher costs at times, said firms.

For instance, logistics company DHL Singapore often has to redeploy staff in one warehouse to cover those in another who are attending classes. Part-timers are sometimes hired too.

As Mr Paul Wong, human resource director of DHL Supply Chain Singapore, said: "Training requires effort, planning and a lot of commitment from managers."

However, even with planning, some firms are so short of workers that they cannot spare staff to attend full-day courses.

Instead, firms such as Japanese restaurant chain Sakae Holdings and Concorde Hotel in Orchard Road get workers to attend two- to three-hour courses during off-peak periods in the work day. Sakae also gets Workforce Skills Qualifications trainers to run classes at its outlets.

Bosses say that training has another advantage: better staff retention.

Mr Brenton Ong, human resource director of Concorde Hotel, said workers who are trained to take on more responsibilities such as housekeeping can earn $200 to $300 a month on top of base monthly wages of about $1,500. "When workers earn more, they are happier and they stay on longer," said Mr Ong.

Mr Tay Cheng Hoo, human resource director of German electronics firm Rohde & Schwarz, agrees that better training boosts morale.

Mr Tay said good training schemes, competitive salaries and a supportive work environment helped to keep the firm's staff attrition rate at an average of about 9 per cent in recent years. This compares with 15 per cent in the engineering sector.

Workers who rose up the ranks with training said they are loyal to their companies because of the opportunities given to improve their skills.

Take ITE graduate Gladys Lim, 38, who draws a five-figure salary as a vice-president at Sakae Holdings. Ms Lim, who oversees more than 40 restaurants, has gone for seminars and conferences to build up her interpersonal skills and knowledge in areas like food safety.

"Bosses in other companies won't even consider me for bigger job roles because I am a non-degree holder. But my bosses saw the potential in me and gave me projects for me to grow. I am very thankful," she said.

ameltan@sph.com.sg

SEE OPINION