Food manufacturing association seeks to attract fresh talent

The food manufacturing industry is looking to hire more young people to raise the level of innovation and creativity of Singapore food products.
The food manufacturing industry is looking to hire more young people to raise the level of innovation and creativity of Singapore food products.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The economic slowdown may be seeding gloomy business sentiments, but there is at least one thing Singaporeans are still crazy about - food.

The food manufacturing industry has been expanding its employment and productivity in recent years, and is looking to hire more young people to raise the level of innovation and creativity of Singapore food products.

This is the message the Singapore Food Manufacturers' Association (SFMA) hopes to spread this year through a new campaign it announced on Wednesday (May 4).

"No matter the state of the economy, people always need to eat," said SFMA president Thomas Pek, with a laugh.

"Young people joining us can work in managerial, quality assurance, or supervisory roles, for example...We hope people will go from not knowing about the industry to knowing about it and joining it. The more the better," he said.

A social media campaign featuring young, successful people in food manufacturing companies has been launched on Instagram (@SgFoodMakers).

One of them is Mr Dylan Hu, 31, director of Poli Medical Company and Poly Natural Health Process. The health supplements businesses grew out of his grandfather's old medical hall, and Mr Hu joined in after working as a consultant.

He helped to introduce more automation to improve the consistency of the products and minimise the need for handling. Besides production, food manufacturing can involve developing new products, he said. "Innovation is important, it can be a way to reach out to the global market."

From the middle of the year, Mr Hu's story and others will be shared in short films made by broadcast journalism students from Lasalle College of the Arts. Local food bloggers will also be shadowing people in food manufacturing companies to write about their jobs and experiences.

In the third quarter of the year, there will be a roadshow with public demonstrations of food manufacturing processes.

The association declined to reveal the cost of the campaign.

It was spurred to action after a survey of 600 people conducted in October last year found that over six in 10 still saw the sector as labour-intensive, and fewer than a third of food manufacturing students knew that food produced in Singapore is exported globally, to countries such as the United States, China and Italy.

In fact, the sector, which employs 45,100 people, has implemented technology and automation and is using e-commerce to further expand the reach of local products. Its labour productivity has also risen by an average of 7.8 per cent per year from 2009 to 2014, the SFMA said.

"There have been a lot of changes, but a lot of it is not seen by the general public," said the association's immediate past-president Wong Mong Hong, the chairman of Food Corporation.