WDA programme aims to match mid-career PMETs with vacancies in wafer fabrication

SINGAPORE - The demand for local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) in the wafer fabrication industry remains healthy even as the economy restructures.

Those interested in switching to the industry will be able to sign up for a new professional conversion programme for wafer fabrication, which was launched on Monday (May 16) by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA).

The programme, part of the Adapt and Grow initiative announced in this year's Budget, will provide training for mid-career workers who want to become engineers or assistant engineers in wafer fab plants here.

Three out of the five major wafer fab companies have committed to participating in the programme and are projected to hire up to 70 local PMETs over the next 12 months. WDA is in active discussions with the other two companies.

"Wafer fabrication is a technology-intensive, high value-add industry. It requires highly specialised skills, offers good jobs with career progression and is still actively recruiting," said WDA chief executive Ng Cher Pong. The industry has around 500 vacancies this year.

About eight in 10 PMETs employed in the industry are locals, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, speaking at the launch event at Systems on Silicon Manufacturing Company (SSMC) in Pasir Ris.

Mr Lim said that Singapore's "love affair" with wafer fab began in the 1990s, with aggressive efforts to build up enough water, land and manpower here to support the industry.

"We created an advantage where we didn't have an advantage...I'm happy to say this love affair is still going strong," he said.

Workers on the new programme will receive six to 12 months of training after being hired. The programme comprises modules under the national training framework Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ), structured on-the-job training, and in-house classroom sessions.

The Government will support 70 per cent of trainees' salaries, up to $2,000 per month, and a higher level of 90 per cent capped at $4,000 per month for Singaporean PMETs who are long-term unemployed or aged 40 and above.

Also at the event on Monday, SSMC announced that it will be providing all its 1,570 employees with $500 learning credits that can be used over the next two years. They can choose from more than 100 relevant courses which are also eligible for SkillsFuture Credit.

"This additional training incentive will help to form a knowledge-based workforce for our semi-conductor industry at large and enhance SSMC's capability to produce automotive quality wafers," said SSMC chief executive Jagadish C. V.

SSMC also launched its new training room called the L.E.A.N. Centre. Various stations covering training such as suiting up for the clean room conditions, identifying wafer pods, and operating robot transporters are housed in the room.

This allows basic training to be completed quicker - in about one day. In the past, trainees would have to be taken to different stations around the production floor and wait for sample wafers for training, so as not to disrupt the actual production line.

The facilities will be used to train potentially more than 500 of its staff over the next three years through the WSQ, Nitec modules, and the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme and internships.