Workers' training fund gets $200m May Day boost

Mr Lee pausing for a wefie with participants at the May Day Rally in Downtown East yesterday. NTUC will use the $200 million to tie up with higher education institutes to help workers learn new skills in growth areas.
Mr Lee pausing for a wefie with participants at the May Day Rally in Downtown East yesterday. NTUC will use the $200 million to tie up with higher education institutes to help workers learn new skills in growth areas.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Govt pledges $150 million to help workers learn new skills if NTUC raises $50 million

A fund to prepare workers to hone new skills for jobs of the future will get a $200 million boost.

The Government is pledging a contribution of $150 million to the NTUC Education and Training Fund if the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) raises $50 million.

NTUC will use the money to tie up with higher education institutes to help workers - among them professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) - learn new skills in growth areas, training about 30,000 workers each year.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced this initiative at the May Day Rally yesterday and said NTUC will partner Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to start 28 part-time courses in August in areas such as data analysis and digital electronics.

More courses are being planned.

"We celebrate May Day this year in a slightly cautious mood," said Mr Lee.

"Around the world, workers are feeling anxious and worried. If you look at other countries' May Days, it is not May Day celebrations, it is May Day demonstrations."

Sectors such as electronics and oil and gas have been hit by the global slowdown, while older workers and PMETs face retrenchment.

But Mr Lee pointed out that while other countries have a shortage of jobs, Singapore faces a shortage of workers. The Government is transforming the economy and will help companies and workers cope with the changes, he said.

"Employers and workers have to approach this (economic transformation) in the right spirit, work together and be adaptable."

The new business models of companies such as Taobao, Airbnb and Uber have disrupted existing players but benefited consumers.

The Government's approach, said Mr Lee, is to ensure that these businesses compete fairly with existing ones while helping existing players transform and compete.

His advice: "Be the disruptor. Don't just sit there and let people disrupt you."

Jobs are changing with the economy too.

"We have good jobs. The problem is not not enough jobs - the problem is to match the jobs to workers' skills, expectations with jobs that are available and what skills are in demand," said Mr Lee.

The Government will help workers as they switch jobs or sectors through initiatives such as the Career Support Programme.

This will benefit PMETs, who form 54 per cent of the workforce today and will be two-thirds of workers by 2030.

And employers must play their part. Mr Lee urged them to keep an open mind about hiring Singaporeans, saying: "Please give a chance to these workers, especially those who are changing jobs."

But he rejected calls for providing unemployment insurance to retrenched workers, saying workers would be paying for such an insurance scheme from their salaries and subsidised to stay unemployed.

"Our union leaders take a long- term view, we are professional and rational, and we understand how businesses are doing," he said, urging employers to work with unions.

Singapore National Employers Federation president Robert Yap said Mr Lee's call for bosses to work with unions is timely.

"We are rallying all the employers to take this opportunity to transform," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Workers' training fund gets $200m May Day boost'. Print Edition | Subscribe