New ideas needed to get more companies on board SkillsFuture initiative: DPM Tharman

A new group of businesses coordinating apprenticeships and training for employers in an industry and encouraging people to take up jobs on that industry is a model Singapore can learn from, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Wednesd
A new group of businesses coordinating apprenticeships and training for employers in an industry and encouraging people to take up jobs on that industry is a model Singapore can learn from, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Wednesday. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The permanent tightness in the labour market means it is important to get companies, especially smaller ones, on board the SkillsFuture movement, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Wednesday.

"Our biggest challenge is to help our SMEs and we have to find new mechanisms to do this," he said, adding that the national push to Singaporeans acquire deeper and more relevant skills is going to be a long term journey.

One idea could be having a new group of businesses coordinating apprenticeships and training for employers in an industry. This model was something Mr Tharman and a SkillsFuture delegation learnt about on a trip to Switzerland and Sweden earlier this month.

These "intermediaries" bid for public funds based on how many companies and workers they can get on board their programmes. "It's an interesting business model and something we will study further," said Mr Tharman, speaking at an event at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar.

At the event, 34 small-and-medium enterprises and 26 multinationals pledged to support the SkillsFuture initiative by recognising career progression based on skills and training, and promoting lifelong learning at the workplace.

Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) president Robert Yap said that employers increasingly need to respond to changing manpower challenges and restructuring, by transforming their businesses to be more productive and innovative.

"SkillsFuture helps businesses strengthen their talent pool to overcome the labour crunch," he said.

"It enables employers to provide more structured development programmes and career pathways for every Singaporean to develop to their fullest potential."

Also at the event, SNEF and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency signed a memorandum of understanding and launched a masterclass series on progressive human resource practices for top executives and human resource practitioners.

There will be six classes over a two-year period targeted at some 300 employers. The first masterclass will be held in July this year and conducted by Professor Sattar Bawany, chief executive of human resource firm Centre of Executive Education.