Now hiring: Young talent to spice up food trade

Dr Lee, head of operations at the food division of Kay Lee and Shiro Corporation, set up the central kitchen with new machines that raised the roasting and packing capacity for some of its products.
Dr Lee, head of operations at the food division of Kay Lee and Shiro Corporation, set up the central kitchen with new machines that raised the roasting and packing capacity for some of its products.PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Local manufacturers launch campaign to educate and draw young people to industry

The economic slowdown may be seeding gloomy business sentiments, but there is clearly still one thing that makes people happy, with the industry eager to hire.

The food manufacturing industry has expanded its employment and productivity in recent years, and is looking to bring on board 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 yesterday.

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

He said young people could take on managerial, quality assurance or supervisory roles, among others.

"We hope people will go from not knowing about the industry to knowing about it and joining it. The more the better," he said at a media briefing.

A social media campaign featuring young, successful people in food manufacturing companies making products such as rock sugar, health supplements and frozen cooked yam paste has been launched on Instagram (@SgFoodMakers). Their stories will also be shared in short films by broadcast journalism students from Lasalle College of the Arts.

Local food bloggers will shadow people in food manufacturing companies to write about their jobs and experiences. A roadshow will follow in the third quarter with public demonstrations of food manufacturing processes.

The SFMA was spurred to action after a survey of 600 people conducted in October found that over six in 10 still saw the sector as labour-intensive, and fewer than a third of food manufacturing students knew 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, uses technology and automation, as well as e-commerce to expand the reach of local products. Its labour productivity has risen an average of 7.8 per cent a year from 2009 to 2014, the SFMA said.

For example, new machines at the central kitchen for roast meat joint Kay Lee increased its duck roasting capacity per day to 1,000, from about 70. A double-chamber, vacuum-pack machine can seal 40 packs of Shiro Corporation's frozen cooked meals per minute, up from 15 packs in a more manual method.

Dr Christine Lee, 31, head of operations at the food division of Kay Lee and Shiro Corporation, helped set up the central kitchen. She is also researching new products such as tropical fruit wines and probiotic fruit juice.

New entrants to the industry can help create new products like the salted egg yolk croissant of today, she said. "We need new blood in this industry, we need new ideas to generate interest from consumers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2016, with the headline 'Now hiring: Young talent to spice up food trade'. Print Edition | Subscribe