Switch to wafer fab? More help for PMETs

Mr Wong had to undergo over six months of training when he decided to switch from gas manufacturing to wafer fabrication.
Mr Wong had to undergo over six months of training when he decided to switch from gas manufacturing to wafer fabrication.PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

WDA launches new programme to assist those wanting to make a mid-career move

When Mr Andy Wong, 31, told his former colleagues in a gas manufacturing company he was switching to the wafer fabrication industry, they were surprised.

"They said to survive in wafer fab you need a very different mindset," he said. Indeed, he had to undergo over six months of training to understand the stringent management system behind the manufacturing process of wafers, which are used to make the chips in things such as mobile phones and laptops.

The management system governs the quality, safety, health and environment aspects of production, which is what Mr Wong oversees as a quality and reliability assurance engineer at Systems on Silicon Manufacturing Company (SSMC).

"I wanted to deepen my competency in management systems in a different industry," said the chemical engineering graduate, who made the switch nearly a year ago.

Local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) like Mr Wong will have more help switching to the wafer fabrication industry with a new professional conversion programme launched by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) yesterday.

HONING SKILLS

I wanted to deepen my competency in management systems in a different industry.

MR ANDY WONG, a chemical engineering graduate, who made the switch to the wafer fabrication industry nearly a year ago.

The programme, part of the Adapt and Grow initiative announced in this year's Budget, provides training for mid-career workers who want to become engineers or assistant engineers in wafer fab plants here. Three of the five major wafer fab companies here, including SSMC, have committed to participating in the programme and are projected to hire up to 70 local PMETs over the next 12 months.

The industry is still showing healthy demand for workers despite economic restructuring, with 500 vacancies this year, said WDA chief executive Ng Cher Pong.

"As the economy restructures, we recognise that there will be a significant number of Singaporeans who will be displaced from their current jobs," he said. "We're planning to do many more (professional conversion programmes) in different sectors where there are good jobs, where the industry is still growing and where the employment growth is still strong."

Workers on the new programme will be placed in jobs and receive six to 12 months of training, both in-house and under the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications.

About eight in 10 PMETs employed in the industry are locals, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say at the launch at SSMC in Pasir Ris. He said 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 a natural advantage... I'm happy to say this love affair is still going strong," he said.

Also at the event yesterday, SSMC announced that it will be providing all its employees with $500 learning credits each that can be used over the next two years. It also launched a training facility called the L.E.A.N. Centre, which will be used to train potentially more than 500 staff over the next three years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2016, with the headline 'Switch to wafer fab? More help for PMETs'. Print Edition | Subscribe