New committees drive workplace training

Instead of allowing technology to displace workers in the manufacturing sector, the National Trades Union Congress' (NTUC) e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) is collaborating with 32 unionised companies and seven unions to set up committees.

These Company Training Committees (CTCs) will help equip workers with relevant skills using technology.

NTUC e2i, along with these companies and unions, signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the Workforce 4.0 Symposium yesterday, which marks the first sector-based CTC signing.

The initiative is expected to benefit over 12,000 local workers - of which 70 per cent are professionals, managers, executives and technicians.

"CTCs provide a platform on which companies and workers can communicate about workers' training needs so that the company transformation takes place not only in terms of technology, but also in human capability," said NTUC deputy secretary-general Koh Poh Koon, who witnessed the MOU signing.

"This creates a deep transformation of companies, not just superficial transformation from buying equipment and technology," added Dr Koh, who is also Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry.

In conjunction with the Workforce 4.0 Symposium, the first-of-its-kind Workforce 4.0 Career and Training Fair was held in the adjacent hall at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability.

The fair offered over 500 jobs from 14 companies, focusing on new Industry 4.0 positions and training.

The new jobs included automation engineers, software analysts and system architecture engineers.

Dr Koh brought up the importance of keeping Singapore's workforce relevant - a role which CTCs can play.

"The world will keep moving - our workforce can become ready for Industry 4.0, but the bottleneck is our mindset.

"Although we talk about how company bosses can start the change, this change in mindset has to come from the workforce," he said.

Workers agreed with the need for a mindset change.

"With new technology, we need to convince our workers to learn new skills," said Mr Ramanathan Venkatesan, an employee in his 40s who works at Fong's Engineering and Manufacturing.

While companies work on helping workers upskill, Dr Koh also urged companies to reward their workers when they do well.

"As productivity rises and profit margins improve, we want some of these gains to be shared with the workers. This creates a sustainable ecosystem where workers are encouraged to contribute better to the company - never leave your workers behind," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2019, with the headline 'New committees drive workplace training'. Print Edition | Subscribe