Shell Singapore and union launch upskilling council to ready staff for future roles

Team leader Lee Xue Ling (standing) with technicians at a control room in Shell's Pulau Bukom refinery yesterday. Ms Lee is one of the potential beneficiaries of the Joint Capability Council, which, in the first phase, will offer training programmes
Team leader Lee Xue Ling (standing) is one of the potential beneficiaries of the Joint Capability Council, which, in the first phase, will offer training programmes to over 500 process and maintenance technicians.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - About 1,250 technicians from Shell will benefit from a new council that will help upskill them for future roles.

The Joint Capability Council was launched on Monday (Nov 30), as a partnership between the Singapore Shell Employees' Union and Shell.

This is in line with the company's plan to repurpose its core business in oil and gas and cut carbon dioxide emissions in Singapore by about a third within a decade, Shell said in a press release.

The council will identify and equip staff with relevant skills for the future, such as digital literacy, data analytics and adaptive skills.

In early November, Shell said its Pulau Bukom refinery will pivot from a crude-oil, fuels-based product slate towards cleaner energy fuels and solutions. The refinery - whose workforce will be downsized from 1,300 now to 800 over the next three years - will be restructured to include digitalisation and automation of its operations.

This is part of parent company Royal Dutch Shell's plan of becoming a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050.

The first phase will offer training programmes to more than 500 process and maintenance technicians, as a start.

Shell said in a media release: "(This) will complement Shell's digitalisation efforts in pivoting its manufacturing business into new, low-carbon value chains... This will help the workforce stay relevant and resilient through change."

The signing of the partnership was witnessed by union adviser Vivian Balakrishnan, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs. He also toured the premises with the National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng.

Calling Covid-19 a catalyst, Dr Balakrishnan said it has led to "an acceleration of preexisting trends  (like) digitalisation and automation. And this, in fact, will be a source of competitive strength". 

He added: "It has also clearly underscored the urgent need for all of us to be a lifelong learner and to be open all the time to training and upskilling ourselves." 

The new council will be an important enabler in the company's transformation, pushing workers to take on higher value jobs and allowing a holistic discussion around skills upgrading and career progression, he said.

Dr Balakrishnan noted: "We are now at another turning point, and energy sources, transportation, connectivity and communication planning are all being transformed. And if we don't again position ourselves in the right time and the right place, with the right workforce and right skills, we are going to miss out." 

Shell Companies in Singapore chairman Aw Kah Peng said: "As we repurpose our business to navigate change through the energy transition, Shell is also strengthening the culture of a 'learner mindset' across our organisation.

"This will help us to innovate and not be afraid to try new things, learn together from challenges and successes, and collectively achieve better outcomes and performance."

Mr Ng added: "With this, they can have a formal structure to enable continuous learning to future proof themselves. The council will make a real difference in enhancing their job security and securing better work prospects in the medium to long term.

One of the potential beneficiaries of the new initiative is technician Lee Xue Ling, 37, a team leader in the utilities production unit. She joined Shell in 2006 and has moved across different departments in the firm.

Ms Lee completed a part-time diploma in chemical engineering from Temasek Polytechnic in 2015, and has already signed up for a Python coding course. 

"I was given the opportunity to move around Shell and that keeps my job interesting. When I keep learning, I find that I always have passion and interest in my job," she said. 

"Every day is a new learning opportunity for me."