SP Group to spend $35m and work with union on skills training for all 3,600 staff

SP Group staff ride electric bicycles in the tunnel network of the Underground Transmission Cable Tunnel Project on Dec 19, 2017.
SP Group staff ride electric bicycles in the tunnel network of the Underground Transmission Cable Tunnel Project on Dec 19, 2017. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - After attending a one-day course, gas regulator technician Cham Tai Kieo found he and his colleagues could halve the travelling time needed to check and maintain some 400 gas overground boxes across the island.

The 37-year-old learnt how to assemble and read smart sensors, which energy utilities provider SP Group has started using to remotely monitor pressure in gas regulators.

With new technology shaking up the energy industry, Mr Cham’s employer SP Group and the Union of Power and Gas Employees (UPAGE) have been collaborating since January last year to identify skills gaps and find suitable courses for workers so that they can take on new or transformed jobs. 

Since then, about 2,800 SP Group staff have benefited from Project Fusion, the programme that came out of the collaboration.

The company said on Wednesday (Nov 20) it will now spend $35 million over the next three years to upgrade the skills of all its 3,600 staff, working with the union to identify relevant programmes as the energy sector faces digitalisation and rising customer expectations.

 
 
 

This will be done via a company training committee set up by SP Group and the union, with the two organisations formalising their collaboration by signing an agreement. 

National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng witnessed the signing on Wednesday, which was held at SP Group’s headquarters near Kallang.

SP Group’s committee is the third to be set up by UPAGE and energy companies in recent weeks, following similar agreements with YTL PowerSeraya and City Gas.

In a joint statement, SP Group and the union said workers will be able to further develop competencies in the areas of customer service, cybersecurity, data analytics, safety and skills for a digital workplace. 

UPAGE general secretary Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab, who is a principal technical officer at SP Group, encouraged workers to go for training. 

“Let’s not be afraid to adapt, embrace and adopt the various technologies and use it in our daily jobs just like we are in our daily lives,” he said, speaking to about 200 company and union representatives at the signing event. Mr Abdul Samad added that a number of those who had attended training sessions have seen their salaries rise by 8 per cent to 20 per cent.

Mr Ng said as part of efforts to speed up the formation of more company training committees, union leaders will go for training programmes in areas such as business process modelling, performance and rewards management and digitalisation.

NTUC is also building a pool of industry training officers to further support the roll out of company training committees, he added.

The labour movement started setting up such committees this year and aims to have 1,000 of them over three years. So far, over 60 have been set up across industries such as manufacturing, lifestyle and the public sector.

Group chief executive  of SP Group Wong Kim Yin said that as new technology shakes up the energy industry, “we want to help our people adapt and prepare ahead of this potentially disruptive transformation”.

Mr Cham said he used to have to install a chart recorder device and return the next day to pick it up for analysis. 
But with smart sensors, gas pressure can be monitored from the depot.

Mr Cham, who has been with SP Group for about six years, said he next hopes to learn how to read pressure charts which are generated by the sensors. It helps the team to pick up any abnormalities and try to fix them before customers’ gas supply is affected.

“Using the sensors increases our productivity and helps us maintain reliability for customers, which can enhance my career,” he said.