Insurance industry working with union to train employees for digital economy

National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng witnessing the signing of the agreement between 23 insurance companies and the Singapore Insurance Employees' Union on Oct 1, 2019. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Workers in insurance companies are the next group to get more help with skills training to prepare for industry transformation.

A total of 23 insurance companies signed an agreement with the Singapore Insurance Employees' Union (SIEU) on Tuesday (Oct 1) to work together on training initiatives for their staff.

The union will help workers understand how their jobs may evolve with digitalisation and technological advancements in the next three to five years, and rally them to have a positive mindset and take up training opportunities, said SIEU in a statement.

The union added that it will also work with the insurers to build on their existing training plans and ensure that the design and delivery of programmes are rolled out with the interests of workers at heart, possibly through company training committees.

The agreement comes hard on the heels of a skills framework for the financial services industry which was launched last Friday by SkillsFuture Singapore to support the growth of the financial sector workforce here.

Some of the insurers involved in the new initiative include Prudential, Great Eastern and AIA. It is not clear how many workers the 23 companies employ in total.

The signing of the agreement at NTUC Centre was witnessed by National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng, who said in a speech that insurance products and the technology supporting them are changing rapidly, so the need for innovation is clear.

"The need to relook how we go about doing the business model, including at the tail end of it how we equip our workers in this sector to be able to continue to be relevant in this industry is not an easy thing to grapple with," he said.

Since this year, NTUC has been starting company training committees in industries like healthcare, marine and aerospace.

The insurance industry initiative also formalises collaborations SIEU has already started with some of the companies, such as customised workshops for older workers run by the Centre for Seniors. SIEU said successful programmes can be scaled up for the rest of the industry.

SIEU general secretary Luke Hee said: "Industry and workplace transformation is happening fast and furious, and workers are often at the receiving end of this. It is not easy for workers to adapt even when they are willing to take the first step.

"This collective commitment is therefore a strong statement from our enlightened employers that they are sincere in transforming and not transfusing our workforce."

The 23 insurance companies are also members of the Singapore National Employers Federation (Snef), which supported SIEU in this initiative. Snef industrial relations panel member Hong Siu Ming said the insurance sector employs more than 40,000 professionals, with total premiums contributing 7.2 per cent of gross domestic product last year.

"To ensure the strength and resilience of the financial system, there has to be a continued focus on capability building. It is also no longer sustainable for employers to simply chase candidates with top dollars, as employees and job seekers lean towards more aspirational needs such as career mobility, meaningful work and the opportunity to learn and grow," said Mr Hong, who is also senior vice-president and head of people, culture and group rewards at Great Eastern Life Assurance.

The launch of the new initiative was held in conjunction with the NTUC's Financial Services Week, which is a series of events from Oct 1 to Oct 4 to help financial sector professionals stay abreast of industry changes via bite-sized workshops, panel discussions and networking sessions.

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