Metal industry must upgrade to be future-ready

Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee at the Metal Industries Workers' Union 37th anniversary dinner last night.
Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee at the Metal Industries Workers' Union 37th anniversary dinner last night.PHOTO: METAL INDUSTRIES WORKERS' UNION

Firms should also look at overseas competitors and adapt best practices to transform quickly, says Desmond Lee

Rapid changes in technology are proving to be a never-ending challenge for workers in the metal industry, as machinery supervisor Ang Kian Hua knows only too well.

Mr Ang, who joined Makino Asia 12 years ago, told The Straits Times yesterday: "The machines are always changing, so we always have to catch up."

He has dedicated over 900 hours to attend around 20 courses and various training sessions, a level of dedication acknowledged at the Metal Industries Workers' Union (Miwu) 37th anniversary dinner last night.

Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said at the event: "I am encouraged that many of your members have been embracing upskilling over the years. One example is Mr Ang Kian Hua from Makino Asia.

"Mr Ang has readily been taking on upgrading opportunities to do better in his career."

Mr Ang, 35, was one of 29 people who received SkillsFuture Fellowships in July.

STAYING RELEVANT

The machines are always changing, so we always have to catch up.

MR ANG KIAN HUA, a machinery supervisor who has dedicated over 900 hours to attend about 20 courses and various training sessions.

These honour individuals with deep skills and who are mentors of future talent with a monetary award of $10,000.

Mr Lee, the Miwu Council of Advisers chairman, also noted the larger challenges of the industry, pointing out that the metal sector needs to embrace the industrial model of the future where workers and companies continue to upgrade with the latest skills.

"Today, our businesses, truth be told, operate in a much more competitive landscape," he said.

"And with all this newfangled technology and the changes it poses... it means that as a 37-year-old union that wants to be fresh and relevant and ahead of the curve, we always need to be future-ready."

Mr Lee, who is also Minister for Social and Family Development, added: "If you wait for the future to come at you before you start to react to it, I think it'll be a bit late."

He urged firms to keep looking at their overseas competitors and adapt their best practices so that they can transform quickly, noting that Miwu "has done precisely that", with trips to Chinese manufacturing hubs Chengdu and Shenzhen.

Mr Lee said: "Being future-ready is not something that can be achieved overnight.

"We know it's an ongoing journey, one that requires us to always think out of the box and never be comfortable with the status quo."

That clearly resonated with Mr Ang, who told The Straits Times that he chose to go on courses to upgrade himself because he needed to teach his team how to use the new equipment his company was bringing in.

"We need to be ahead of the competition," he said, adding with a laugh that the most challenging part was returning to a classroom environment more than 10 years after leaving school.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2018, with the headline 'Metal industry must upgrade to be future-ready'. Print Edition | Subscribe