Forum: Reintroduce trade schools to boost supply of local workers

In the article, "Nearly 3,900 BTO flats launched in four estates" (May 26), it was mentioned that "buyers may have to wait more than five years for some of them to be completed, because of the foreign construction worker supply crunch".

Be it Covid-19 or other future calamities that may affect our manpower supply, I suggest that the Government act now to institute measures to provide support to industries that rely on foreign workers.

We must find ways to develop Singaporeans' skill sets and train them to do the meaningful jobs that foreigners are now doing.

What happened to our past trade school system which equipped young people with technical skills? Perhaps one reason it was discontinued was that young Singaporeans were not keen on technical jobs and hence, over time, foreign workers became the long-term solution to the shortage of manpower in these industries.

Perhaps the current measures taken to improve the well-being and earnings of social enterprise workers, cleaners, security guards and transport workers can be replicated for the tradesman jobs required by industries.

It would take time for Singaporeans to accept these tradesman jobs, but workers in other developed nations such as the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand have accepted such jobs and have been able to support their families with pride. Of course, these countries still have foreign workers, but they have built a core group of local workers for these industries.

I am surprised by the number of people here opting to switch to the private-hire car industry. Of course, the advantage of being able to do one's job independently could be a motivating factor, but this advantage can also be attained by a well-trained tradesman.

Like-minded tradesmen could form partnerships or companies to work with main contractors.

I hope the Government will reintroduce an enhanced education system that will train a pool of Singaporeans to be tradesmen, and reduce our reliance on foreign workers in the long term.

Matthew Koh Kok Siang

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.