'A little rain must fall' in Covid-19 slowdown but help to weather storm is at hand, says Zaqy Mohamad

PCPs have helped nearly 14,500 Singaporeans to switch to new careers. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Fresh graduates may be entering the job market amid great uncertainty in the Covid-19 economic slowdown, but opportunities are still available in some areas, said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Friday (June 5).

The Government is better prepared and has more resources than in the wake of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, said Mr Zaqy, who graduated during that period. In 1998, Singapore's economy contracted 2.2 per cent.

Speaking in Parliament during the supplementary Fortitude Budget debate, he laid out what is on the table, from sector-specific programmes such as the Company-Led Training Programme for infocommunications and technology jobs, or the recently expanded SGUnited Traineeships.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat last week unveiled plans to have 21,000 traineeships for young people and another 4,000 for unemployed mid-career workers.

Mr Zaqy said graduates can get traineeships not only for familiar roles in marketing and finance, but also more specialised ones such as sports nutrition and social work.

He thanked participating employers such as Yang Kee Logistics, which will be offering traineeships in software development and food supply chain management.

Employers who hire trainees through eligible programmes will receive monthly salary support of 20 per cent for six months, capped at $6,000 in total, he said. This incentive is doubled for those who hire mature workers.

"As many opportunities are likely to come from firms in growth sectors, I encourage our graduates to keep an open mind and consider how their skills acquired in school can be applied to different careers," he said.

As for mid-career workers, he counselled them to consider changing tracks, such as through Workforce Singapore's Professional Conversion Programmes (PCP), in which the Government provides up to 90 per cent of salary support and course fee subsidies.

Since 2016, he said, PCPs have helped nearly 14,500 Singaporeans to switch to new careers. Of these, about nine in 10 remain in employment two years after getting a job, and seven in 10 earned higher wages.

He cited the example of Ms Choa Wai Sim, 55, who previously worked in a traditional sales role doing quality control and sales quotation.

Through the PCP, she picked up digital skills and scored a new role in digital sales - with a 30 per cent pay hike - at agri-food business Aries Fresh in March this year.

Mr Zaqy quoted the lyrics of the song Rain Must Fall by British rock band Queen: "Your every day is full of sunshine/ But into every life, a little rain must fall."

He said: "We are living in very challenging times, with unpredictable weather ahead. They say that in every crisis, lies opportunity. Therefore, we should make the best of every opportunity available, no matter how strong the headwinds are.

"This is why the Government and our tripartite partners are making every effort to create an umbrella of opportunities to weather the storm."

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