Push to deepen manufacturing workers' skills

Employees working at a production line in a solar panel manufacturing plant in Singapore, on May 5, 2017.
Employees working at a production line in a solar panel manufacturing plant in Singapore, on May 5, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

New training framework focuses on keeping up with rapid tech changes

A new training framework for the manufacturing industry was launched yesterday to set out for workers the broad areas of skills and knowledge they need to acquire to stay abreast of rapid technological changes.

Developed by the labour movement, it encourages manufacturing workers to deepen their skills in four areas: process automation, the Internet of Things, data analytics and artificial intelligence.

Courses in these skill areas, run by various institutes of higher learning and training providers, will be identified so that employers and workers can sign up for them.

At the launch, Dr Koh Poh Koon, deputy secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said: "Every job across the world is threatened by technology and disruption, and everyone wants to transform his industry, but not many people really know quite how to do so."

The 23 industry transformation maps (ITMs) that Singapore has drawn up represent a pioneering effort to help businesses cope with disruptive change, he said.

"Many countries are looking at us... to see how they can model after us to undertake their own transformation," said Dr Koh, who is also Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry.

  • Focus on four advanced areas

  • After giving workers a foundation in robotics, data analytics, and programming and coding, the training will focus on four advanced areas:

    1. PROCESS AUTOMATION

    • Robotics systems

    • Line automations

    • Vision sensing systems

    • Automated quality analysis

    2. INTERNET OF THINGS

    • Data connectivity

    • Remote monitoring and tracking

    • Smart factories

    3. DATA ANALYTICS

    • Big data

    • Data mining systems

    • Predictive analytics

    • Digital factories

    4. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

    • Virtual reality

    • Artificial intelligence

    • Machine learning

The new skills framework covers five ITMs that form the manufacturing cluster. It was developed by the NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and the labour movement's training network.

Acknowledging that workers may feel a sense of uncertainty over how the roll-out of ITMs affects them, Dr Koh said skills frameworks like the one launched yesterday are aimed at soothing such anxieties by providing workers with a clear road map for staying relevant.

"By articulating the framework, by articulating the plan, we hope to take away some of these uncertainties," he said, speaking at a seminar which was part of the labour movement's Oil, Petrochemical, Energy and Chemical (OPEC) Week.

Also launched yesterday were two training initiatives tied to the new skills framework.

Together, they will benefit 1,500 professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) in the manufacturing sector, said e2i.

The first is a series of bite-sized two-hour seminars accompanied by a mobile app. The 20 seminars across 17 topics were curated by the Nanyang Technological University's College of Professional and Continuing Education . Some learning materials from the seminars will be accessible on NTUC's ULeap app for mobile learning.

The second initiative - a collaboration with Singapore Polytechnic (SP) - will offer laboratory and process technicians the chance to get professionally certified via an assessment-only pathway.

 

Technicians who have gained the relevant skills after years of job experience can choose to be assessed. Those deemed to be qualified will receive professional certification as laboratory technicians - without having to go through courses.

Others with specific skill gaps can sign up for any one of 10 bite-sized modules by SP, which take up to four hours each, to bridge the gaps before getting the professional certificates.

New entrants can receive the same SP certification by completing 10 modules, each of which involves seven hours of learning.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2018, with the headline 'Push to deepen manufacturing workers' skills'. Print Edition | Subscribe