SINGAPORE - Malay/Muslim professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) can soon turn to a new committee for help to weather the headwinds from an uncertain economy
Its focus is to help this growing group to retrain, and rebound from employment setbacks, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim on Thursday (March 9). The committee will be chaired by Parliamentary Secretaries Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and Amrin Amin.
Dr Yaacob also said in Parliament that the community's take up of the national SkillsFuture initiative has room for improvement. As of December 2016, out of the 126,000 Singaporeans who have used their SkillsFuture credits, only 8.4 per cent are Malays.
"More can be done to explain and link them to SkillsFuture and other national schemes. We will push hard to encourage more to try, and for those who do, we want to support them," he said.
He was responding to Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC), who flagged lower-middle income PMETs as a group in need of greater support.
Mendaki's training arm, Mendaki Sense, will step up its efforts to provide good employment opportunities, said Dr Yaacob.
"But at the same time, more must be done to make continual learning and training a social norm or a natural impulse of our community," he added, pointing to Mendaki's efforts to empower the community through education.
The self-help group, which turns 35 this year, has been tapping on technology.
For instance, it last month piloted its Digital Learning@MTS initiative to heighten the learning experience of students in its flagship Mendaki Tuition Scheme, said Dr Yaacob. This involved 150 students at three centres, but will be expanded into a full-fledged programme for all if successful.
Mendaki is also working to get the community ready for the challenges of the future.
Its Future Ready Unit, launched last year, has reached out to more than 1,000 students and young adults to promote SkillsFuture, particularly among students and parents.
This year, it will launch a new Future First programme to help Malay/Muslim students in Higher Nitec courses develop IT skills and competencies, like critical thinking.
Dr Yaacob also laid out moves to strengthen and safeguard families. Vista Sakinah, which was launched in 2011 to provide specialised marriage education and support programmes for remarrying couples and step-families, has helped more than 1,600 couples through its remarriage preparation programme, and more than 1,200 families through its post-marriage support, he said.
Plans are afoot to expand its outreach efforts and enhance its services. One strategy involves working with asatizah to engage these families, said Dr Yaacob: "We want to encourage our asatizah to broaden how they can serve the social needs of the community, and remarriages and step-families are one group who require support."
He also spoke of changes in the Syariah Court, which administers Muslim family law relating to divorce and inheritance matters.
Two new presidents - Ustaz Muhammad Fazalee Jaafar and Ustazah Raihanah Halid - came on board last year, he said.
Both are on secondment from Muis - part of a broader collaboration between Muis and the Syariah Court to ensure a robust talent pipeline is in place to lead Muslim statutory institutions.
The duo's are mentored by Senior President Ustaz Mohamad Haji Rais and President Zainol Abeedin Hussin, both of whom will retire on June 30.
Between them, they have served for close to five decades. Dr Yaacob thanked them for their long years of service, adding that the Syariah Court will continue to tap on their services even after they leave.
In the next two to three years, the Syariah Court will have a new system to boost efficiency. It will include new e-services, like being able to make appointments online, and a new case management system.