Coronavirus: 10,000 workers in food services and retail to benefit from training and support package

(From left) Shatec trainer Alan Lowe, Deputy Chief Executive (Industry) SkillsFuture Singapore Michael Fung, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat, Shatec Chief Executive Margaret Heng, and Fairmont Hotel and Swissotel the Stamford General Manager Marcus Hanna observe a Fairmont Singapore management trainee make a cocktail on March 19, 2020. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Employers in the food services and retail sectors will be able to tap more than $32 million in SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) funding to upgrade their workers' skills.

The enhanced training support package is part of the $4 billion support package the Government announced in the Budget last month.

The SSG package, which aims to help companies defray business costs and upskill workers in the food services and retail sectors, will benefit more than 1,000 companies and 10,000 employees.

For three months starting April 1, employers in these two sectors, who send their workers for selected programmes, will receive an enhanced Absentee Payroll (AP) support at 90 per cent of the workers' hourly basic salary, capped at $10 per hour, up from 80 per cent.

They will also get enhanced course fee support of up to 90 per cent of course fees, up from a baseline rate of 50 per cent.

Providing more details on the package, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said the initiatives are similar to the measures the Government has implemented for the tourism and aviation sectors.

"We are extending them to the retail and food and beverage (F&B) sectors, which are also affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, in a more significant way," he told reporters on the sidelines of a visit to Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford on Thursday (March 19).

He added that the Government is also looking into additional measures to help companies support workers, even after the three-month initiative is over, under a second stimulus package announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on March 11.

"We know this pandemic is not going to be for three months. It's going to last longer than that, and that's why it's important to build on what we have done in the first package," said Mr Chee, adding that details will be announced at a later date.

He added that upskilling is important for companies and employees to remain relevant during the current coronavirus outbreak and even after the pandemic ends.

"We know this is a serious situation that we are faced with at the moment but it is also not something that will last forever. The pandemic will be over and when the recovery comes, we want our companies and workers to be ready, so this is a time to also invest in capability development, productivity improvements and skills upgrading," he said.

SSG is also working with its training partners to ramp up training capacity to help affected employees.

Its training partners include hospitality school Shatec, Asian Culinary Institute, At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy, NTUC LearningHub and the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies.

Mr Chee said: "Together with these training partners, we will be able to provide more training capacity and conduct in-house training for employees during this period to equip them with skills to help them raise their capabilities."

During his visit to the hotel, Mr Chee observed and participated in a guest management and customer service training session conducted by Shatec trainer Yeo Sam Jay, 40.

In a role-playing demonstration, Mr Chee took on the persona of a demanding hotel guest who wanted his room to be upgraded, as he was a frequent customer.

Using the demonstration, Dr Yeo guided the session's 26 participants on how they should respond to such scenarios.

After the session, Mr Chee also visited Prego restaurant in the hotel, where he interacted with hotel employee Isabella Lim, 29, and observed her new beverage concoction skills. Ms Lim is upgrading her capabilities under a separate training programme, where she is learning F&B skills such as table-setting and taking orders from customers.

Shatec chief executive officer Margaret Heng said: "Skills upgrading helps workers to remain adaptable and discover new areas they can potentially be good in."

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