SINGAPORE - General worker Vijay Sankar, 26, used to wake up at 5.30am every morning to get to his workplace on Jurong Island from his dormitory in Pioneer.
Now, he gets almost an extra hour of sleep after moving to a new dorm in Jalan Papan, which opened about 1 1/2 years ago and is a 12- minute drive away from Jurong Island Checkpoint.
In his free time, he also spent four Sundays attending a safety supervisor course at the training centre run by the Association of Process Industry (Aspri) on the same site as the dorm.
"There are interesting things to do and when I have time I can attend courses to improve myself," said Mr Vijay, who came to Singapore from India four years ago.
"I want to work more safely so I can continue to take care of my family," he said.
Over a quarter of the 85 courses at the training centre are 90 per cent subsidised by Aspri for dorm residents, so Mr Vijay paid only $25.
The 7,900-bed dorm, called Aspri-Westlite Dormitory - Papan, is the first of its kind in Singapore with an attached training centre.
It also has recreational facilities and amenities such as cricket training pitches, an indoor gym, a dental and medical clinic and a barber shop. Eight workers share a large room in two-bedroom units with ensuite bathrooms and kitchens.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said at the official opening on Friday (Jan 5) that this integrated model is an advance in how foreign workers are treated and is part of efforts to engage workers to boost productivity in the process industry.
"It is a far cry from the norms we saw in foreign worker dormitories less than a decade ago," he told some 300 government officials, employers and workers at the event.
He also highlighted how Aspri worked closely with companies in the process, construction and maintenance industry as well as government agencies and the dorm developers to meet industry needs through the dorm.
"This model of collaboration...is the way we must keep tackling challenges faced by industry - speeding up innovations, transforming productivity, ensuring employees' interests are served and opening up new markets," he said.
Aspri president, Mr Charles Quek, said the association has raised the number of training hours it delivers to 125,000 a year at the integrated training centre, up from 30,000 a year at its old facility. It hopes to ramp that up to 400,000 hours over the next three years.
"We work closely with plant owners and the government to come up with training curriculum, and can develop new courses that suit industry needs," he said.
Mr Tony Bin, executive director of accommodation at Centurion Corporation - which jointly developed the 1.5ha dorm site with Lian Beng Group for about $200 million - said he hopes it will show the many multinational companies on Jurong Island that Singapore has good quality migrant worker accommodation, and will "put Singapore on the map" in terms of caring for migrant workers.
"Our hope is that our residents will leave Singapore with more than just their hard-earned money, but just as they have helped Singapore, so too we hope they have also tasted the goodness of our society towards their efforts and will have fond memories of Singapore and Singaporeans," he said.
Employer Dan Chua, director of engineering and maintenance firm CYC International, said he moved 45 of his staff who work on Jurong Island to the dorm, from their previous accommodation in Woodlands, saving them two hours of travelling time each day.
He said his workers also benefit fromthe subsidised courses and 48 hours of free training that residents receive each year. His workers have attended English and computer courses, among others.
He also said that he was not worried about workers tiring themselves out by choosing to attend too many classes.
"If they are willing to go for courses, it means they are genuinely interested to learn. They know how to manage their time," he said.