New diploma programme in cleaning, waste management aims to meet growing manpower needs

The 18-month programme by Republic Polytechnic (RP) intends to upskill workers in the environmental services industry in order to meet growing manpower needs.
The 18-month programme by Republic Polytechnic (RP) intends to upskill workers in the environmental services industry in order to meet growing manpower needs. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Institute of Technical Education graduates and mid-career professionals who wish to pursue a career in the environmental services and waste management industries have been given a boost with a new part-time diploma.

The 18-month programme by Republic Polytechnic (RP), launched on Wednesday (Jan 3), intends to upskill workers in the environmental services industry in order to meet growing manpower needs.

It will be the first SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme (ELP) for waste management and cleaning services. The SkillsFuture ELP is a nationwide scheme across various sectors that was started in 2015, and allows participants to undergo on-the-job training while studying.

Participants in the RP programme will be given insight into the sectors and taught skills for roles such as operations executives and hazardous waste specialists.

There is also a non-ELP format of the programme for adult learners keen on switching careers to the waste management industry, where they will be equipped to play supervisory or senior technical roles.

The initiative will contribute to building a skilled resident workforce in the industry - one of the strategies of the Environmental Services Industry Transformation Map launched in December last year.

With the implementation of the road map's initiatives, about 30,000 people in the environmental services industry will benefit from higher value-added jobs through upskilling and technology adoption by companies by 2025, said Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources and Health, at the event at the polytechnic in Woodlands.

There were more than 78,000 professionals and 1,700 companies in the sector as of 2016.

"As we increasingly face manpower constraints due to low birth rates and an ageing workforce, it is even more critical to ensure that the (environmental services) sector is progressive, competent and productive," Dr Khor added.

The programme will partner 14 industry players - one of which is PV Vacuum Engineering, which specialises in high-tech waste management systems. The company will have students working on the design concepts of its systems, project execution and after-sales support.
 
Its general manager David Heng said: "Students, with their fresh minds, can come up with ideas that some of us in the industry, for many years, have never thought about." 
 
The course will commence in June with its first intake of 50 students. Among its selection criteria, said Mr Jeremy Kong, RP's programme chair for its environmental science diploma programme, are qualities of resilience and a passion for conservation. 
 
"Not everyone can take this industry," said Mr Kong, who is in charge of the new programme. "They might not like the smell (of the refuse) on their first day. As we are training potential supervisors and managers from this programme who lead small teams on the ground, they will also be out in the sun." 
 
He hopes that the course will be able to attract students so that it can help provide a "sustained manpower boost for the industry". The average worker in the industry is aged 49.7, he said, quoting National Environment Agency figures. 
 
He also wants graduates of the programme to implement a technological shift in the waste management industry with their know-how, such as by optimising the routing in the collection of waste, for instance. 
 

The event on Wednesday also saw the unveiling of the RP Rain Garden, an outdoor-learning facility built in collaboration with national water agency PUB. In the rain garden, students will be able to examine and test water quality.