New diploma gives boost to waste sector

Dr Amy Khor (centre, in floral dress) and representatives from the waste management industry and academia touring the Rain Garden at Republic Polytechnic yesterday. The garden is an outdoor learning facility, built in collaboration with national wate
Dr Amy Khor (centre, in floral dress) and representatives from the waste management industry and academia touring the Rain Garden at Republic Polytechnic yesterday. The garden is an outdoor learning facility, built in collaboration with national water agency PUB, where students will be able to examine and test water quality. It was unveiled at the launch of the new part-time diploma programme.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

It is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. The waste management industry is facing growing manpower needs, and, to meet them, a course was launched yesterday to raise the skill level of workers.

The part-time diploma targets Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates and mid-career professionals who wish to pursue a career in the environmental services industry.

The 18-month Republic Polytechnic (RP) programme will have its first intake of 50 students in June. 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 an insight into the sector and taught skills for roles such as operations executives and hazardous waste specialists.

There is also a non-ELP format of the course for adult learners, who will be equipped to play supervisory or senior technical roles.

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

About 30,000 people in the industry will benefit from higher value-added jobs through training and technology adoption by companies by 2025, said Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources and Health, at yesterday's event at RP 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 ELP will partner 14 industry players - one of which is PV Vacuum Engineering, which provides high-tech waste management systems. The firm will have students working on design concepts, project execution and after-sales support.

Its general manager David Heng said: "Students... can come up with ideas that some of us in the industry, for many years, have never thought about."

Among the course's selection criteria, said Mr Jeremy Kong, RP's programme chair for its environmental science diploma, is resilience .

"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 who lead small teams on the ground, they will also be out in the sun."

He hopes the course will be able to provide a "sustained manpower boost" and a technological shift for the industry - for instance, in making waste collection routes more efficient.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2018, with the headline 'New diploma gives boost to waste sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe