Inmates can learn precision engineering at planned training academy in prison

The Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises will work with members of the Singapore Precision Engineering and Technology Association to help inmates find jobs in the engineering industry upon their release. ST PHOTO: PHILIP CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Inmates could soon take up precision engineering classes while behind bars, with the setting up of the first training academy at the Changi Prison Complex.

The training academy is to be operated by the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score). It aims to train inmates to prepare them for work in the engineering industry after their release.

Score will also work with members of the Singapore Precision Engineering and Technology Association (Speta) to help inmates find jobs in the engineering industry upon their release.

The precision engineering classes will be the latest addition to the academic and training options available to inmates now, which include Workforce Skills Qualification courses and academic programmes preparing them for the GCE A-level and O-level examinations.

Score and Speta sealed their partnership on Friday (July 26), with the signing of a memorandum of understanding at Nanyang Polytechnic.

In the coming months, Speta will work with Score and institutes of higher learning to work out a suitable syllabus for the inmates, said Speta chairman Low Ming Wah.

A problem is that the inmates will be from "mixed" backgrounds with different levels of experience and ability, he added.

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"The biggest challenge is to find out at what level they are at, and hence, how do we train these people,"said Mr Low.

One possibility is to get Speta's members to go into the prisons and train the inmates on specific aspects of the job, he added.

There are no specifics on the class size or cohort size at the academy for now, although Mr Low hopes he can train as many as possible.

"Our industry lacks people... We'll do as much as we can," he said.

Mr Daniel Yap, director of Kay Kay Plastic Industries, which is a Speta member, hopes the academy will be able to train inmates into "higher level engineers" who can help ease the industry's labour crunch.

His organisation currently outsources some entry-level work, such as assembly of parts, to inmates working in a Score-operated prison workshop, said Mr Yap.

"The majority have eagerness to want to earn, they want to learn something new and basically start afresh," he added.

Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said the partnership between Score and Speta is significant as it marks Score's efforts to expand training opportunities for inmates.

The partnership can work well for both inmates and employers, said Mrs Teo, who witnessed the signing on Friday.

"They (Speta members) have vacancies and they want to offer this opportunity to the inmates. I think we should facilitate and try and make it happen," she said.

"Ultimately I think when our ex-inmates are able to hold on to jobs, they have a much better chance of providing for their families, and it is good for them."

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