Gardens by the Bay partners union to train staff for flexible deployment amid Covid-19 impact

Staff at Gardens by the Bay demonstrating the use of a vehicular sprayer to fertilise the displays on Nov 16, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng operating a leaf sweeper at Gardens by the Bay, on Nov 16, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Staff at Gardens by the Bay (GBTB) will soon undergo training to help them adapt quickly to changing manpower needs in multiple areas at the tourist attraction.

As a start, 120 workers from various departments will be cross-trained in guest relations management, security operations compliance and customer experience.

They will then form a central pool of workers who can be deployed in a flexible manner at the tourist attraction, which has been affected by travel restrictions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

These employees, currently in the attraction's operations, visitor services, retail and security departments, will undergo training from next January to April. GBTB will be supported by the Attractions, Resorts and Entertainment Union (AREU) in terms of workshops and trainers, as well as in identifying how its technological capabilities can be bolstered.

This is part of an operation and technology roadmap between the union and GBTB - a first in the attractions industry.

In a subsequent phase, 21 horticultural staff, who currently perform specific roles such as maintenance of outdoor gardens or horticultural research, will also be trained to perform across various horticultural functions.

The attraction hires about 370 workers in total.

GBTB deputy chief executive officer Lee Kok Fatt said on Monday (Nov 16) that the attraction has had to reinvent and refresh its business model due to Covid-19.

"A lot of our visitors now are Singaporeans, who are only able to come on weekends, and... there are many services that we need to provide, including ensuring safe management measures," he said.

"Whereas during the weekdays, we have different demands. For example, addressing queries through the phone or through Web services," Mr Lee added.

"To be able to deploy our staff to meet the various demands throughout the week, our employees need different skillsets."

GBTB said visitorship among locals this year has seen as "steady month-on-month increase" since it was given the green light to reopen in July, when it saw over 360,000 visitors. Last month, it had more than 600,000 visitors.

Visitors viewing the displays at the Flower Dome, in Gardens by the Bay on Nov 16, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

More locals also visited the Gardens in September and October this year than in the same months last year.

To improve productivity, GBTB staff will also learn how to use new technologies such as drones to monitor the condition of irrigation pipes.

This is part of GBTB's "Smart Garden" vision to reduce its reliance on foreign labour through automation, enable smarter deployment of a skilled local workforce using data, and improve service quality through artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The first phase of the vision will be implemented in 2022, with expected cost savings at $2.3 million annually.

The technologies will be integrated onto an Internet of Things platform that will be developed by the Government Technology Agency under a memorandum of understanding signed on Monday.

National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said the roadmap will bring about benefits for not only GBTB, but also its workers.

"We spoke to many of the workers just now and they are all energised, because they are part of the process of innovating (and) improving things," said the labour chief.

While Covid-19 has led to economic challenges, companies should seize the opportunity to adopt new capabilities by forming company training committees, he added.

Mr Ng had raised this need even before the pandemic, having presented the idea of having such committees to help workers accept and adopt technology more readily during a Budget debate last February, when he was also a minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

NTUC's aim is to have 1,000 of such committees by 2022, to reach about 330,000 workers. So far, 447 committees have been formed, according to updated figures from NTUC on Monday.

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