SINGAPORE - Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said her ministry is looking at ways to reach out to fresh graduates who have yet to find employment, and link them up with suitable opportunities.
The opportunities may include the SGUnited Traineeships programme, which will be extended this year to help fresh and recent graduates gain experience while waiting for the jobs market to improve.
On Tuesday (Feb 16), while presenting Budget 2021, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the traineeship programme would be extended until March 30 and that allowances will be increased for Institute of Technical Education and diploma traineeship positions.
Mrs Teo, who was speaking to reporters on Friday at Tampines Changkat Community Centre after meeting job seekers at a Workforce Singapore job fair for logistics roles, said the aim was to increase the number of company-hosted traineeships, attachments and training positions this year to up to 35,000 from 25,000 currently.
She said that fresh graduates would obviously prefer to land a full-time job, but urged them to consider the benefits of a traineeship.
"It is not a dream job. The allowance is certainly nowhere near what you might be able to get with a salary and benefits," Mrs Teo said.
"But from the perspective of starting to build up, the perspective of starting to get some real-life skills, from the perspective of being able to say to the next prospective employers that 'I have been in this industry... this job role', these are actually very valuable things that you will not get without being in a traineeship."
The minister said the response from employers on the traineeships has been "very overwhelming".
So far, there are about 5,400 SGUnited trainees, with some 25,000 positions still available.
Mr Desmond Choo, mayor of North East District and assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, who was also present at Tampines Changkat CC on Friday, noted that some SGUnited trainees managed to impress the employer and had their contracts converted into full-time positions.
"What is most important now is, until the time whereby the economy really picks up, we want you to be in a position to succeed in your sector," he said.
Mrs Teo was asked about recent media reports of errant employers abusing the SGUnited Traineeships programme.
She said: "The vast majority of trainees are in very reasonable job roles and companies are serious about taking on them.
"There are one or two (companies) that have fallen short, but I don't think we should let it hold us back from being in traineeships."
She added that the best safeguard against potential abuse of the programme is a vibrant job market that provides trainees with options.
"If that trainee turns out to be a really good fit, and has got other options available, then you can be assured that the company will also feel that they better make an offer quickly before this person jumps off to do something else," said Mrs Teo.
Correction note: An earlier version of this story reported Mrs Teo as saying the aim is to increase the number of traineeship positions from 25,000 to 35,000 this year. MOM has clarified that there are currently more than 25,000 company-hosted traineeships, attachments and training opportunities available and it aims to provide up to 35,000 of these opportunities this year.