Task force to look at helping PMEs build skills for new economy

Boosting employability, reducing retrenchment risk among aims

Professionals, managers, executives and technicians made up half of local retrenchment figures in the second quarter of 2020.
Professionals, managers, executives and technicians made up half of local retrenchment figures in the second quarter of 2020.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

A new joint task force, comprising union and industry representatives, will look into the employability and upskilling of professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), particularly older ones, to help them stay relevant for the new economy.

Announcing this yesterday, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said the group will also work with the Government to review policies impacting PMEs and conduct research to gain insight into future trends, jobs and skills.

Through these engagements, it aims to provide recommendations on government policies and the best human resource practices, and enable PME training by May 1 next year.

Over the next six months, the task force will engage and involve PMEs and employers through a series of polls, focus group discussions and events to identify key concerns, needs and potential skill gaps in the workforce, said Mr Ng.

Co-led by NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) executive director Sim Gim Guan, the task force comprises union and industry representatives from the industrial, service and public sectors.

Mr Ng and SNEF president Robert Yap will be its advisers.

A press statement on the task force said it will focus on the protection and enablement of PMEs in three key areas:

 • Enhance the employability of PMEs and reduce the risk of retrenchment;

 • Encourage employers to retain and build capabilities for workforce and business transformations, as well as economic recovery; and

 • Enable PMEs through upskilling and reskilling to enhance their employability. During a keynote speech at the Labour Research Conference 2020 yesterday, Mr Ng noted that PMEs, especially those aged between 40 and 60, are more vulnerable due to economic transformation and technological disruption.

He said NTUC will look at how to better represent mature PMEs in the workplace and equip them with skills to secure jobs amid the challenges facing the economy.

"Ultimately, we want to strengthen our PMEs' employability and build a skilled workforce with a strong Singaporean core," added Mr Ng.

Mr Tay, a labour MP, said the recession has had a great impact on local PMEs and the situation is likely to worsen as the Singapore economy continues to experience the ripple effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. "Against this backdrop, we need to ensure our PMEs are adequately protected, have access to good jobs and are equipped with relevant skills, so they can thrive in this new normal," said Mr Tay.

Data from the Ministry of Manpower shows that professionals, managers, executives and technicians made up half the number of local retrenchment cases in the second quarter of this year. This group also experienced a slower re-employment rate within six months of being retrenched.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2020, with the headline 'Task force to look at helping PMEs build skills for new economy'. Subscribe