SINGAPORE - Those with green fingers may soon be employed on a part-time basis to help with landscaping works in neighbourhood gardens.
Such opportunities will be part of about 1,000 new and upgraded jobs which the National Parks Board (NParks) aims to create over the next five years, said Minister for National Development Desmond Lee on Monday (Jan 11).
Many of the jobs, aimed at Singaporeans, will leverage new technologies as part of NParks' digitalisation push for the landscape industry.
To foster greater community ownership of gardens and green spaces, landscape companies will employ residents to care for greenery in their neighbourhoods under the Resident Gardener programme.
The Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council had started a similar initiative in 2015 for the area's residents. But this is the first time it is being rolled out for greenery under NParks' purview.
It will start with a pilot programme in February in Ang Mo Kio, Punggol and Yishun.
NParks will link residents with landscape companies, and also train these gardeners to use mechanised tools when necessary.
"The programme provides an opportunity for residents who are gardening enthusiasts to supplement their income, while engaging in their interests," said Mr Lee.
Meanwhile, a year-long pilot involving the use of new tree and park management technologies will begin this month as part of the Landscape Sector Transformation Plan launched in 2019.
The plan, involving NParks, industry partners and institutes of higher learning, aims to digitalise, mechanise and professionalise the sector over a decade.
The pilot will focus on the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio area, before the use of such technologies is scaled up islandwide from January 2022.
NParks said its digitalisation push will encourage the landscape sector to adopt technology, operate safely with greater efficiency and precision, attract a younger workforce, and enable older workers to continue contributing.
On the choice of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio for the pilot, NParks said the area, which includes Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Thomson Nature Park, Lower Peirce Reservoir Park and Windsor Nature Park, is representative of the different terrains managed by NParks.
Mr Lee said the pilot will help familiarise and train the landscape professionals in the use of advanced tools and technologies, before they are rolled out progressively across the country.
He cited the example of the Remote Tree Management System, which uses Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) scans and machine learning to map the locations of individual trees and extract tree measurements.
This allows NParks' staff and contractors to obtain an overview of trees in a particular area remotely, reducing the need for laborious fieldwork.
Other technologies that will be used include tree tilt sensors, automatic lighting fault reporting systems and cameras with artificial intelligence that help staff monitor and analyse crowd density and visitors' park usage patterns.
Mr Goh Eng Lam, chairman of the Landscape Industry Association (Singapore), said the new technologies will help to reduce reliance on manual work and foreign workers.
He added that digitalisation will give the industry a new profile, and make it more attractive for younger entrants.
Institute of Technical Education student Muhammad Raqiib, 19,said that younger people like himself may not enjoy manual work as much.
But leveraging technology will make the industry more attractive as it cuts down on laborious tasks, added Mr Raqiib, a second-year student pursuing a Higher Nitec course in Landscape Management and Design.