30,000 got new jobs in 2018 through Adapt and Grow

PM Lee speaks to workers affected by economic disruption to get sense of their challenges

PM Lee Hsien Loong and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo chat with Mr Shawn Rimmel and Mr Md Faizal Abu Bakar from Global Automation Technologies. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Economic disruption has seen some workers losing their jobs or having to move into new industries.

For about 2½ hours yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke to some of the affected workers to get a sense of the challenges they faced in training to take on new jobs.

He also spoke to career coaches who encouraged them along, and to employers who helped them in their journey to switch careers.

His assessment: He was glad to see a lot of good work being done on this front.

"I am very happy to see the enthusiasm here, and that they are seeing some results," he said, speaking to reporters at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar.

He highlighted the growing number of people placed in jobs through Adapt and Grow programmes. There were about 30,000 placements last year, a rise from 25,000 the year before.

The initiative run by statutory board Workforce Singapore (WSG) offers Singaporeans programmes to learn new skills, guide them in their job searches, adapt to new jobs and grow in their careers as the economy undergoes restructuring.

Although many people are anxious about the changes brought about by economic transformation, help is available, said PM Lee.

"In Singapore, we have spent a lot of effort to put in place quite comprehensive procedures, and already have some experience. So, Singaporeans should have confidence."

The changes Singapore faces are unavoidable, but the way forward is to become more productive, do better jobs and earn better pay, he said after his first visit to WSG's Careers Connect centre in Paya Lebar, where jobseekers can meet career coaches and access career resources.

PM Lee also said the economy is doing well and productivity has been high, which shows the economy is not just expanding, but is upgrading and improving.

Singapore's economy grew 3.3 per cent last year and 3.6 per cent the year before. Growth in productivity, measured as real value-added per actual hour worked, came in at 4.5 per cent in 2017.

But the gains are uneven, with the export-oriented sectors upgrading rapidly to stay competitive, while domestic services are slower, PM Lee said.

The domestic sector needs attention because many of the companies are local enterprises, which employ the bulk of Singapore's workers. "We want to make sure that we have programmes to reach them and can upgrade them and the workers in them," said PM Lee.

For example, the Lean Enterprise Development Scheme helps companies improve their productivity and profitability through applying technology and becoming less reliant on labour.

PM Lee said he was visiting Careers Connect because he wanted to see first-hand the work being done to help people transition into new jobs, and meet people affected by the transformation as well as those helping them through it.

When asked how Singapore is doing on its restructuring journey, he said a lot of progress has been made. "In eight years, our economy has grown, our productivity has gone up, our workers' wages have gone up, we have kept our unemployment down, and our employment rates have gone up, for the old people particularly, for the women also."

But the journey is not over, he said. "I don't think we will ever be done. Ten years from now, I am sure we will still be talking about productivity growth and upgrading, but 10 years from now, if we do our work right, we will be in a stronger position than we are today."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2019, with the headline 30,000 got new jobs in 2018 through Adapt and Grow. Subscribe