Going up - lift industry workers to get higher wages, clearer career progression

SINGAPORE - The lift industry is aiming to attract younger workers by offering better pay and clearer career progression.

These were among the recommendations unveiled Wednesday (Sept 19) by a committee set up in 2017 to explore ways to attract, upskill and retain the workforce, and raise productivity in the industry.

Among its recommendations, the committee also proposed that there should be a framework of competencies to standardise skills across the board.

The Lift and Escalator Sectoral Tripartite Committee - comprising representatives from government agencies, unions, buyers, and lift firms - began discussions last year. The government said on Wednesday (Sept 19) that it has accepted its recommendations and will get companies to implement them within three years.

Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Mr Zaqy Mohamad said: "The recommendations provide a useful roadmap for us to attract, develop and retain locals in the lift industry so that our lift workforce is better equipped to tackle future challenges in lift maintenance."

There are about 67,000 lifts in Singapore, maintained by about 2,100 technicians.

Of this number, about 42 per cent are Singapore residents. However the committee noted that about half of the Singapore residents are already over 50 and are expected to retire within the next 10 to 15 years. The committee recommends a progressive wage model with a higher basic wage range.

It proposes that a basic wage for an entry-level position for lift maintenance personnel should be $1,850 to $2,500, up from the current industry average of $1,300 to $1,600. This will be competitive with other sectors requiring comparable skills.

The model will introduce a specialist track for lift technicians who want to deepen their technical skills. Currently, higher skilled workers often end up taking on supervisory roles.

The committee also recommends having a minimum skill set at each level, mapped out in a training and certification framework.

The Ministry of National Development said implementation of the wage model will be phased over three years to give the industry time to adjust.

The committee said in a statement: "With Singapore becoming an increasingly built-up nation, there will be a greater reliance on lifts. A strong core workforce in the lift industry is necessary to ensure that our lifts are well-maintained and remain safe."

Currently, training for lift technicians is usually conducted in-house by companies, with no standardised industry curriculum.

Deputy CEO for building control and commissioner of buildings at the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Chin Chi Leong who is also co-chairman of the committee, said: "Last year we tightened regulations and introduced maintenance outcomes to raise the overall standards for the industry. It is important for firms to have competent workers to be able to meet these standards.

"These recommendations are timely. It brings us one step closer to a more competent, technically advanced and sustainable industry, which will play a significant role in ensuring that our lifts and escalators continue to be safe and reliable for everyone."

Other recommendations include changing the negative impression of the job by improving the work environment, through having better lighting and ventilation in lift shafts.

Another possibility is using technology to allow workers to monitor lifts remotely instead of having to carry out maintenance physically.

In line with these recommendations, the BCA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to develop programmes to increase the competency of the lift sector.

The signing took place at ITE College East, which offers a Nitec in Built Environment (Vertical Transportation).

The course was introduced in 2011 and 149 students have graduated to date. The facility includes a six-landing lift simulator .

Dr Yek Tiew Ming, principal of ITE College East, said: "I am confident that this collaboration will further strengthen our efforts to nurture and develop a pipeline of young talents to support the rising demands of the lift and escalator sector."