Higher pay, clearer career track for lift industry staff

Government accepts proposals by tripartite panel to attract workers, boost productivity

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

These were among recommendations unveiled yesterday by the Lift and Escalator Sectoral Tripartite Committee to attract, train and retain the workforce, and raise productivity in the industry.

The committee also proposed that there should be a framework of competencies to standardise skills across the board.

The committee - comprising representatives from government agencies, unions, buyers and lift firms - began discussions last year.

The government said yesterday that it has accepted the recommendations and will get companies to implement them over three years.

Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said: "The recommendations provide a useful road map 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."

The 15 People's Action Party-run town councils also said in a statement that they support the movement, and agree with the need to groom talent and elevate the lift industry's service level.

ENSURING SAFETY

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.

MR CHIN CHI LEONG, deputy chief executive officer for building control and commissioner of buildings at the Building and Construction Authority, as well as co-chairman of the Lift and Escalator Sectoral Tripartite Committee, on the recommendations.

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

Almost 900 of these are Singapore residents, and the committee noted that about half of them are already over 50 and are expected to retire within the next 10 to 15 years.

The committee proposes that the 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 improve 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.

Mr Zaqy said that so far, the biggest 11 firms, which maintain 85 per cent of lifts, have indicated their commitment to come on board.

In a blogpost, committee co-chairman Melvin Yong, who is assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, said: "Lifts, like all machines, are only as good as their maintenance. This is more so for the lifts which are used frequently in our daily lives."

Mr Chin Chi Leong, deputy chief executive officer for building control and commissioner of buildings at the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), who is also co-chairman of the committee, added: "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 improving the work environment by having better lighting and ventilation in lift shafts. Another possibility is using technology to allow workers to monitor lifts remotely to pre-empt lift failures.

In line with these recommendations, BCA signed a memorandum of understanding 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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2018, with the headline 'Higher pay, clearer career track for lift industry staff'. Print Edition | Subscribe