NTUC tops up freelancer training fund to $40m

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng (in red) listening to freelancers speak about their concerns at a cafe in Havelock Road yesterday. The National Trades Union Congress' new $4 million fund will enable freelancers who are union members to claim high
NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng (in red) listening to freelancers speak about their concerns at a cafe in Havelock Road yesterday. The National Trades Union Congress' new $4 million fund will enable freelancers who are union members to claim higher training allowances to defray the opportunity cost of going for courses, which include all SkillsFuture Series programmes as well as sector-specific courses in areas such as digital skills, security and first aid.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has set aside $4 million to help freelancers who are union members cope with the lull in business due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It will enable these members to claim higher training allowances to defray the opportunity cost of going for courses, NTUC said yesterday.

This is in addition to the $36 million Self-Employed Person Training Support Scheme announced by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo earlier this month, under which all Singaporean and permanent resident freelancers will receive a training allowance of $7.50 an hour when they undergo eligible courses.

Application for the scheme, which is administered by NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute, begins on April 1.

There is no cap on the number of courses that freelancers can attend and the allowance will be given out after the programmes have been completed.

NTUC members who joined the union before March 1 this year will receive $8.50 an hour in training allowance, while those who joined after March 1 will get $8 an hour.

Eligible courses for the scheme include all SkillsFuture Series programmes as well as sector-specific courses in areas such as digital skills, security and first aid.

The sector-specific training programmes are curated in partnership among unions and associations, SkillsFuture Singapore and NTUC's agencies, to widen the selection of courses available to freelancers in line with their areas of work.

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng encouraged freelancers to use the lull period caused by the Covid-19 pandemic to upgrade their skills and broaden their skill sets, as well as to look at other areas of work that they may not have considered before.

 
 
 
 

"We do have vacancies... in the healthcare sector, maybe around 5,000 jobs, and in the security sector, maybe up to 10,000 jobs," he told reporters yesterday.

He noted that many freelancers are working in areas that they are passionate about, but urged them to consider other opportunities in this difficult period and their passion areas "as an augmentation of income in these unusual times".

Pointing out that freelancers could receive more than $300 in training allowance for attending a five-day course, he added that this would go a little way in alleviating their cash concerns, especially given the challenging situation.

Mr Mohamad Azan Salleh, 51, has been a limousine driver for more than 25 years. He said job opportunities have dried up in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic, especially since the bulk of his business comprised corporate clients such as entertainers who were in Singapore for concerts.

Mr Azan, who is president of the National Private Hire Vehicles Association, said he is encouraging drivers in his association to sign up for tourism-related and security courses that complement their driving roles.

"Hopefully, when the business for drivers picks up again, this training will come in useful. For now, they can go for courses and drive private-hire vehicles part-time to cover rental costs and (tide over) this period," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2020, with the headline 'NTUC tops up freelancer training fund to $40m'. Print Edition | Subscribe