Technology can help to upskill workers, not render them obsolete: NTUC

The Workforce 4.0 Career and Training Fair at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability on May 31, 2019.
The Workforce 4.0 Career and Training Fair at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability on May 31, 2019.PHOTO: NTUC E2I

SINGAPORE - Instead of allowing technology to displace workers in the manufacturing sector, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), NTUC's e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) are collaborating with 32 unionised companies and seven unions to set up Company Training Committees (CTCs), which will help equip workers with the skills they need to use technology to their advantage.

They signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to set up CTCs to drive workers' training at the Workforce 4.0 Symposium on Friday (May 31), marking the first sector-based CTC signing.

This initiative is expected to benefit over 12,000 local workers - of which 70 per cent are professionals, managers, executives and technicians.

"CTCs provide a platform for conversation on which companies and workers can communicate about workers' training needs so that the company transformation takes place not only in terms of technology, but also in human capability," said Dr Koh Poh Koon, NTUC Deputy Secretary-General and Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry, who witnessed the MOU signing.

"This creates a deep transformation of companies, and not just superficial transformation from buying equipment and technology," he added.

In conjunction with the Workforce 4.0 Symposium, the first-of-its-kind Workforce 4.0 Career and Training Fair was held in the adjacent hall at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability.

The fair offered over 500 job vacancies from 14 companies, focusing on new Industry 4.0 positions and training.


The new jobs offered included "Automation Engineer", "Software Analyst or Developer" and "System Architecture Engineer".

Dr Koh brought up the importance of keeping Singapore's workforce relevant, adding that CTCs had a role to play in this.

"The world will keep moving - our workforce can become ready for Industry 4.0, but the bottleneck is our mindset. Although we talk about how company bosses can start change, this change in mindset has to come from the workforce," he said.

Workers agree with the need for mindset change.

"With new technology coming in, we need to convince our workers to learn the new skills," said Ramanathan Venkatesan, an employee at Fong's Engineering and Manufacturing Pte Ltd, who is in his 40s.

While companies work on helping workers upskill themselves, Dr Koh has also urged them to reward their workers when the companies do well.

"As productivity rises and profit margins improve, we want some of these gains to be shared with the workers. This creates a sustainable ecosystem where workers are encouraged to contribute better to the company - never leave your workers behind," he said.