Metal industry must steel itself for the challenges ahead: Desmond Lee

Singapore’s metal sector needs to embrace the industrial model of the future, said Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee at a Metal Industries Workers’ Union dinner on Oct 12, 2018. PHOTO: METAL INDUSTRIES WORKERS' UNION

SINGAPORE - The rapid changes in technology are proving a never-ending challenge for workers in the metal industry, as machinery supervisor Ang Kian Hua knows only too well.

Mr Ang, who joined Makino Asia 12 years ago, told The Straits Times: "The machines are always changing so we always have to catch up."

He has dedicated more than 900 hours of his career to around 20 courses and various training sessions, a level of dedication that was acknowledged at the Metal Industries Workers' Union (Miwu) 37th anniversary dinner on Friday night (Oct 12) .

Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee told the event: "I am encouraged that many of your members have been embracing upskilling over the years. One example is Mr Ang Kian Hua from Makino Asia.

"Mr Ang has readily been taking on upgrading opportunities to do better in his career."

Mr Ang, 35, was one of 29 people who received SkillsFuture Fellowships in July. These honour individuals with deep skills and who are mentors of future talent with a monetary award of $10,000.

Mr Lee, the Miwu Council of Advisors chairman, also noted the larger challenges of the industry and the people working in it, pointing out that Singapore's metal sector needs to embrace the industrial model of the future where workers and companies continue to upgrade themselves with the latest technical skills.

"Today our businesses, truth be told, operate in a much more competitive economic landscape," he said.

"And with all this newfangled technology and the changes they pose to industry and society, it means that as a 37-year-old union that wants to continually be fresh and relevant and ahead of the curve, we always need to be future-ready."

Mr Lee, who is also Minister for Social and Family Development, added: "Because if you wait for the future to come at you before you start to react to it, I think it'll be a bit late."

He urged Singapore businesses to keep looking at their overseas competitors and adapt their best practices to the local context so that they can transform quickly, noting that Miwu "has done precisely that" with its trips to companies in cities like the Chinese manufacturing hubs Chengdu and Shenzhen.

Mr Lee said: "Being future-ready is not something that can be achieved overnight. We know it's an ongoing journey, one that requires us to always think out of the box and never be comfortable with the status quo."

That notion clearly resonated with Mr Ang, who told The Straits Times that he chose to go on courses to upgrade himself because he needed to teach his team how to use the new equipment his company was bringing in.

"We need to be ahead of the competition," he said, adding with a laugh that the most challenging part of the courses was returning to a classroom environment more than 10 years after leaving the academic world.

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