More S'poreans tap schemes to upskill, switch careers amid Covid-19 pandemic

Some mid-career workers went through structured training and gained on-the-job experience so they can change sectors or be redeployed to other roles within their companies. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - More Singaporeans tapped professional conversion programmes (PCPs) last year to learn new skills and switch careers, amid a weakened hiring market due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some 6,270 professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) joined such programmes last year, a jump of 41 per cent from 2019, Workforce Singapore (WSG) told The Straits Times.

These mid-career workers went through structured training and gained on-the-job experience so they can change sectors or be redeployed to other roles within their companies, said the government agency.

WSG offers about 100 PCPs in more than 30 sectors. Close to 20 new programmes were introduced last year, including ones for furniture and lifestyle designers, and advanced biopharmaceuticals manufacturing professionals.

"For employers, PCPs are an opportunity to expand their talent pipeline beyond job-ready candidates to meet their manpower needs," WSG added.

General manufacturing, education and logistics were the top three sectors for PMETs placed in the PCPs last year.

The higher uptake is due to the Covid-19 outbreak disrupting industries and displacing workers, said observers. More businesses are also using this period to transform themselves.

Ms Linda Teo, country manager at recruitment agency ManpowerGroup Singapore, said many workers have been retrenched or had their jobs phased out. "With opportunities being limited, more people are open to switching industries or using the downtime to pick up new skills," she added.

Last year, WSG offered about 10 Job Redesign Reskilling/Redeployment PCPs to train existing workers in some affected sectors like tourism for new or redesigned roles within the same firm.

Dr David Leong, managing director of PeopleWorldwide Consulting, a recruitment, training and development consultancy, said workers in sectors battered by Covid-19, such as retail and aviation, may face grim prospects with the prolonged restrictions.

Hence, the PCPs "help morph portable skills or train new skills so that the transitioning of jobs is made less painful", he noted.

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Low Peck Kem said that even if workers are hesitant to make a career switch at first, the uncertain Covid-19 situation has put more pressure on them to review their career prospects and the relevancy of their skills.

The increase in PCP enrolments reflects "the agility of our workforce to be able to pivot into growth areas, (as well as) the openness of employers to hire mid-career talents", she noted.

Some growth sectors here with a high demand for trained professionals include healthcare, infocomm technology, financial services and logistics.

Personal care products distributor Corlison has six staff who went through the PCP last year.

The company's managing director Andy Ong said the programme "has shortened the time needed for a new team member to get on-the-job training and become familiar with the tasks in a new role".

Many PCPs adopt a "place-and-train" approach, where mid-career workers are first hired by a participating employer before undergoing training to take on new roles.

Childcare teacher Sharon Lim was sent by her employer Greenland Childcare for a pre-school teacher PCP after joining in August last year. The 50-year-old, who has worked as a bank teller and customer service officer, will complete the programme in August.

"This PCP has equipped me with the skills to manage children. We have to choose suitable ways to support their learning needs," said Ms Lim, who looks after pupils at the playgroup level. "While the work is tiring, it is also fulfilling."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.