SINGAPORE - More will be expected of social service professionals as Singapore faces an ageing population in the years to come.
They will need to remain nimble and relevant, collaborate across silos and be equipped with the skills and knowledge to handle growing challenges in the social service sector, said Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sam Tan.
To this end, a new skills framework for social service was launched on Saturday (Jan 12) to help more than 15,000 of these professionals plan their career and development pathways.
The framework will provide information on the industry and type of skills and competencies needed for 60 job roles in five career tracks - social work, youth work, psychology, early intervention teaching, as well as care and programme.
The framework also highlights emerging trends in the sector, such as the use of data and research to help social service professionals in their work.
Said Mr Tan: "As individuals and families face increasingly complex social, economic and health issues, brought on by an ageing population and other demographic changes, the demand for social services will increase. In turn, expectations placed on our social service professionals will also increase."
He said the frameworks will help individuals and employers in identifying the key skills and competencies needed and be well-equipped to help those in need.
At its launch, the framework comprises 73 technical and 18 generic competencies, including research and data analysis skills, and training courses on helping professionals collaborate with people in other disciplines and sectors.
Such interdisciplinary skills, which were not taught to industry professionals in the past, are increasingly important, said Rainbow Centre executive director Tan Sze Wee, who also urged professionals to pick up the new skills in the framework.
"As a social worker today, I often need to consult and collaborate with my other professionals like therapists and counsellors. We need to train social workers to know not only their skills, but those of other professionals in the workplace as well, so the framework reflects the challenges of the sector," she said.
Ms Madhavi Manickavasagam, a psychologist at social service organisation Sun-Dac who works with caregivers and persons with disabilities, said an entire team of varied professionals work together in a single case, instead of the old days when only one social worker is primarily involved with the case.
"There is a lot of cross-support required, so while the case worker may be the main contact, therapists and other allied professionals can also come in to work with the families to manage too. Because we work hand-in-hand, training becomes relevant as we need to share what we learnt with each other and see how we can improve our services," she said.
Besides individuals, Mr Tan said organisations will be able to attract talent, develop staff and plan for succession with the help of the skills map and career pathways in the framework. Training providers, too, can refer to the framework to design relevant training programmes for the sector, he added.
There are more than 450 social service organisations in Singapore today.
Mr Tan was speaking at the Social Service Institute's graduation and awards ceremony for 219 graduates, mid-career professionals and industry experts, held at MES Theatre at Mediacorp.
Mr Muhammad Jamaluddin Mustafa, 31, who joined the social service sector after working as a security officer for seven years, delivered the valedictorian speech.
Now a senior social work assistant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, he told The Straits Times that he was motivated to join the industry after hearing about the issues faced by elderly colleagues at his security job.
Mr Jamaluddin studied for his diploma in social service at the Social Service Institute last year, a hectic year in which he got married and moved into his new Housing Board flat.
"I was never a bright student to begin with, so I had to study hard. To my wife, I'm sorry for all the holidays and weekends spent studying at home instead of going on dates, and thank you for helping to plan the wedding," he said.