NTUC's Budget wish: Measures to coax firms to offer more internships, family care leave

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Ms Grace Fu (left) and Mayor, Central Singapore District Ms Denise Phua at one of the booths at the Todo Todo Skills Marketplace. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - The labour movement wants Temasek-linked companies to offer more internships so that young people can get a leg up in their job search amid the uncertain business environment.

National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Desmond Choo made the call on Friday (Jan 25) when he urged the Government to open up more internship places, especially in companies in state investor Temasek Holdings' portfolio.

Temasek has stakes in such companies as Singapore Airlines, Standard Chartered Bank and Singtel.

The increased opportunities could help young people who, on graduation, are taking longer to land a job that they want, Mr Choo, who is executive secretary of NTUC's youth wing, said when speaking to reporters about NTUC's Budget wishlist for young people and young parents.

"There's some uncertainty, younger people are feeling a bit more stressed now in terms of having to get a job upon their graduation," he said after attending a career event for young people at shopping mall Bugis+.

This year's Budget statement will be unveiled in Parliament on Feb 18 by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Another item on the wishlist is for more subsidies to be given for courses so that young people can take a second diploma or degree in order to be more agile in the job market, added Mr Choo , who is also Mayor of the North East District.

"After graduation, we know that skills will get degraded quite quickly. After you get your first diploma and you come out, can we also get you to get a second diploma so that you can change track depending on how the market changes," he said.

Repeating a call he made at last year's Budget debate, Mr Choo suggested that it be made mandatory for companies here to offer family care leave to workers, to help the "sandwiched" group of people with young children and elderly parents. He also noted there are many single young Singaporeans taking care of their parents and they could also do with more support.

Finally, there is scope for the Government to ease the burden of infantcare and childcare costs, he added.

Overall, these moves would represent a commitment to understanding the needs of younger Singaporeans and "translating that into policies to help them develop and dedicate themselves to their job as well as take care of the family", he said.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who was also at the Todo Todo Skills Marketplace fair, reiterated the Government's position on helping Singaporeans acquire relevant skills.

She said the Government is "very serious" about helping young people while they are studying - through internships and exchange programmes - as well as after they graduate, through SkillsFuture.

With Industry 4.0 transforming the skills marketplace and the way people work, young people with current skills can move quickly into jobs, she said in her address to participants at the one-day fair.

"We don't want you to just play the defensive, we want you to play the offensive. Because in Industry 4.0, the disruption applies to everybody, so we also have a chance to make full use of opportunities that are created by Industry 4.0," she added.

Still using football terms, Ms Fu said young people should be strikers, playing to win, not just playing to avoid losing. "We're not just here to get the next job; some of you here hopefully will also be creating the next job for us," she said at the fourth edition of the fair.

Todo Todo, a play on the phrase "to do", is a career support initiative started by the NTUC and People's Association (PA) two years ago in Tampines GRC.

It has been rolled out to all six GRCs in the North East and South West districts and aims to help young people explore their career options, keep up with industry changes and arm themselves with relevant skills, in order to have meaningful careers.

A total of 10,000 young people have used 56 programmes under Todo Todo - such as peer mentorships, career fairs and learning journeys - in the last two years, said NTUC and PA in a joint statement.

Friday's event for the Central Singapore district included a masterclass on Industry 4.0, networking with employers, information on available courses and talks on developments in the financial services, infocomm technology, logistics and retail sectors. About 380 young people attended the event.

Among them was Mr Thiang Soon Jie, 22, a final-year economics and finance student at RMIT University who wanted to learn more about digital transformation.

He had benefited from a Todo Todo mentorship programme last year. His mentor, a senior director from telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies, helped him to focus better on achieving his career goal.

"I wanted to work in technology consulting, but he advised me to first understand data analytics before working on turning data into actionable insights for companies," he said.

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