'Plug and play' staff only? Firms urged to hire PMETs

Minister says hiring only fresh school leavers, foreigners will result in loss for society, firms

Companies in Singapore tend to focus on fresh school leavers and foreigners to fill their vacancies.

But hiring only such "plug and play" workers, who can hit the ground running, will result ultimately in a loss to themselves as well as society, said Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo yesterday.

This is because if every company adopts the approach, the firms "will only ever poach from their competitors by bidding upwards'', she told about 500 people at a Singapore Human Capital Summit.

Also, she does not see the talent pool expanding quickly enough to meet emerging needs, leading to rising costs as positions go unfilled.

A smarter move is to consider a "third source", she said.

It comprises mid-career, local professionals, managers, engineers and technicians (PMETs) who are also experienced.

This growing pool, however, is increasingly becoming underemployed and unemployed, making up 70 per cent of those made redundant.

This waste of human capital is a loss to society, noted Mrs Teo, in a speech that also dwelt on the rising anxiety among workers worldwide, including Singapore, over globalisation and disruptive technologies leaving them jobless.

But a recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development study suggests that just around 9 per cent of jobs face a high chance of being substantially automated, far lower than previous estimates, she said.

Meanwhile, a key priority of the Government is to encourage businesses to hire more from the pool of out-of-work PMETs.

At the same time, it is supporting these PMETs in three key ways, Mrs Teo said.

First, it is intensifying the Adapt and Grow series of schemes, including funding part of the wages and training fees of mid-career PMETs switching to another industry.

In the first half of this year, more than 1,500 people have completed the professional conversion programmes for mid-career hires. This is more than double the 600 people in the first half of last year, she added.

Second, it is focusing on five sectors with the potential to create quality jobs for PMETs. These are: financial, healthcare, infocomm technology, professional services and wholesale trade.

Third, it has developed a human resource industry manpower plan to strengthen the HR industry, so that companies can better develop their employees.

Some companies have started realising the benefits of hiring the "third source'', Mrs Teo said.

Among those she cited is Singapore Logistics Association, which together with the Supply Chain and Logistics Academy, came up with a structured training programme for newly-hired PMETs.

These PMETs are also paired with mentors to guide them through the process of career conversion.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2017, with the headline ''Plug and play' staff only? Firms urged to hire PMETs'. Print Edition | Subscribe