Firms can tap $70m grant to transform workforce as NTUC doubles target for training committees

NTUC plans to have at least 2,500 of such committees by 2025, up from its original target of 1,000 by this year. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Companies that have set out concrete plans to transform their workforce will be able to tap a $70 million grant to raise productivity, redesign jobs and upskill workers.

This comes as the labour movement plans to more than double the number of committees tasked with implementing such plans in companies, and also set up tripartite academies in a wider range of sectors.

National Trades Union Congress deputy secretary-general Chee Hong Tat said the funds will help businesses with company training committees (CTCs) to implement their transformation plans.

NTUC plans to have at least 2,500 of such committees by 2025, up from its original target of 1,000 by this year.

The $70 million grant will give NTUC additional resources to work with companies with CTCs, and co-fund their proposals to raise productivity, redesign jobs, upskill workers and improve work prospects, said Mr Chee during his Budget debate speech in Parliament on Tuesday (March 1).

CTCs comprise representatives from a company's management as well as union leaders. Their job is to review the firm's current training plans, identify skill gaps, plan for reskilling and career progression for their workers, and develop and implement new training programmes.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said during his Budget speech on Feb 18 that the Government is setting aside $100 million to scale up efforts to help companies implement concrete training and transformation programmes.

The remaining $30 million will be used to expand NTUC's team of industry training officers and enlarge its network of CTCs to benefit more workers and companies.

When the CTC model was introduced in 2019, NTUC had said then that it planned to set up 1,000 such committees over three years to help around 330,000 workers.

To date, more than 800 CTCs have been set up in both large organisations and small and medium-sized enterprises.

A strong tripartite partnership between the labour movement, the Government and employers will enable workers to benefit from better growth, protection and skills, said Mr Chee, who is also Senior Minister of State for Transport.

"Depending on their requirements, NTUC can help CTC companies... improve workplace safety and health to promote physical and mental well-being of workers, provide training to existing workers and new entrants, and match job seekers to companies that are growing and expanding their workforce," he said.

The labour movement and its partners will also expand its services to help more vulnerable workers, including former offenders and people with special needs and disabilities, through training and job placement, he added.

He cited the example of Ms Nur Madiah Lim, who was born without hands and legs. She had approached social enterprise Agape Connecting People for help, and the company trained and appointed her as one of its contact centre agents.

"She has been in this job for the past three years, and continually hones her skills to manage calls, e-mails, and live chats. Nur went on to handle a national care hotline and earned a diploma, which was one of her goals. Her other goal was to own an HDB flat, which she has also achieved," said Mr Chee.

He added that NTUC and the Employment and Employability Institute have been partnering social enterprises and agencies to help Singaporean workers.

"Another way to benefit our local workers is to keep Singapore open and connected with the world, so that our companies can grow their business operations and create good jobs for Singaporeans," said Mr Chee.

"Singaporean workers are capable, but there are not enough of us," he added.

Employers who do not practise fair hiring and do not invest enough in developing their Singaporean core are the minority, but their behaviour has negatively impacted the lived experiences of workers and their families, said Mr Chee.

"NTUC supports the Government's moves to differentiate the inflow of foreigners to offer better protection for Singaporean workers, and to take firm enforcement action against errant employers to send a clear message.

"However, we must not react to the small number of black-sheep employers by implementing overly tight foreign manpower measures that will hurt our businesses or, worse, by stirring anti-foreigner sentiments among our population," he said.

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Mr Chee added that the Government can sharpen the differentiation in how it treats employers with good human resource (HR) practices and strong relationships with the unions, versus those with poor HR records and who do not put in effort to develop their local workforce.

The Government can give these companies a competitive advantage over their peers, including in areas such as government projects, grants and work pass applications, he said.

The labour movement also wants to tackle the jobs-skills mismatch, where short-handed employers are not able to find enough workers with the right skills to fill vacancies.

"Some workers also feel frustrated when the new skills they acquire after going through training are not a good fit with what employers are looking for," said Mr Chee.

NTUC hopes to address the skills mismatch by forming tripartite academies that bring together unions, employers and government agencies to jointly identify industry-specific skills requirements, so that workers can receive training that prepares them for jobs on offer.

Mr Chee cited examples such as the Singapore Institute of Power and Gas, which was set up in 2014 as a centralised training institute and has since grown into a tripartite collaboration between the Union of Power and Gas Employees, the industry and government agencies like the Energy Market Authority.

The union worked with the institute to train workers in emerging areas, such as electric vehicle charging facilities and the adoption of renewable energy.

Company training committees comprise representatives from a company's management as well as union leaders. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

NTUC has also set up the Tourism Careers Hub with various partners to help employers and workers in the tourism sector, which is gradually recovering from the pandemic.

The hub will provide customised training courses in traditional areas such as safety, security and customer service, as well as emerging areas like digital skills and ecotourism.

It will also facilitate the placement of workers within the industry, and career coaches will advise workers on the training they need to take on higher-level jobs.

"Besides tourism, the labour movement is discussing with employers and government agencies to explore setting up tripartite academies in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, retail, logistics, security, healthcare and maritime," said Mr Chee, adding that the labour movement plans to grow this list over time.

The tripartite academies will serve as collaboration platforms at the sectoral level to complement the network of CTCs, which function at the enterprise level, said Mr Chee.

"Both platforms... support the larger national objective of transforming Singapore's economy by building stronger enterprise and workforce capabilities, which will in turn provide better jobs and better wages for our workers."

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