NTUC aims to support 1,000 firms through training, transformation grant: Ng Chee Meng

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng speaking at the May Day rally on May 1, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Singapore's labour movement aims to support 1,000 companies over the next four years through a $70 million grant to raise productivity, redesign jobs and upskill workers, said National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general Ng Chee Meng on Sunday (May 1).

From August, NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute will start processing applications from employers who qualify for the grant, which was first announced during the Budget debates in March.

To do so, they must have set out concrete plans to transform their workforce, with company training committees (CTCs) to help implement these plans.

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.

In a May Day Rally speech delivered at Downtown East and streamed virtually, Mr Ng described CTCs as key to NTUC's redoubling of efforts to upskill workers amid uncertainties.

When NTUC introduced the CTC model in 2019, it said it aimed to help around 330,000 workers. There are currently more than 900 CTCs and the number is still growing, said Mr Ng.

"CTCs are really like a baby growing up, now somewhat in form, but needing much more nurturing to grow into full fruition," said the labour chief.

The $70 million grant - part of $100 million set aside by the Government to help companies implement concrete training and transformation programmes - aims to lead to better work prospects and, in turn, better wages for workers, Mr Ng added.

For businesses, this means enhanced productivity and innovation, and the ability to attract better talent more effectively.

To illustrate the impact of CTCs, Mr Ng gave an example of how utility supplier SP Group and the Union of Power and Gas Employees provided 800,000 hours of training with 200 workers undergoing skills upgrading.

One worker, Mr Muhammad Yazid, joined SP as a storekeeper in 2013 and last year, was sponsored by the company for a diploma in supply chain and logistics. Mr Yazid is now a warehouse officer supervising a team of six - a higher-value role earning him a better wage.

In his speech, Mr Ng said that the NTUC will continue to keep the prices of necessities affordable amid worries of higher costs of living. He said that some 2.4 million NTUC members and NTUC Link members will enjoy 10 per cent savings when they buy food and drinks at Kopitiam foodcourt and coffee shop outlets by the end of the year.

Concluding his speech, Mr Ng reiterated the labour movement's purpose of improving the lives of workers and knowing the worries of the new generation - particularly in underserved segments.

"Together with the Government, we must strengthen tripartism as a uniquely Singaporean competitive advantage. As we saw in Covid-19, this strength of tripartitism afforded us the wherewithal to respond swiftly to take care of workers," he said.

He added that NTUC would strengthen its symbiotic relationship with the ruling People's Action Party (PAP).

"Each generation of PAP leadership has taken pains to know NTUC's needs better, and we will likewise give the PAP the assurance that NTUC will stand shoulder to shoulder with the PAP leadership," said Mr Ng.

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He recounted how he had congratulated Finance Minister Lawrence Wong upon his endorsement last month as leader of the PAP's fourth-generation team, making him the de facto successor to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Ng said he reminded Mr Wong of the heavy responsibility that now lay on his shoulders. "But in the same breath, I told him that as secretary-general of NTUC, we will give him the fullest of support - for the success of the PAP government, and for our workers."

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