Over 13,000 training places with higher subsidies for workers in hard-hit aerospace sector

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (centre) and Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang (right) at the Singapore Aero Engine Services, on Sept 1, 2020. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE & INDUSTRY

SINGAPORE - Workers in the aerospace sector, heavily battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, will now be able to access more training courses with higher rates of subsidies.

More than 13,000 training places across about 100 courses will be made available to the sector. The training will cover topics such as aircraft maintenance, analytics and robotics operation.

Workers who go for the training will have their pay during the training period, as well as their course fees, subsidised by up to 90 per cent.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang announced the support measure during a visit to the Singapore Aero Engine Services facility on Tuesday (Sept 1).

The National University of Singapore, NTUC LearningHub, SIA Engineering Company, ST Engineering Aerospace and Temasek Polytechnic will conduct the courses.

The measure is an extension of the Enhanced Training Support Package, which had initially been offered to six other industries hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

So far, more than 35,000 employees from 920 businesses in tourism, air transport, retail, food services, land transport and arts and culture have tapped the package. As a worker can take more than one course, a total of 84,000 training places were taken up.

Mr Chan said on Tuesday that while the aerospace sector has been hit by a fall in demand, its medium- to long-term prospects are still good.

The extension of the enhanced training support to the sector shows the Government's confidence in it, said the minister.

"We are not just investing in the skills for the current generation of engines, but also in new skills including the digital skills to manage the new generation of engines that will propel the aviation sector," he added.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (second from right) and Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang (centre) at the Singapore Aero Engine Services, on Sept 1, 2020. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE & INDUSTRY

Mr Chan also emphasised the long-term importance of retaining workers in the sector in spite of the current downturn.

"The capabilities in the aerospace industry is something that is very unique. It is not something that you can pick up and then let go, before coming back again," he said.

"So it is important that we continue to maintain a certain consistency in the workflow... without which it will be very hard for us to ramp up the number of qualified engineers required for the industry when demand returns."

On the new training support for the aerospace sector, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) said they will help the sector tide over the impact of Covid-19, while encouraging companies to upskill workers and prepare for the subsequent recovery.

"Through this scheme, we hope that many workers in the aerospace sector will be given opportunities to widen and deepen their skills," said SSG chief executive Ong Tze-Ch'in.

EDB managing director Chng Kai Fong said aerospace remains an important industry for Singapore. He added that the EDB will continue to help companies to weather the pandemic while preserving jobs and capabilities.

The aerospace sector accounted for 1 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product. It churned out $13.1 billion in output last year, and employs more than 22,000 workers, of whom 74 per cent are professionals, managers, executives and technicians or PMETs.

Businesses in the aerospace sector range from aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul to the manufacturing of plane components. Companies in the related aviation sector include commercial carriers like Singapore Airlines and cargo handlers.

But with demand for air travel almost wiped out by the Covid-19 pandemic, both sectors have been hard hit.

Aerospace giant Pratt & Whitney last month laid off around 400 employees - 20 per cent of its workforce - at five of its six facilities.

Mr Sazali Zainal, vice-chairman of the NTUC Aerospace and Aviation Cluster and president of the Singapore Industrial and Services Employees' Union, said the unions have been lobbying hard for an enhanced training and support package for the sector as part of efforts to save jobs.

"We urge companies to take full advantage of this opportunity to deepen workers' skills and, very importantly, work with the union to overcome any challenges they may face during this difficult time," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Sia Kheng Yok, chief executive of the Association of Aerospace Industries, said the Covid-19 pandemic has sped up industry and technology changes, which in turn has made it more urgent to upskill workers.

He said the aerospace community welcomed the enhanced training support and added: "It is an encouragement to prepare workers for changes ahead, and to renew and reinforce our core capabilities."

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