Union calls on healthcare institutions to set out skills ladders for workers; plans to roll out soft skills courses

Healthcare Services Employees' Union president K. Thanaletchimi said she wants skills ladders for community nurses, pharmacy technicians and therapy support associates.

SINGAPORE - The healthcare union here is calling on hospitals and polyclinics to come up with defined skills ladders to help workers progress in their careers.

Healthcare Services Employees' Union president K. Thanaletchimi suggested on Tuesday (Feb 13) that the three healthcare clusters in the central, eastern and western regions each take charge of one profession and develop a national framework for those workers.

She wants skills ladders for community nurses, pharmacy technicians and therapy support associates.

The health cluster can develop these frameworks in partnership with institutes of higher learning, the union and workers themselves, she added.

More modular training and national-level skills qualifications are needed for these workers as Singapore moves to boost the quality of healthcare jobs, she told reporters at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Centre at One Marina Boulevard.

"The certification of skills has to be at the national level, where all institutions must recognise that this is the route, this is the skill, and this is the certificate that I want to recognise. Currently it is a bit fragmented," she said.

There are Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications for some healthcare jobs such as therapy support, pharmacy support and administrative support, but many institutions have other in-house training programmes which may not be recognised by other institutions, she explained.

The union plans to raise this suggestion to healthcare institutions during ongoing meetings on collective agreements for workers.

Ms Thanaletchimi, a Nominated MP and senior assistant manager in the pharmacy field, was giving suggestions to implement the Healthcare Industry Transformation Map (ITM).

The roadmap - launched last November - sets out broad plans to redesign jobs, upgrade skills, raise productivity through better technology and workflows, and encourage innovation, in a sector which employs about 96,000 people.

Ms Thanaletchimi said her union also plans to work with NTUC's LearningHub and Employment and Employability Institute to develop training programmes on soft skills, to prepare healthcare workers for jobs in the intermediate and long-term care sector.

This could involve working in nursing homes, which may be less "controlled" environments than hospitals, she said.

As such, mental wellness, social skills and being able to attend to more emotionally needy or angry patients would be useful.

There is currently no niche training in these areas for the healthcare industry, she said.

She did not provide a timeframe for the roll-out of the new courses, but said it is important to have buy-in from the healthcare institutions.

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