HR highlights from PM Lee’s May Day speech

by Miklos Bolza03 May 2016
In his May Day speech on Sunday (1 May), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outlined several critical areas of change for employers and employees, and explained how the tripartite partners will provide assistance with each of these issues.
 
$4.5 billion Industry Transformation Programme
 
Pointing to business models by firms such as Alibaba, Uber and Airbnb, Lee called upon Singapore employers to embrace this new, disruptive business model.
 
“I do not think we can stop this phenomenon and I do not think we should try to stop it,” he said.
 
“Maybe you could try. You probably would not succeed and certainly you will end up hurting ourselves because these are new businesses.”
 
To help firms adapt to these new models, he highlighted the government’s five-year S$4.5 billion industry transformation program which was unveiled in the 2016 Budget.
 
“What does it do? Industry transformation [to] help industries use research and development (R&D), [to] use technology in order to adapt, in order to be able to prosper and be competitive. If they are creative, if they are bold, [it can] even help them to find new models [and] new processes [to] outcompete others and be the disruptor.”
 
This sort of transformation will help create better jobs as well as helping business succeed, he said.
 
Financial support for firms hiring retrenched workers
 
With ongoing trends such as automation, offshoring and a tight labour market affecting professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) as well as rank-and-file workers, there is a need to change the jobs available so those who are retrenched can still find work, Lee said.
 
One key area of focus will be helping older workers who are at risk of losing their jobs, he added.
 
“We have to help them make the transition, re-skilling them and upskilling them. This is actually harder to do than preparing students to enter the job market but we have to do it.”
 
The Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM’s) Career Support Programme (CSP) has been established to assist PMETs who are retrenched mid-career, Lee explained.
 
“If you are a PMET retrenched mid-career and you are looking for a new job … a new employer may or may not be so confident that you can fit in or you can contribute,” he said. “We provide the employer with wage support for one year, defray the cost of hiring you, encourage them to try you out and if it works out, hopefully employ you for the long run.”
 
The CSP has helped 200 mature PMETs since its establishment and is now being extended to those who have been retrenched, Lee said.
 
He also pointed out the Professional Conversion Program (PCP) and the Place and Train Program which have provided 7,000 workers with financial support so they can learn new skills prior to taking up a new job. There is also the Tech Skills Accelerator which trains Singaporeans of all backgrounds with the right skills to find work in the IT sector, he added.
 
New union fund to upskill mature PMETs
 
Finally, Lee mentioned the National Trades Unions Congress (NTUC) and its latest efforts to provide training for midcareer workers, including PMETs.
 
“NTUC wants to do programs with the universities and support midcareer workers. [NTUC secretary-general Chan Chun Sing] asked the government for support and … said NTUC is going to raise money – they want to raise S$50 million.”
 
Lee promised that for every dollar the union raised, the government would match $3 up to a total of $150 million.
 
“If you can raise $50 million, I will write a cheque for $150 million. And when we collect $200 million altogether, it goes into the NTUC Education and Training Fund (NETF).”
 
The first program will partner with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) which will reach out to mature workers through Technology Enabled Learning (TEL) – using online materials, videos and interactive media to teach students who are not physically at the university.
 
“They will start with short courses to help working people keep up with technology and they will expand and add more courses over time and hope to reach 30,000 people a year,” Lee said.
 
The NETF will be complimented by an greater number of SkillsFuture schemes promised by MOM, he added.
 
Related stories:
 
Union movement eyes white collar workers
 
Tripartite support for HRDs in an ageing workforce
 
Government promises added business support

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