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GOVERNMENT agencies will take the lead in setting up sectoral tripartite committees to deepen the government-union-business partnership in identifying skills needed for workers to be future-ready.
Speaking on Wednesday at the NTUC's May Day dinner, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said such cooperation among government, unions and employers is critical to how Singapore can realise SkillsFuture, a national programme which aims to develop every Singaporean to the fullest for life.
"In particular, we have to develop tripartite relationships at the sectoral level - between unions, employers and our trade associations and chambers (TACs) and government agencies - in order to make SkillsFuture relevant to the specialised needs of employers and workers in each industry," he said.
While a few government agencies may be involved in each sector, Mr Tharman, who is also the Minister for Finance, said only one will take the lead. For instance, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore will lead the air-transport sector and the Singapore Tourism Board, the hotel sector.
The government, NTUC and the Singapore National Employers Federation will, at the national level, support these sectoral moves, he said.
Noting Singapore's lack of a long tradition of collaboration between firms, he added: "We have to develop our own tradition and find practical means to deepen collaboration, industry by industry."
This would be critical for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in building up capabilities, because they often lack the capacity on their own to attract and train people.
"We will form Sectoral Tripartite Committees in all key sectors to co-own and co-drive sector-specific imperatives, especially the development of Sectoral Manpower Plans under SkillsFuture," Mr Tharman said.
Senior representatives from sectoral unions, employers and TACs as well as government-sector champion agencies will be partners in these committees.
For the financial sector, the NTUC and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will work with unions and businesses to provide workers the necessary skillsets as the financial sector continues to evolve. A Financial Sector Tripartite Committee will be set up in September, co-chaired by the NTUC and MAS. The Association of Banks in Singapore and NTUC's Financial and Business Services clusters of unions will also be represented in the committee.
Mr Tharman said Singapore must prepare for a new job landscape in the financial sector, which is going through big changes. "It is not a bleak landscape if we prepare for it, and indeed, there is significant opportunity in this for Singapore."
Singapore stands to gain from the continued growth of Asian finance, he said. "If we make early investments to adopt new technologies and innovations and help individuals acquire new skillsets, we can ensure quality jobs for Singaporeans."
Mr Tharman noted that in the maritime sector, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore has already taken the lead to set up two tripartite task forces - Task-Force Sea and Task-Force Shore - to take SkillsFuture forward and ensure the sector stays competitive.
The task forces, which he said were operating well, bring under one roof all the key players - unions, associations and government agencies as well as training providers.
SkillsFuture ultimately underpins Singapore's drive to raise productivity, which he said is the main way for the economy to grow amid the sluggish global demand that is likely to prevail in the next few years.
The government has tipped Singapore's economy to grow by just 2 per cent to 4 per cent yearly - or an average of 3 per cent - for the remainder of the decade.
But even achieving this slower growth will be an increasing challenge, as Singapore's labour force slows down in the years to come, Mr Tharman said.
So pressing on with the productivity drive is an imperative, he said.