THE government has identified the first group of sectors that will have dedicated manpower plans drawn up, to pinpoint the skills needed for these industries to thrive.
The health-care, early-childhood care and social-services sectors, plagued by "more pressing" labour needs, will be among the first to get such sectoral plans, which are a key plank of the new SkillsFuture movement.
The SkillsFuture Secretariat also disclosed on Wednesday that areas which typically require a larger pipeline of workers, such as biopharmaceuticals, will also be among the first to benefit, as will sectors that have long battled severe labour shortages, such as food services and retail.
SkillsFuture, aimed at giving opportunities to all citizens to develop themselves throughout life, will promote the mastery of skills in every job, regardless of its holder's academic qualifications or grades.
In delivering the Budget speech on Monday, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam had said the government would work with stakeholders - employers, unions, education and training providers and trade associations - to develop and implement these manpower plans in key sectors of the Singapore economy by 2020.
He had said that a key challenge in SkillsFuture lay in uplifting what he said was "a significant base" of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and involving them in the process of skills development:
"This will not happen naturally. Many of our SMEs lack their own training capacity and are unable to plan for the future. To uplift the broad base of companies and to help Singaporeans develop their careers across our economy, we need new forms of industry collaboration."
This training could take place in educational institutions, in Singapore's two life-long learning institutes, on industry campuses or at the workplace itself.
The sectoral manpower plans will be three-pronged: Firstly, these plans will factor in the outlook of the sectors, how they will develop in the coming years and the manpower and skills that will be required.
Next, they will map out career-progression pathways that will indicate the competencies and skills needed for workers to progress through successive stages of their careers.
Finally, the plans will spell out how companies can attract, retain and develop a deep pool of talent in their sector.
"This will ensure that Singaporeans, can, at different stages of their careers, pick up relevant skills that will enable them to advance to the next milestone of their career," said the SkillsFuture Secretariat, which noted that employers would find a more highly-skilled workforce a boon.
Grahame Wright, a partner of human capital at Ernst & Young Solutions, said the move to identify specific needs of sectors that are struggling with manpower, as well as those with a strong growth potential, would enable the movement to focus on bringing value to both businesses and workers.
"The challenge facing industry and the training sector is to develop the necessary programmes and trainers that will bring the dream to life. SkillsFuture is a huge opportunity, but at the same time, an even larger responsibility," he said.
On a related note, SMEs here will soon be able to tap a pool of mentors - experienced professionals - to help them develop their workforce. The first sectors to benefit from this are retail, food, and logistics.
From the third quarter of this year, Spring Singapore, the statutory board tasked to help local enterprises grow, will appoint partners such as trade associations and chambers of commerce to recruit and match these mentors to interested companies.
The pool of mentors, to be built up over the next two years, will hit about 200 in number; the plan is to have one mentor to every three firms.
The SkillsFuture Secretariat noted that although SMEs play a key role in developing the skills mastery of the workforce - given that they hire seven in 10 Singapore workers - they often face challenges developing internal training competence, given their small size.
The secretariat added: "(The mentors) will help SMEs implement measures to deepen the skills of their workforce and help their supervisors and managers develop their coaching skills. Mentors will also provide feedback to the employer and trainee during the learning process."