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THE labour movement will focus more on training and job placement as well as expand into health and eldercare services to stay relevant and advance the interests of workers.
NTUC secretary-general Chan Chun Sing told reporters at a pre-May Day media briefing on Tuesday that with more volatile business cycles and disruptive changes in the economy, workers increasingly are going through frequent transitions in their employment lifecycles.
"Gone are the days when one person would be in one job, or two, for an entire lifetime," the labour chief said. "With greater employment mobility, skills and training, a working person may be in a big company today, an SME tomorrow and opt to go freelance in the near future."
Mr Chan said to respond to such changes, the labour movement must be structured in a way to enable workers to jump through the different phases in their career and life cycles. The products and services it offers to to workers must also stay relevant.
"What we want is for our working people to develop a relationship with the labour movement, from before they begin work, whilst they're working, when they are transitioning between careers and all the way until they retire," Mr Chan said.
NTUC's job training and placement programmes will be key in building up this long-term relationship.
The labour leader said NTUC will provide workers the training to prepare them for the constant job or career switch they have to make as technological advancements, new business models and more frequent and sharper economic cycles destroy old jobs and create new ones.
NTUC's U Career Network, in particular, will give workers an opportunity to deepen their skills and extend their professional networks.
Mr Chan said the design of training programmes by NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and NTUC LearningHub will enable workers to bridge skills gap quicker "through new methods that mesh together learning and training that people can pick up while working".
He said through NTUC's U Associate partners - white collar professional guilds and associations - and its tie-ups with 14 institutes of higher learning, the labour movement is also stepping up efforts to enable workers to pick up new knowledge and skills in the shortest speed-to-market turnaround time.
"The U Career Network will start with our students in these institutes and all through their working lives," Mr Chan said.
"The labour movement will provide career guidance and job direction services for our students. We aim for this relationship to continue as our working people transit to different jobs through continuing education. From institutes of higher learning to e2i and LHub, we aim to walk with our working people throughout their lifecycle."
Technological disruptions are also posing a big challenge for NTUC's social enterprises.
"Our social enterprises like Fairprice and Income may still be relevant in helping our working people stretch their hard-earned dollar," Mr Chan said. "But technology is disrupting their business models. In the new business environment, how do you control cost drivers?"
Moderating prices of groceries helps but it's not enough to ease the cost of living pressures on workers, he said.
"This is where we're looking to do better by providing goods and services that continue to be relevant to people. Beyond that, we've to continue doing more with new services."
In health and eldercare, for instance. NTUC Health already operates a nursing home in Jurong West that provides affordable care and rehabilitation for seniors. It will have two more nursing homes this year - in Geylang East Central and Chai Chee.