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Oral Answer by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Manpower, to Parliamentary Question on Manpower Strategies for Traditional Industries

Notice Paper No. 26 of 2015 For The Sitting On 19 January 2015 Question No. 415 For Oral Answer

MP: Mr Thomas Chua Kee Seng

To ask the Minister for Manpower following plans by the SkillsFuture Council and WDA to develop sectoral manpower strategies for growth sectors such as biologics, precision engineering and services, what are the plans to develop similar manpower strategies for the traditional industries where many SMEs are involved in.


  1. The Sectoral Manpower Strategies (SMS) is a key initiative under the SkillsFuture Council that brings together employers, unions, education and training providers, and Government to anticipate the future skills that will be needed and set out a strategy for developing those skills in our people. Each SMS seeks to achieve three objectives.
  2. First, identify the current and future skills and manpower needs in the sector, and where there will be quality jobs for our people. To do this, each SMS will need to identify the future skills that will be needed given the industry outlook, stage of development, competitive landscape and impact of key driving forces such as technology advancement.
  3. Second, based on the skills needs identified for the sector, articulate and develop clear career progression pathways that will set out the key competencies and skills needed to progress at each stage of the individual’s career. These career pathways will be closely integrated with education, training and development – so that there is greater fluidity between learning and working as the individual progresses in his career. In doing so, the SMS achieves two objectives – it builds a future supply of talent to meet the sectors’ needs, and provides for more meaningful pathways for workers who choose to work in those sectors.
  4. Lastly, each SMS should include plans to better attract, retain and develop talent, so that workers can acquire deep skills, contribute in their chosen areas of expertise, and have fulfilling careers, with progression not just in wages, but also to gain a deeper sense of pride and satisfaction that comes with the mastery of skills.
  5. On a broader level, the SMS encourages a shift among employers – from a “plug and play” mindset meaning that employers just seek to hire workers who already have all the necessary skills, without further thought of development and training. This has changed. We need to move on to an approach where employers proactively develop every worker, providing career pathways and valuing their contributions as they advance. Some companies are already doing that. The Government will be a key enabler in these efforts, by providing resource support and helping to coordinate and enhance the linkages between all players. The key lies with industries, sectors and companies taking that step to develop their workers.
  6. As a start, we will focus our efforts on a set of lead sectors that have more pressing manpower needs. These lead sectors cover essential services such as healthcare and social services; new growth sectors that provide exciting job opportunities for Singaporeans but without a ready pipeline of workers, such as biopharmaceuticals; and sectors facing significant manpower challenges, such as construction, retail, and F&B. We will progressively expand our efforts to other sectors.
  7. In direct response to the member’s question, we will pay particular attention to our SMEs. A large proportion of the companies in the lead sectors are SMEs. We recognise the manpower challenges that SMEs face, and how SMEs often have limited resources and bandwidth to plan for the future. So one clear benefit of the Sectoral Manpower Strategies will be to provide SMEs with a clearer sense of the sector’s direction and needs, and draw together the necessary resources, from which SMEs can tap, to support the attraction, retention, training and development of workers in their sectors.
  8. In addition, the Government also helps our SMEs through a range of schemes. These include the Enterprise Training Support Grant, Innovation and Capability Voucher (ICV), and the SME Talent Programme. SMEs that need customised advisory services can also approach one of the twelve SME Centres located island-wide. Through these various measures, we believe that this is the way that we can work together to develop the space as we go forward.