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Speech at At-Sunrice Globalchef Academy Integrated CET Centre Opening Ceremony

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister of State for Manpower and National Development, At-Sunrice Globalchef Academy

Dr Kwan Lui, Founder and Director of At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy

Chef Christophe Megel, Chief Executive Officer of At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy

Mr Douglas Foo, Chairman of the Food and Beverage Industry Skills and Training Council and Chief Executive Officer of Sakae Holdings Limited

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. Good morning. I am delighted to be here at the official opening of Singapore's first and largest purpose-built Integrated Continuing Education and Training (CET) centre for the F&B industry. This opening marks a significant milestone in the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) where the new centre offers a comprehensive suite of WSQ courses to cater to the growing demand for culinary talents in the F&B sector. The sector currently employs more than 150,000 people. The F&B scene has also become more vibrant with Michelin-starred chefs, such as Daniel Boulud and Tetsuya Wakuda, who have set up their signature restaurants in Singapore in recent years. Our home-grown culinary talents like Yong Bing Ngen and Willin Low are also stepping up to offer more choices for consumers. All these exciting developments will require more skilled talents to meet the evolving demands of discerning customers.
  2. It is for this purpose that the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) appointed At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy to set up this integrated CET centre to deliver WSQ courses. These courses range from two-day professional modular courses to WSQ diplomas and are offered to trainees who wish to develop specialised skills such as Western and Asian culinary arts, pastry and baking techniques, restaurant management, meat fabrication, and beverage services. Whether you are a sous chef, sommelier, barista, an existing F&B manager, an aspiring newbie, or someone who is looking for a change in employment, the Academy will have something for you. The courses are conducted by experienced local and international faculty members, with each of them bringing along their own areas of expertise which will benefit our trainees and F&B companies.
  3. Notably, this new CET centre is well-equipped to enrich the learning experiences of trainees. There are multi-purpose demo kitchens and dedicated laboratories for wine and spirits among others. In addition, At-Sunrice Academy is home to two Innovation Laboratories which allow companies to conduct R&D to improve work and food processes. All the training rooms are outfitted with modern kitchens and electrical appliances. On this note, I would like to put on record our appreciation to partners like Miele, Electrolux, Nespresso and Sun-ray who have contributed to the establishment of this integrated CET centre.

    CET Development in the F&B Industry
  4. The CET framework is a cornerstone in the national drive towards higher productivity as it gives opportunities to upgrade workers' skills and knowledge. Efforts have been put in through WDA and through the various CET frameworks. These are not just for higher productivity, but it is also about looking after our workers, providing them opportunities to upgrade themselves, to be better than where they are and to offer them opportunities to stay or find employment and better employment. This will fulfil their aspirations and also help them get better wages. Our workers will be able to perform their duties more efficiently when they become better in their jobs. Like I said earlier, it is also about enhancing employability prospects as workers get better trained, and to possibly enhance wages. Eighty per cent of the students here are Singaporeans. The Government places tremendous emphasis and we provide a lot of support towards such development in the CET landscape. I am very encouraged by what I see today.
  5. We have been investing heavily in the development of the WSQ frameworks to ensure that the F&B CET infrastructure continues to remain relevant and is capable of supporting the growing demands. The F&B framework which was first launched in 2006 has undergone a thorough review. About 200 industry practitioners had participated in focus groups discussions, surveys and validation sessions. This process of collaboration is crucial as it ensures that the courses are practical and relevant. The F&B framework has expanded and it now covers four skill pathways from the original two major specialisation tracks, namely Culinary Arts, Pastry and Bakery, F&B Service and Beverage Service. The enhanced framework also has 54 new competency units, spanning both industry and occupational skills which will enable us to reach out and train more workers and bridge current skills gaps faced by the industry such as new technological advances.
  6. For example, there will be courses on food preparation techniques such as Cook Chill and Regeneration. These are courses in which trainees can learn how technological innovation can supplement traditional culinary arts. In this course, trainees will get to experiment with the art of Cook Chill, where food is prepared and then blast chilled to retain both its goodness and flavour. This first-of-its-kind course is only made possible through this new test-bed facility known as the Cook Chill Room, which incorporates new technologies yet to be introduced into the industry. The enhanced framework will also cover new areas with more WSQ qualifications such as the new WSQ Diploma in Beverage Service which is ideal for aspiring sommeliers, baristas and mixologists to acquire specialised knowledge on various beverages such as coffee, wine and spirits.

    Developing Strong Partnerships is Key to the Success of CET
  7. In addition to physical infrastructure, strong industry partnership is also an essential ingredient in ensuring the success of the CET system. It is through these partnerships that we have been able to grow the F&B WSQ framework into what you see today.
  8. As this Sakae building is designated for industrial use in area of food production by design and concept, the location of this CET centre augers well as it will allow the facilities and space to reflect the real work environment. For instance, the loading bay leads directly to the kitchen storage, allowing trainees to learn about the relation between deliveries, hygiene and workplace safety standards. Sakae Sushi's central kitchen and its food recycling programme will allow trainees to learn about food designing and waste recycling programmes. Such a learning environment provides a very unique and real education, which is not possible in conventional classrooms, and graduates from At-Sunrice can provide more innovation and increase their productivity. These opportunities are made possible through our strong partnership with Sakae Sushi and support from various government agencies such as the Urban Re-development Authority and the Land Transport Authority. The location of At-Sunrice within the Paya Lebar industrial area, with several food manufacturers and food services brands, also creates synergy and collaboration opportunities for At-Sunrice to train workers.

    Creating Pathways for Aspiring F&B Professionals
  9. At-Sunrice has also pioneered the Mentor Chef programme where renowned master chefs such as Julien Bompard, Eric Teo and Andre Chiang, take WSQ apprentices under their wings. These opportunities allow trainees to better translate their theoretical knowledge into actual know-how. By involving these eminent chefs in WSQ training, At-Sunrice has also helped to raise the profile of the chef profession. Branding the image of service staff and F&B personnel is important. The F&B and service industry in Singapore is growing as a whole, and we do need to look at upgrading the industry image as it offers many work opportunities for young Singaporeans. It is a respectable industry which has made tremendous contributions to the CET scene in Singapore.
  10. I am pleased to note that WDA has also been making inroads in establishing credit exemption agreements for WSQ F&B Diploma qualifications such as the two-year exemption for WSQ Diplomas offered by At-Sunrice for the Johnson and Wales University degree programmes.
  11. Companies can further groom their employees through these degree programmes after training employees in WSQ Diploma qualifications. As part of the Government's effort to provide more training pathways to support and encourage employers to develop their talents and raise local capabilities, I am delighted to announce that WDA will be partnering Tourism and F&B employers to award industry scholarships for degree programmes to groom our talent to take on leadership roles in the sector.

    Investing in CET to raise productivity
  12. Despite uncertainties in the global economic outlook, hiring sentiments in the F&B industry remain positive. In particular, we can expect the demand for skilled talent to continue to grow as the sector flourishes. In order to cope with the talent crunch, I would like to call on F&B employers to take a more proactive approach by investing in training to build the capabilities of their existing workforce. It is not just about training, but also about looking after your workers and motivating them, as training will help advance their skills and this will make a tremendous difference in the way they work. Employers can and should also collaborate with other industry partners to share ideas and partner training providers on projects to boost productivity levels. Companies which have done so have benefitted as their workers are better skilled and can contribute more to the company. There is also a bright side for our workers. When you have better and more skills, you are able to not only take on higher value jobs and have a wider range in career opportunities.
  13. To date, over 3,000 companies and 120,000 individuals have participated in WSQ training. Based on the Outcome Evaluation Survey conducted, nearly 60% of F&B employers reported improved work productivity as a result of WSQ training. A case in point is Sakae Holdings which has been sending all of their 700 workers for F&B WSQ training. The training has helped their employees to better understand and perform their respective roles to achieve the required service and kitchen food standards. This resulted in faster service time, quicker turnover, and improvements in food quality. Employers should leverage on the generous government grants and subsidies.
  14. Similarly, the TungLok Group has also seen improvements after investing in WSQ training for all their employees. Its staff now have more relevant skills and expertise and are able to better understand the best approaches towards maximising resources and reducing wastage. The company can then concentrate its resources in other operational and strategic activities such as expanding its chain of restaurants. Tunglok has also saved time and costs as its employees now have a shorter learning curve and lower attrition rates. TungLok's service staff are also empowered by the skills and knowledge they have gained and finds it easier to improve their service standards. This is Tunglok’s competitive advantage – with better trained staff, it is able to sustain its reputation for outstanding customer service and food quality.
  15. The continual success of the CET system in grooming F&B talent is a concerted effort by the Government, employers and other stakeholders. With the demand for F&B talent on the rise, employers will need to boost productivity to remain profitable and internationally competitive. Beyond workforce training, firms should also look out for best practices domestically and internationally as well as learn from innovative ideas to achieve bigger productivity improvements. CET providers should also do their part to continue raising the standards of training.
  16. I would like to thank all of you for your support in ensuring the success of the CET system and for making this facility possible, especially Mr Douglas Foo, Chairman of the F&B Industry Skills and Training Council, for championing WSQ and leading by example. I hope more organisations will work with WDA and leverage on the initiatives it has rolled out to ensure the success of our F&B industry. Looking ahead, the Government will continue to support CET efforts, not only in the F&B industry, but in other sectors as well.
  17. Once again, congratulations to At-Sunrice on the grand opening of the new integrated CET Institute. I wish you every success.
  18. Thank you.