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Speech at Adapt and Grow Food Services and Retail Day

Second Minister for Manpower Mrs Josephine Teo, Lifelong Learning Institute

Mr Vincent Tan, President, Restaurant Association of Singapore

Ms Rose Tong, Executive Director, Singapore Retailers Association

Mr Tan Jek Min, Director, Asian Culinary Institute Singapore

Ms Megan Ong, Director, Singapore Institute of Retail Studies

Mr Ng Cher Pong, Chief Executive, SkillsFuture Singapore

Mr Tan Choon Shian, Chief Executive, Workforce Singapore

Partners and Friends

  1. Thank you for inviting me to join you to launch the Skills Framework for Food Services and Retail.
  2. Food Services and Retail are key industries within Singapore’s economy. Together, they contribute more than 3% of GDP, and employ about 11% of workforce. This number is not surprising since Singaporeans love to makan and shop. Visitors remember Singapore as food paradise and a shopping haven.
  3. In recent years, both industries have faced manpower constraints. However, there are also bright spots. Businesses are adjusting and overcoming the manpower hurdle, often through more intensive use of technology.
  4. There are many reasons why the use of technology in the workplace is useful. Firstly, it frees up manpower through more self-service or automation. One key development has been the pervasive use of technology for self-service and to carry out routine tasks. For example, many restaurants these days use e-menu tablets. More retailers are also using RFID for stock-taking. RFID has been around for a long time, but the cost of deploying this technology has dropped in recent years, making it possible for mass deployment. Since 2010, more than 3,000 retail and F&B enterprises have invested in capability development like digital services and automation.
  5. Some companies have gone one step further to take part in the Lean Enterprise Development (LED) Scheme. The LED scheme provides one-stop support to help companies as they transform and grow. Instead of trying to figure out what government schemes there are, the companies just need to decide on how to become less manpower-intensive and the agencies will design the package of support. If necessary, the LED scheme can also provide transitional manpower support to help in your transformation. Since 2015, as part of the concerted effort by agencies such as IMDA, SPRING, WSG and e2i, over 1,100 companies in the food services and retail industries have embarked on lean projects. In the first half of 2017, over 400 food services and retail companies have come onboard. The momentum is there, and I encourage more companies to start looking at how LEDS can help your company transform and grow.
  6. We have also found that technology is helping many seniors in our workforce. Today, more than 50% of employees in Food Services and Retail are aged 40 years and above. Last year, we enhanced the Workpro scheme to better support employers. A company can now receive funding up to $300,000, up from $150,000 to redesign jobs under the enhanced Adapt & Grow WorkPro Job Redesign Grant.
  7. A good example is RE&S Enterprises. They deliver to restaurants like Ichiban Boshi and Kuriya Japanese Market. They operate a Central Kitchen, where they employ 16 workers aged above 50. A lot of heavy work is done in the Central Kitchen, which becomes more strenuous with age. What RE&S Enterprises has done is to automate processes to streamline food preparation and production. For example, they installed an oven programmed to rotate pastries automatically. With the oven, there is no need for manual rotation of the pastries, less risk of workers getting burns and they produce more pastries per batch. They also started using a tilting kettle, so there is no need to manually stir hot soup. This frees up workers to concentrate on other tasks while production has increased from 10kg to 250kg per batch. The older workers’ job roles were also redesigned – now, they mentor younger colleagues in other work areas. By adopting technology and redesigning jobs, the work environment has become safer for all workers, both young and old.
  8. 120 companies from Food Services and Retail have tapped on LEDS. It is available to many other employers who are interested.
  9. There is also another benefit. With the shift to more technology-enabled operations, employees can take on new and better jobs. They can better serve and engage their customers and this boosts job satisfaction for employees as well.
  10. One example is local furniture retailer, Commune. They use Virtual Reality (VR) to create an immersive shopping experience. Customers can now virtually test out furniture arrangement prior to purchase. With technology taking over the traditional role of showroom staff, Commune’s employees have moved on to different roles. They can now provide interior design advice, instead of just showing customers around the showroom, and are getting much more involved in helping the customers make meaningful decisions.
  11. The examples I have shared require adjustments on the part of both businesses and employees. As businesses transform, so too must employees adapt. The two go hand in hand. Besides having the right attitude; knowledge and skills matter a great deal. The workers involved can get to keep their jobs and do even better, but provided they get help to re-skill and upskill.
  12. To support the transformations, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), SPRING and Workforce Singapore (WSG) have worked with industry stakeholders such as employers, unions and associations, ITE, Polytechnics and Universities to jointly develop the Skills Framework for Food Services and the Skills Framework for Retail.
  13. I am pleased to launch these two Skills Frameworks today.
  14. The Skills Frameworks will act as a resource. Firstly, it will help jobseekers and employees to assess their career interests, prepare for the desired jobs, find avenues to close skills gaps, and renew, upgrade and develop skills required for the two industries. It is useful for employers, as it will help map out clear career progression pathways and skills training needs for employees. In other words, you will have a better idea of where to invest your training dollars, and not let it go to waste. Thirdly, for education and training institutes, it will help them to align training programmes, curriculum and pedagogy to address the needs of the industry.
  15. The Skills Frameworks also list key initiatives and schemes by SSG, SPRING and WSG which benefit jobseekers, employees and employers. For example, the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme, the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy, and WSG’s Adapt & Grow Programmes. Not many countries are approaching this in a holistic and comprehensive way. We are attempting to do so, by putting in the building blocks so that businesses can transform and workers can adapt at the same time.
  16. Who will benefit from these Skills Framework? An example is Nicole Francine Fernandez. She joined Pedro as an intern during the final year of her Diploma in Integrated Events Management at Republic Polytechnic. She was initially deployed in the e-commerce department, but she was soon asked to fill an open position in the marketing team. She did well, and the internship turned into a full-time role. Today, she is an Assistant Manager in Marketing. Nicole sees the Skills Framework as a way to give people a better understanding of what the retail industry involves, which is much more than the front-of-house jobs most people are familiar with. She also finds the career pathways outlined useful in showing the opportunities available to those seeking a career in retail.
  17. The new skills frameworks will complement WSG’s programmes under the Adapt & Grow initiative. It will provide greater clarity on the skills needed to perform various job functions and will make it easier for new entrants to the Food Services or Retail industries. It is relevant not only to recent school leavers but even to mid-career switchers.
  18. For example, take Leo Lim. He left his previous industry due to outdated skillsets and the difficulty in catching up with training. He decided to return to Food Services due to his prior experience in F&B, working in central kitchen, sales and marketing. He also believed Food Services will always need the human touch, and from that perspective, he thought it offered better job security. He landed a job with Royal London Duck as Restaurant Manager, but he did not have the experience in restaurant management. Fortunately, Royal London Duck sent him for training under the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Restaurant Manager. He successfully assimilated into his new job role, and was also able to transfer skills from his previous role in a different industry to implement new technologies and systems. He persuaded his employers to install remote surveillance cameras to manage and monitor multiple outlets, and use data analytics to better understand customers’ needs and manage restaurant operations. With the PCP, Leo was able to get into the restaurant line, and with the Skills Framework, he now has a clearer sense of how to deepen his skills.
  19. To conclude, there are many opportunities for jobseekers and employees in the two industries to grow their careers. The Government and our partners are doing all we can to help employers meet hiring needs and overcome manpower constraints. I hope you will be inspired by today’s technology showcases, and take advantage of the many programmes and schemes in place to help you in your transformation journey.
  20. Thank you very much.