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Speech at Singapore's Best Workplaces Awards 2018

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State for Manpower, One Farrer Hotel

Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower  

Mrs Joni Ong, Ms Evelyn Kwek, Managing Directors of Great Place to Work® Institute Singapore

Mr Tan Wee Beng, Deputy Chief Executive of SkillsFuture Singapore

Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. Thank you for having me here today.
  2. My heartiest congratulations to all 13 organisations which have made the list of Singapore’s Best Workplaces this year.
  3. Today, we celebrate the best workplaces in our country. These organisations create and sustain high-trust, high-performing workplace cultures. They show us that an inclusive, encouraging workplace is possible, regardless of company size and industry. Their efforts are especially laudable given the many challenges our modern workforce and businesses face today.
  4. Like many other developed countries, Singapore faces two key challenges: Technological disruption, and an ageing workforce.

Embracing technology amid disruption

  1. While there are predictions of how millions of jobs would be lost to robots and automation, I’m more optimistic as I believe technology also provides opportunity. Technology will definitely change how businesses operate, and in turn, our jobs. While this is the case, technological advancements can lead to jobs in growing firms and industries, potentially creating more meaningful and enjoyable work, as well as better prospects for our workers.
  2. The workforce can benefit from technology, as long as they embrace it with the right mindset. They must also be given the chance to reskill in order to leverage technology to their advantage.
  3. Through our Adapt & Grow initiative, we work to ensure that the workforce can be more responsive in this age of disruption. For example, we have expanded the Professional Conversion Programmes (or PCPs) to better resolve skills mismatches, and ensure that jobseekers are able to get into a variety of jobs. Under PCPs, employers will receive up to 90% salary support and course fee subsidies. In total, we have over 100 PCPs across 30 sectors. By taking up relevant PCPs, you can fill gaps in your current workforce as your businesses transform.
  4. We are also exploring ways to help mid-career individuals access 6 identified growth sectors, and are working with sector agencies and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (or e2i) to: (i) Help identify suitable roles; (ii) Diagnose skills gaps, and (iii) Help jobseekers upskill through bridging programmes to take up identified jobs in these sectors.

Supporting the work aspirations of all Singaporeans

  1. The other key challenge we face is an ageing workforce.
  2. Singaporeans are living and working longer. 1 in 2 Singaporeans aged 65 today is expected to live beyond 85. 1 in 3 will live beyond 90. With improvements in medical care, we can expect life expectancy to further increase. About a quarter of our workforce is aged 55 and over, and this proportion is projected to increase.
  3. The Government has various schemes and initiatives to provide support to our mature workers, who have much to offer.
  4. For Adapt & Grow initiatives such as PCPs and the Career Support Programme, we provide more support for firms hiring PMETs aged 40 and above.
  5. In addition, the WorkPro scheme encourages employers to implement age-friendly workplace practices for older workers, such as providing flexible work arrangements, and redesigning workplaces and processes to make our older workers’ jobs easier, safer, and smarter. Grants of up to $300,000 are available for firms to wish to tap on such schemes. 
  6. In fact, 95% of our WorkPro Job Redesign Grants support technology-related enhancements. This shows that older workers can benefit from technology and take up better quality jobs, instead of being displaced by technology.
  7. One example of a company that values their older workers is Shalom International Movers. 
  8. Shalom invests significantly in technology to enable job redesign and continuous learning on the job. For employees who might not have formal education and pre-requisites to further their studies, Shalom recognises their experience and skills and nurtures them to take on key roles in the company. They recognise their older workers as mentors to their younger staff, who benefit from the skills transfer. The informal sharing also boosts camaraderie among employees. Mr Ahmad Senin bin Huri was hired as a truck driver after he was retrenched from a shipping company at 40 years old. Although he had no prior skills or experience in the logistics industry, Ahmad proved his capabilities and eventually became a supervisor. He was tasked with big projects such as the relocation of Republic Polytechnic, through which he was able to pick up new skills and technology. Ahmad was also given opportunities to upskill in areas of bizSAFE – Workplace Safety and Health, Service Excellence and even LEAN methodology. As part of the pioneer batch in Shalom to pick up these skills, he was tasked to share his knowledge and champion these new skills at the workplace. Now, Ahmad has moved from frontline delivery to take on a new role in managing the warehouse, and continues to take the lead in building new workplace standards. In an industry typically affected by high turnover rates, Shalom excels with more than 25% of their staff staying with them for over 10 years. Ahmad is one of them.
  9. I was also happy to learn about how Royal Plaza on Scotts supports their older employees through flexible work arrangements. They developed an initiative called READY (Re-employment: Equipping & Developing Yourself), which aims to educate and orientate the 'young-at-heart' talents back into the workforce, giving them the choice of a 22-hour or 5- or 6-day work week. Their older employees appreciate this arrangement, as they have time to pursue their personal commitments too. For example, Mr Hamid bin Selamat got the 5-day work week that he has always wished for. He now gets to spend extra time with his wife and two children, and is also able to get more rest, which keeps him energised.
  10. This is one way we can help older workers who wish to slow down the intensity of work before they go into full retirement.
  11. As the study by Great Place to Work Institute and Singapore Management University (SMU) found, supportive organisational practices such as encouraging work-life balance are key to constructing the ideal environment for employees.

Conclusion

  1. Given the amount of time we spend at work, we should encourage more employers to foster workplaces that motivate employees to learn at work, through work, and for work.
  2. Lifelong learning and continual skills upgrading is essential for Singapore to maintain a competitive edge, especially in this age of disruption.
  3. The launch of the Great Place to Learn™-Certification programme today is thus timely.
  4. To all award winners today, you are one of Singapore’s Best Workplaces. You serve as role models and advocates for more business leaders to build inclusive workplaces and promote reskilling and upskilling.
  5. Congratulations once again!
  6. Thank you.
Last Updated: 20 November 2018