Saturday, July 14, 2012

Singapore - WDA to pump S$8.3m into process & biomedical sciences industry

SINGAPORE: The Workforce Development Agency (WDA) is pumping S$8.3 million into the process and biomedical sciences industry over the next three years to train and attract local workers.

Kamal Tajudin has been working at pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline for the past 20 years.

With his team, he recently completed an advanced Workforce Skills Qualification course for pharmaceuticals technicians.

The senior technician at GlaxoSmithKline said: "Before training, the knowledge we had was mere basic knowledge of process work. But after the training, we (have become) more confident. The morale is high, because we are equipped with certain knowledge that we can impart to the juniors, and help out in their daily routine jobs."

A pay rise is no guarantee. However, Mr Kamal said: "The chances of a promotion are better."

Pharmaceuticals is just one sector in the process industry. The others are chemicals, oil refining, and engineering services.

The process and biomedical sciences industry hires about 100,000 workers and contributes some 10 per cent to Singapore's gross domestic product. With multinationals set to ramp up their operations in Singapore in the next few years, authorities said it is necessary to build a pipeline of skilled workers to support this growth.

WDA said the S$8.3 million will be pumped into two new training programmes, one for new hires and another for senior staff.

The Development and Apprenticeship (DNA) programme incentivises companies to hire and train local workers, while the Productivity Specialists Programme (PSP) encourages companies to involve junior and operational-level staff in productivity efforts.

The two programmes are expected to train close to 900 workers in the next three years.

The long-term goal is to groom Singaporeans to occupy top positions in the industry.

Minister of State for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said: "We may not always have the relevant skills, especially in very specific areas, but that is where we do expect companies to place an emphasis, develop your core employees, and to see them progress, see them also eventually playing leading roles within the companies. And this is a fair expectation."

The process industry faces stiff competition for talent.

Julia Ng, senior director (manufacturing) at Workforce Development Agency, said: "There is always the lure of the services sector, like the financial sector, so we are increasingly looking into this issue about engineering talent not joining the sectors that they are trained for."

She added that a key challenge ahead is how to keep young Singaporeans excited about a career in engineering.

- CNA/ck/ms

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