MPs call for more help for PMEs
WHILE various measures have been introduced to protect the jobs of professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) and to give them a fairer shot at employment, more can be done for this group.
This was the call of some Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday during the debate on the President's Address.
Leading the chorus was labour MP Patrick Tay, who noted that legislative changes made in the past three years to support PMEs have been "bold, resolute, and watershed in some cases".
Mr Tay cited several examples, including the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), the upcoming formation of a labour tribunal to help those in pay disputes, and recent amendments to the Employment Act.
However, more can be done, MPs said, especially since around 40,000 to 45,000 young Singaporeans are expected to enter the job market over the next three years, with two thirds aspiring to be in professionals, managers, executives and technicians positions.
MP Foo Mee Har said that while the FCF requires companies to advertise in a jobs bank before applying to hire a foreigner, the final decision on who to employ is still left entirely to the firm.
"The Manpower Minister further emphasised that FCF is not about "Hire Singaporeans First" - but many are asking, 'Why not?'" said Ms Foo.
She said manpower policies for PMEs should move from a "defensive, anti-discrimination position" to one where the hiring and development of Singaporeans is actively promoted and championed.
Mr Tay, the National Trades Union Congress' assistant secretary-general, said that it was important to build up the competencies and profile of the Singaporean PME workforce, and he proposed a three-pronged approach.
Firstly, PMEs must have a mental shift in spending time to cultivate a second skill to ensure lifelong employability or to fulfil their aspirations, Mr Tay said.
He emphasised a need for attitudinal changes to focus less on paper qualifications, and greater mapping and development of individuals' abilities.
Mr Tay called for the pilot Individual Learning Portfolio - an online account for workers to track their training and job opportunities - to be launched and extended to all PMEs and companies.
Secondly, he said the system and training regime instituted by the Government has to support individuals' aspirations.
He proposed expanding the Workforce Skills Qualifications to include an even greater focus on PMEs, instead of just rank-and-file workers and mid-level technical staff.
While Government funding for training is currently tied to the needs of industries and employers, Mr Tay proposed giving individual PMEs greater access to the lifelong learning fund, with guidance from career coaches.
The Government should also promote "second skilling" and provide incentives for companies which allow their staff to pursue a second skill during office hours.
Thirdly, Mr Tay urged employers to support their staff in continuing education and training. Labour productivity, upgrading efforts and remuneration should be seen as a whole package, he noted.