Career News (August 2020)

Highlights of manpower news in Singapore this month included:

Suntec Singapore lays off staff due to impact of Covid-19 on MICE industry
Nearly half of the employees of the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre (Suntec Singapore) have been retrenched amid the ongoing decimation of the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) industry. The venue said yesterday that the 85 workers – consisting of 60 Singaporeans and permanent residents, and 25 foreigners – held jobs in food production, sales and events, human resources, and finance. With the retrenchment exercise, Suntec Singapore will have a remaining workforce of 89 local staff and four foreign staff.

Job rules tightened to protect Singaporeans
The tightened regulations include: from 1 September 2020, firms applying for new Employment Passes (EPs) for foreign professionals will need to pay them a fixed monthly salary of at least $4,500, up from $3,900 nowand employers will have to advertise jobs on the portal for at least 28 days before they can apply for a new EP or S Pass for a foreign candidate, from 1 Oct 2020. The bar will be set higher for those in the financial services sector – from Dec 1, new EP holders will need to be paid at least $5,000.

Jobs available in various sectors including ICT and manufacturing
Jobs are available in various sectors such as ICT and manufacturing. 18,000 jobs and skills training opportunities in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector are currently available to Singaporeans, and 6,300 jobs, traineeships, attachments and training opportunities are on offer from nearly 1,000 companies in the manufacturing sector for local job seekers.

For the manufacturing sector, about four in five – or 5,100 roles – are for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs). In the ICT sector, positions available include software engineers, system analysts, data scientists and cyber security specialists.

Also, more help will be given to local mid-career job seekers to move into new roles in Singapore’s growing biomedical science sector, which has remained a bright spot amid the recession-hit economy.

27 laid off in Boeing retrenchment exercise
Boeing Asia Pacific Aviation Services (Bapas), a joint venture between The Boeing Company and SIA Engineering Company, laid off 27 workers on 28 August 2020. The company said measures were taken at the start of the pandemic to manage costs and save jobs, but in light of “significant financial challenges” due to the economic downturn and the persistent effects of the pandemic on the aviation industry it undertook retrenchment as a last resort.

More job fairs in the heartlands
The National Trades Union Congress’ Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) has been working with community partners, including agencies and employers, to bring job and training opportunities to the heartlands where they can reach more Singaporeans. Job fairs have taken place in areas like Admiralty, Bishan and Taman Jurong, and offer career advice and on-the-spot interviews with potential employers. Attendees also were able to walk from booth-to-booth to apply and learn more about positions available.

Engineers, chefs and other jobs offered by startups
The top five jobs most commonly offered by start-ups as part of the SGUnited Jobs and Skills programmes are software developers, chefs, engineers, sales, marketing and business development managers, and administrative and related associate professionals. These five job roles pay a median monthly salary of between $2,700 and $6,000. Manpower Minister Josephine Teo also addressed misconceptions about working at startups, such as the claim that startups pay lower salary and tend to favour young entrepreneurs.

New scheme to help workers in hard-hit industries to be announced
The scheme aims to help workers in the hard-hit retail and aerospace industries by matching them with surrogate employers for training for six to 12 months, to equip them with industry-relevant skills and help them gain long-term employment. Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) president Robert Yap told The Straits Times that the group is in discussions with various partners on the programme, and aims to roll it out within 12 months after details are firmed up. The aim is for the scheme to function not as a stop-gap measure, but a longer-term solution that prepares workers for the future.

Ministerial Statement includes extension of Jobs Support Scheme and Jobs Growth Initiative
During his Ministerial Statement on 17 August 2020, DPM Heng Swee Keat announced that the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) would be extended by up to seven months. The subsidies will now cover wages paid up to March next year for firms in sectors harder-hit by the Covid-19 crisis, and up to December this year for sectors which are managing well.

He also introduced the new $1 billion Jobs Growth Incentive to boost hiring of local workers in the coming months. Under this incentive, firms that hire local workers over the next six months will receive a subsidy of up to 25% of their salaries for one year, subject to a cap. This applies to growth firms that meet the qualifying criteria, and focuses on hiring older workers whose higher salary expectations are one of the bigger challenges this demographic poses for employers.

Retrenched workers face less stigma due to the impact of Covid-19 on industry
While retrenchment is always difficult, the attached stigma has lessened as companies and organisations recognise the impact of Covid-19. A growing number of laid-off employees are honestly stating on their CVs and resumes that they were retrenched due to the impact of the pandemic. Singapore Human Resources Institute president Low Peck Kem was quoted as saying: “The pandemic has changed the notion of retrenchment, as it is an easy scapegoat to blame… It is never the worker’s fault, it is not even the company’s fault, it is Covid-19’s fault.”

Weekly reports on job market to update locals for the coming months
MOM will give weekly reports on the job market for the coming months, to keep locals updated on employment opportunities and retrenchments. The reports will provide “a comprehensive look at what’s happening in the labour market”, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said. Companies will also find the updates useful, as employers can use the information to get an up-to-date pulse of the labour market to plan their manpower resources and future projects. Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said unions, trade associations and employers will be involved in the collective effort to provide updates on the economy and job situation by sector.

Fair Retrenchment Framework announced by NTUC to be added to advisory
Employers and the government have agreed to include at least some elements of the NTUC Fair Retrenchment Framework in the tripartite advisory. The Framework, which was announced last month as some companies carried out retrenchment exercises, says firms should protect the Singaporean core of the workforce, while foreigners with critical skills can be retained as well. It also says companies should act early and explore cost-cutting measures such as wage cuts and secondments before considering retrenchments, and where layoffs are inevitable, they should provide fair retrenchment packages and processes.

SIM, RMIT collaborate to offer online learning courses to Singaporeans
Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) and RMIT Online are tying up to offer “skills-based, industry-designed” online learning opportunities for Singaporeans. The former will provide a selection of courses from the latter’s existing portfolio to help develop skills identified as necessary for Singapore to remain competitive in increasingly digitised industries, both institutions said in a joint statement on Wednesday. The first suite of courses to be offered include the areas of artificial intelligence, agile project management, digital marketing, cybersecurity and data analytics.

MAS urges financial firms to grow local talent pool
A week after the MOM reported that 47 employers were placed on a watch list for possible discriminatory hiring practices, with most from the financial and professional services sectors, MAS urged financial institutions to grow the local talent pool through hiring Singaporeans. MAS deputy managing director Jacqueline Loh told the SGUnited Financial Sector Jobs and Skills Fair: “We have to remain open and will continue to welcome global talent that complement our workforce. Employers must, however, hire in a responsible manner and commit to growing the local talent pool.” In response, banks and financial institutions have asserted that they keep a strong local core in the workforce, while growing the pipeline of local talent. 70% of employees of Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore are locals, while DBS reported that 90% of its workforce comprises of Singaporeans and PRs.

Logistics and e-commerce still hiring in pandemic
Thanks to rising online sales, the logistics and warehousing industry and associated companies are still hiring. The sector is important in helping to ensure the flow of goods remains open during this unprecedented time, and that it is key in supporting long-term economic recovery because it helps global trade.

Employers tap on Professional Conversion Programmes to reskill employees
Compared to last year, about 13% more companies took part in Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) this year, said Workforce Singapore (WSG), the statutory board which develops and runs PCPs. This comprises more than 900 companies took part in Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) and as a result, more than 2,600 mid-career individuals benefited in the first half of this year, about 20% more than the number who did so in the first half of last year.

47 employers under scrutiny for discriminatory hiring
47 more employers have been added to the existing 1,200 employers on the watchlist, said MOM. Of the 47, 30 are in the financial services and professional services sectors, and the rest are in administrative and support services, manufacturing and education. They comprise both large and small companies. Among them are banks and fund managers, as well as management consulting firms and firms providing project management and engineering services.

“While these firms were supporting local PMET employment, their workforce profiles raise concerns when compared to industry peers,” said the MOM, explaining that they were put on the watch list because of their exceptionally high shares of foreign PMETs compared with their industry peers.

Workforce Singapore helps 10,000 find jobs
Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) career-matching services have placed some 10,000 people in appropriate positions, similar to that of the same period last year. However, in recognition of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, The government agency said that it has been ramping up its efforts to source and curate jobs by organising as many virtual and physical career fairs as possible in the past few months.

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