STEPS TAKEN TO PROFESSIONALISE BLUE-COLLAR TRADES IN CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY FOR SINGAPOREANS

Some weeks back, I met a Bukit Batok resident who is in the construction industry. He is of the same age as I this year; ie 55. He lamented over the fact that there are fewer Singaporeans considering blue-collar trades in the construction industry. He also felt there was scope to professionalise their jobs with Government support so that they can be more skilled and productive and earn meaningful wages. I therefore filed a Parliamentary Question with the Minister for National Development asking what steps can be taken on this front. My question and his answer may be found through this link.

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Mr Murali Pillai asked the Minister for National Development (a) whether he can give an assessment of the steps taken by the Government to professionalise blue-collar trades in the construction industry for Singaporeans to ensure that there is a core number of Singaporeans in these trades who are adequately skilled, highly productive and earn meaningful wages; and (b) what further steps have been identified to attract Singaporeans to take up these trades.

Mr Desmond Lee: Currently, the majority (about 60%) of locals employed in the construction industry take on Professional, Manager, Executive and Technician (PMET) roles rather than blue-collar jobs (e.g. craftsmen, assemblers, labourers), which are predominantly taken up by migrant workers. Under the Construction Industry Transformation Map (ITM), the Government aims to leverage technology to make construction firms more productive and to reduce their reliance on migrant workers. At the same time, this will create more higher-skilled and higher value-added jobs that we aim to attract Singaporeans to take up.

For instance, the increased adoption of Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) will shift the production of building components to automated off-site facilities. This will create new jobs such as production managers and quality assurance personnel that could attract more Singaporeans.

On-site, contractors require highly skilled crane operators to hoist DfMA components and manoeuvre them into place with precision. This is an example of a high demand, high value-added job with competitive wages that has the potential to attract more locals. We will consider how to build on existing programmes, such as the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Work-study Diploma for students and Career Conversion Programmes (CCP) for mid-career entrants, to upskill and attract more Singaporeans to take on such jobs.

In addition, BCA has embarked on a Jobs Transformation Map (JTM) study for the Built Environment sector to take a targeted approach to grow in-demand jobs. The JTM will examine the combined effects of COVID-19 and industry transformation and chart out interventions for specific roles. This could include re-designing or professionalising certain jobs. We aim to conclude the JTM in the second half of this year and will work with our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) and firms to implement the recommendations.

The Government will continue to work with TACs to transform the industry, identify more good jobs with high localisation potential and attract more Singaporeans to join the construction industry.

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Murali Pillai

Member of Parliament, Bukit Batok SMC, Advisor to Bukit Batok SMC GROs.