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NTUC Plans to Develop the Career Progression Model for Skilled Trades Workers

The proposed model aims to raise workers’ wages and work prospects.
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By Nicolette Yeo 09 Feb 2023
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NTUC is setting its sights on improving skilled trades workers’ wages and work prospects.

These include plumbers, electricians, and air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation mechanics.

NTUC plans to work with various industry stakeholders to develop the Career Progression Model (CPM) for tradesmen.

NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng proposed this new initiative at a learning journey to an HDB plumbing maintenance site at Block 152 Jalan Teck Whye on 9 February 2023.

He said: “What we want to do in this space is to promote a ‘Career Progression Model’ so that tradesmen can have a proper framework of competency ladders to look at, in conjunction with a more structured career pathway.

“[We also hope that] youngsters will be attracted to these industries and have a full career.

“At the same time, they [should] be rewarded with a compensation package [that is] commensurate with the important essential work that they do.

“And importantly, Singaporeans can look to a transparent framework and higher quality of service.”

Mg Ng was accompanied by NTUC U SME Director Yeo Wan Ling and representatives from the Singapore Plumbing Society (SPS) and plumbing and sanitary firm JD Waters.

The upcoming CPM is part of the Labour Movement’s plan to expand the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) scope to help more workers.

Since it was launched in 2012, the PWM has made good strides in uplifting the lives of lower-wage workers.

By the end of this year, 94 per cent of lower-wage workers will be covered by progressive wage initiatives, including PWM.

During the learning journey, Mr Ng visited several areas where plumbing works are carried out. These included the main pump room on the ground floor and the plumbing booster system and water tanks on the rooftop.

Skilled Trades Workers

According to NTUC, there are over 50,000 skilled trades workers in Singapore today.

These include electrical and electronic trades, metal and machinery, building and related trades, among others.

Like workers in other sectors, skilled trades workers face several challenges.

NTUC shared that they earned a low median wage of about $2,600 in 2022.

This amount is close to the $2,500 Workfare Income Supplement threshold for lower-wage workers.

In addition, workers require extensive training and work experience to do the job well.

Many of them are also ageing.

According to the Singapore Labour Force Survey 2022, more than half of ‘Craftsmen & Related Trades Workers’ are above 50.

The survey also revealed a lack of new entrants coming into these trades.

It stated that the number of resident employees in these trades has fallen by 40 to 50 per cent over the last ten years.

NTUC is concerned that these trends will lead to a “skilled trades gap” where the older generation retires without new blood to take over.

As these workers provide essential services to Singapore, NTUC recognises the need to build a sustainable pipeline of local workers, especially the youth, in these trades.

Career Progression Model

The proposed CPM aims to build sustainable career pathways to attract and retain more local workers and professionalise the trades.

It will introduce structured technical skills competency frameworks leading to structured wages.

There will also be more defined post-tertiary education training pathways for workers to access these trades more seamlessly.

The CPM will also propose clear and transparent quality standards.

Companies will also be incentivised to implement productivity and technological improvements.

For example, firms will be encouraged to tap on the NTUC Company Training Committee (CTC) Grant for business and workforce transformation.

Plumbing Sector

Plumbers will be one group of tradesmen who will benefit from the CPM.

The plumbing CPM will draw the experience from the ongoing Operations and Technology Roadmap’s (OTR) ten-year plan to uplift the sector.

The OTR’s stakeholders include SPS, PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, Public Utilities Board Employees Union (PUBEU) and NTUC U SME.

Dilip Dickrose, 29, Managing Director of JD Waters, believes it is the younger generation’s responsibility to take care of national needs.

“Plumbing is a never-dying trade; it has to do with water and sanitation, which people need to use daily.

“Older plumbers are reaching the retirement age, so younger plumbers definitely need to uphold their roles and safeguard the nation’s interests in securing it always.”

Dilip, a licensed plumber, feels that the CPM will be able to attract younger workers because salaries will be more transparent.

“Nowadays, youngsters just look at salary. With this model, they will be able to have a look at what they earn and be interested in this industry.”

NTUC will continue to engage the relevant stakeholders, including unions, tradesmen and trade associations, to develop the CPM further.

An #EveryWorkerMatters Conversation will be held with tradesmen on 23 February 2023.