SINGAPORE: The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) says the government can help in defraying the cost of training foreign workers.
In an interview with MediaCorp, SNEF president Stephen Lee said the federation is in discussions with various agencies to see how this can be done.
Mr Lee pointed out that the productivity of foreign workers must be raised in order for Singapore to achieve its long term productivity target of 2 to 3 per cent.
To recruit better skilled workers, the federation says a few industries are working with the authorities to implement a stricter pre—selection process where workers are tested for their skills before they arrive in Singapore.
Construction workers like Umesh Sundaram survives on less than S$300 a month. He earns about S$1,100 a month and sends most of it to his family in India.
The 25—year—old hopes he can earn more as his skills improves.
"I’d like to go for training to be more productive, so it can increase my salary," said Umesh.
The Workforce Development Agency (WDA) tells MediaCorp that only a small number of foreign workers are sent for training by their companies.
Mr Lee said foreign workers, who represent one third of the workforce, cannot be neglected.
"We must have some programmes to train foreign workers. Those who are already here, (we can) re—train them, to upgrade their skills...the more sensitive question is: who will take up the tab for this training?" he said.
"We are in discussions with various agencies to see how they can do that without putting undue burden on the government’s training expenses," he added.
The government currently does not provide direct training subsidies for foreign workers.
Labour chief Lim Swee Say pointed out that employers are ultimately responsible for improving the productivity of migrant workers.
"The ownership of upgrading every worker cannot be with the government, or the tripartite partners, it has to be with the management," he said.
Observers noted that some companies hire foreign workers on short—term contracts, which reduce the incentive to send them for training.
However they pointed out that there were many reasons to train workers who stay with the company longer; HR experts believe foreign workers will be able to earn more when their productivity increases and can take on greater responsibilities.
"Cost is always a major consideration for any business and if the company has to come out with additional cost to train these foreign workers and with very minimal productivity gains, then it won’t be (much of an incentive)," said Ronald Lee, managing director of PrimeStaff Management Services.
"However, if the government does come by and also support and provide finances to supplement this training, then it will be easier to incentivise the employers to provide more training," he said.
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