NAYPYIDAW: Myanmar authorities are looking to the Singapore model as it ramps up efforts to develop a skilled workforce.
In the spotlight is Singapore’s workforce development system.
The Myanmar Labour Ministry has approached the institute of higher learning, Singapore Polytechnic, to see how Singapore’s technical expertise and development experience can apply in the Myanmar context.
"We’re expecting an influx of foreign investment, which will need a ready pool of certified skilled workers," says Deputy Labour Minister U Myint Thein.
"We’re also preparing for ASEAN integration, which aims to have a free flow of skilled labour within the community by 2015," he said.
"For skilled Myanmar workers to travel freely, we need national certifications as a form of quality assurance for employers."
Myanmar has an estimated population of 48 million according to the World Bank, with the majority living in rural areas.
Government statistics show a 90 per cent primary school enrolment rate, but only 30 per cent of the population reaches high school level.
Local training providers say the current vocational training system is highly varied, which can get complicated for both workers and employers.
"Different ministries and companies offer training and certificates according to their own standards, so there’s a need to unify the system," says Daw Khin Mar Aye, who heads a government—funded training centre that provides welding and electrical courses.
Setting up national standards for skills training is part of Myanmar’s current reform of its labour laws, which date back to the 1950s.
The Labour Ministry has recently tabled a new Employment and Skills Development Law for discussion in parliament.
Current regulations encourage the private sector to offer training on a voluntary basis, but the new law aims to make some training provisions mandatory.
For reference, the Myanmar Labour Ministry is looking at Singapore’s Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) system, which is a set of national credentials used to train, test and certify skilled workers for a range of industries, from engineering, HR to tourism.
Its collaboration with Singapore Polytechnic will see 30 Myanmar officials from its National Skill Standard Authority (NSSA) arrive in Singapore at the end of July for a training workshop conducted by Polytechnic staff.
The three parties on Tuesday signed an agreement to kick off the project in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw.
Singapore Polytechnic Principal Tan Hang Cheong says language and cultural differences are the basic challenges for participating staff, but having the right attitude is more critical.
"We’re coming not just with the attitude to give, but also to learn from the Myanmar people, from their resilience and hard work."
The project is funded by a S$200,000 grant from the Temasek Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Singapore investment company Temasek Holdings.
"All across Asia, there’s a need for vocational training," says Temasek Foundation CEO Benedict Cheong.
"People realise you can’t just have leaders from universities. You need a group of equally trained and skilled middle and technical managers to build up the community."
Another Singapore Polytechnic workshop in Yangon is scheduled for September.
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