SINGAPORE: Part—time workers will be better prepared for jobs, with a structured training programme being developed by SPRING Singapore and the Workforce Development Agency (WDA).
They are working on a formalised training plan, following a pilot national programme, conducted from September last year to June this year.
That programme was for part—timers in the retail and F&B sectors and attracted 90 companies. About 2,500 part—timers were recruited and trained.
Joey Ong has been working part—time since she was in Secondary Two. The 18—year—old student was recruited by the company she worked for and started work without any formal training.
Last year, she joined the pilot programme for part—time workers. She was hired by an employment agency, TTC Group, and was trained before being deployed to Palm Beach restaurant.
Ms Ong said: "During the training, they taught us how to serve food, how to place the cutlery on the table, how to handle difficult customers. Through the training, I’ve learnt a lot of things. I feel that the training really helps and I use it when I’m at Palm Beach restaurant."
The eight—hour training session also included elements such as role playing. Besides training, the part—timers also had to go through a structured selection process. All these were done to help create a ready pool of part—time workers.
After the training, part—timers were evaluated and graded. Those who met the evaluation criteria were selected for deployment, while part—timers who failed to meet the mark will undergo re—training.
A large proportion of part—timers are students, followed by homemakers and retirees. Most students work part—time to earn pocket money, while others are in it for the exposure and experience. As for homemakers, they are likely to be stay—at—home mothers with children of school—going age, who can spare some time to take on a part—time job.
Palm Beach restaurant employs 12 part—time workers each day. Its operations manager, Doris Chee, said pooling part—time workers offers economies of scale for training and benefits, as well as greater flexibility in scheduling of deployment.
She said the F&B sector in Singapore is always short of staff, and Palm Beach now uses regular part—timers six to seven days a week.
Ms Chee said: "I need fixed people, the same face, so that it’s easier for us to train. Because if every day, workers are changing, different people, it’s difficult for us to train."
Part—timers usually work shifts of four hours. To solve the labour crunch and coax more casual workers into the job market, some companies are shortening the shifts to as low as two hours.
However, SPRING Singapore said offering short shifts may not be an easy solution.
Its assistant chief executive Choy Sauw Kook said: "In the practical sense, we see that the two—hour shift schedule may not be as ideal unless the commuting time is minimal.
"On average, for a part—timer to get from home to the workplace is about half an hour to one hour of travelling time. So for the two—hour flexi time to be attractive, the monetary income earned for that two hours of work must more than compensate the opportunity cost for the travelling time.
"So that’s why ideally, the work should be located at the heartlands or near where they stay."
SPRING Singapore added that it is important to prepare part—timers before they start work.
Ms Choy said: ""It’s also important for the company to let the part—timers feel that they are a part of the organisation even though they may spend shorter working periods at the work place.
"Equitable benefits and compensation, defined job roles, and performance expectations and deliverables, management of staff and communication on the ground will help the part—timers integrate with the full—time core team.
"So, with this support infrastructure in place, there’s greater tendency for the part—timers to view the company as a choice employer. These are the important learning points that we gained from the pilot project."
During the pilot phase, manpower services firm TCC Group recruited and trained the pool of part—time workers.
Moving forward, SPRING Singapore plans to work with more employment services companies.
Ms Choy said: "What we will do is, once we bring in more service providers and work with them to see what are their niche areas, in terms of drawing in the part—timers and the sectors they are comfortable in, we will then map out which are the suitable sectors that potentially can benefit from the part—time pool work arrangement."
Another suitable sector where the pool of part—time workers can be expanded is the hotel sector, where skills are more transferable.
Data from the Manpower Ministry showed the number of part—time workers has been growing, with about 194,700 part—time workers in 2011, compared with 176,700 in 2010.
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