Singapore invests S$90 mil to train knowledge workers

The push toward a knowledge economy comes with new challenges and calls for new skill sets to offer innovative goods and services. Cost-effective training becomes essential, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.

The push toward a knowledge economy comes with new challenges and calls for new skill sets to offer innovative goods and services. Cost-effective training becomes essential, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Singapore's Minister for Finance Dr Richard Hu launched on Friday the 'On-the-Job Training for the 21st century' scheme (OJT 21) to accelerate and strengthen on-the-job training as a pillar in the labor infrastructure focusing on quality and productivity of the workforce in Singapore.

About S$90 million has been set aside to implement OJT 21, the target of which is to train 500,000 workers through structured on-the-job training programs by the year 2005. This target is five times the target of 100,000 set in thye first OJT 2000 Plan initiated in 1993 by the government, and goes toward the objective of skilling at least a third of Singapore's indigenous workforce by 2005.

According to Mr Henry Heng, general manager (workforce and local enterprise), Singapore Productivity and Standards Board (PSB), as much as 75% of work skills are acquired on the job. "OJT has been proven a cost-effective tool for our companies, especially the SMEs, to build up their capabilities and competencies for upgrading, growth and greater competitiveness, Traditional SMEs face the 'no time no money' syndrome when it comes to training. When business is good, there is no time to train their staff. When business is poor, there is no money for staff training."

"The emergence of the knowledge economy has brought new challenges. Their employees need to be provided with new skills so that they are able to offer innovative goods and services. Through OJT, companies will be able to invest in training cost-effectively," he added.

The benefits of structured OJT, he highlighted, include faster response to market, improved work processes, cost-effectiveness and better staff performance. This is especially so with the introduction of fast-growing technologies into the workplace, and the demands that a technologically driven market and competitors place upon SMEs. To succeed, companies have to respond quickly to changing business requirements and to differentiate themselves in the market.

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