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Speech By Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister Of State For Manpower And Health, At The Memorandum Of Understanding Signing Ceremony Cum Wsq Graduation Ceremony, At 11.40am, On 26 November 2013 (Tuesday), At The Chemical Process Technology Centre

Mr Phil Blewitt, Global Director, Technical Training, Petrofac Training Services,

Distinguished partners and guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to attend today’s Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) graduation ceremony for 605 students from the Institute of Technical Education, Nanyang, Ngee Ann, Singapore and Temasek Polytechnics. This is a significant milestone not only for these five Post-Secondary Education Institutes (PSEIs) and the graduands, but also for the Process WSQ framework. I will elaborate on this later.

The Singapore Chemical industry

2.          Let me first start by painting a picture of our chemical industry, which is part of the wider process industry. The chemical industry is an important pillar of Singapore’s manufacturing sector, and currently contributes about $30 billion to our Gross Domestic Product through petroleum refining, petrochemicals and specialty chemicals. In addition, the chemical industry currently employs around 24,000 workers in various occupations such as process technicians, quality control technologists and chemical engineers.

3.          With rapid urbanisation and increasing demand for petroleum-derived products by the Asian markets, Singapore’s chemical industry is set for its next wave of growth. A number of large-scale projects, such as ExxonMobil’s ethylene plant and Lanxess’ new butyl rubber facility, have commenced their operations here in Singapore, leading to increases in production capacity.

To support the expansion of the industry, more than 500 specialised jobs will be created annually over the next few years. With that in mind, we are working to develop a strong pipeline of local workers, equipped with adequate knowledge and skills to meet the manpower demands of the industry.

Developing a competitive workforce with practical training

4.          Singapore is currently undergoing economic restructuring in order to stay competitive amid a globalised marketplace. To maintain Singapore’s competitiveness, we need to develop a job-ready workforce by providing Singaporeans with opportunities to acquire foundational knowledge as well as practical skills through Pre-Employment Training (PET) like classroom-based training as well as Industrial Attachment (IA) training.

5.          Every year, about 600 students from the Chemical Engineering or related disciplines at these PSEIs undergo six to 10 weeks of IA as part of their academic curriculum.

The IA is conducted at Chemical Process Technology Centre (CPTC), operated by Petrofac Training Institute (PTI).

6.          The IA provides students with practical, hands-on experience in a “live” plant and exposure to a realistic work environment in the chemical industry. Notwithstanding this, many chemical companies still need to invest substantial amounts of time and resources to train newly-hired PSEI graduates, to familiarise them with real-life working environment, machinery and equipment. Hence, there is a need to enhance the IA so that students can more easily adapt to their workplaces when they join the chemical industry.

7.          To achieve this, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) has collaborated with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), PTI and the PSEIs to align the IA to the Process WSQ framework.

This initiative ensures that the training students undergo during the IA has been validated by the chemical industry and is attuned to actual needs of the workplace. The IA will also accelerate the learning curve for the PSEI graduates to contribute more productively at their workplaces. Furthermore, students who successfully complete the IA will receive up to eight WSQ Statements of Attainment (SOAs), which is equivalent to the full WSQ Certificate in Process Technology (Chemical Production). The alignment of the IA to the Process WSQ framework also provides our students with better employer and industry recognition of their skills competencies.

Forging closer links between PET and CET

8.          To forge closer linkages between Pre-Employment Training (PET) and Continuous Education and Training (CET), WDA has allocated $8 million to fund the Process WSQ-aligned IA of 1,650 PSEI students at CPTC over three years.

The initiative kicked off in March 2013, and to date, 605 trainees have already benefited from the Process WSQ training at CPTC, with over 4,800 SOAs issued by WDA. In addition, Singaporeans who attain their first full WSQ Certificate are also eligible for the CET Qualification Award (CQA) that provides a cash award of $200.

9.          This will enable Singaporeans to be equipped with strong foundational knowledge and practical industry skills as they undergo academic and vocational training. More importantly, this would allow Singapore to develop a world-class workforce with the knowledge and skills to stay relevant amid ever-changing workplace demands.

10.      I am heartened that the Institute of Technical Education, Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic have committed themselves to this initiative.

They will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with WDA and PTI to signify their commitment. We also have many key industry employers present here today to show their support for this initiative. The students of today will eventually drive the economy of tomorrow, and it is important to instil in them the importance of lifelong learning while they are still in school.

Career Prospects in the Chemical Industry

11.   Apart from training, the PSEIs will also work with WDA and industry players to organise career fairs. These career fairs will allow job-seekers to learn more about employment opportunities and career prospects in the chemical industry.

12.      Over the years, the chemical industry has also become more popular among female job-seekers. In fact, females account for almost 35 per cent of the graduands today. As more physical tasks become increasingly automated, female job-seekers will find it easier to cope with the industry’s workplace requirements. Hence, I would also like to encourage today’s female graduands to consider a long-term career in the chemical industry.

13.      In fact, one of today’s graduands is a female Singaporean who has already secured employment in the chemical industry even before she has completed her studies. Ms Clarissa Yew, aged 20, is currently pursuing a Diploma in Chemical Engineering at Temasek Polytechnic on a scholarship from Mitsui Chemicals Group. As part of her studies, she undertook the Process WSQ-aligned IA at CPTC from April to May this year. During her IA, Ms Yew received hands-on training in areas such as line tracing, heat exchangers and operational safety, which complemented what she has learnt through classroom training in school. The IA has also boosted her confidence in working in a male-dominated industry, and has also made her better prepared for an eventual career with Mitsui Chemicals Group. Well done, Clarissa!

Conclusion

14.      On this note, I would like to express my appreciation to WDA, EDB, PTI and the PSEIs for collaborating on this initiative to foster closer PET-CET linkages. Your efforts will go a long way towards developing a world class workforce for the chemical industry while maintaining a Singaporean core.

15.      I would also like to extend my heartiest congratulations to all the 605 students who will receive the WSQ Certificate in Process Technology (Chemical Production) today. I am confident that the Process WSQ-aligned IA has better prepared you for a career in the chemical industry. I encourage you to continue to embrace lifelong learning throughout your current studies and future careers.

16.   Thank you.