Speech by Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ms Low Yen Ling, at the Official Launch of the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme for the Hotel Sector at Republic Polytechnic

Published Date: 14 June 2016 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Very good afternoon, Mr. Yeo Li Pheow, Principal & CEO of Republic Polytechnic, Mr. Ng Cher Pong, Chief Executive, Singapore Workforce Development Agency, Mrs. Diana Ee-Tan, Member of the Board of Governors, Republic Polytechnic, Dr. Richard Helfer, Chairman of the School of Hospitality Advisory Committee, Republic Polytechnic, Our distinguished guests, especially friends from the hotel sector, Ladies and Gentlemen, Once again, a very good afternoon.

I am delighted to be back here in RP today for the launch of the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme (ELP) for the Hotel sector. I am heartened to know that this ELP has been very well received by ELP participants as well as employers. For that, we want to say a big thank you.

Singapore’s Hotel Industry

2 Now in my MTI capacity let me give an update of the numbers for the hotel industry. The Singapore hotel industry has grown significantly in the last decade. Between 2004 and 2014, the Revenue per available Room (RevPAR) has more than doubled from S$98 to S$221, and the total room revenue has tripled from S$1 billion to S$3 billion. Overall, the hotel room stock continues to increase, and is projected to grow by 20% between now and 2020. That being the trend, we also know that Singapore’s slowing workforce growth and changing career aspirations of the millennials are making it harder to attract and retain local talent. This is not just specific to the hotel industry; it is the same for many traditional industries. With changing consumer expectations and new models like AirBnB, the hotel industry must continue to evolve its service delivery and experience. 1

3 To better support the industry’s transformation and to enable it to better respond to the changes, challenges, and trends that I have outlined, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) have developed a Sectoral Manpower Plan (SMP) for the Hotel sector last year. Our friends in the hotel sector would be most familiar with that. This was done in collaboration with various industry stakeholders such as employers, associations and unions. The SMP is another key initiative under SkillsFuture that aims to better attract, develop and also retain Singaporeans for the hotel industry. What does it really aim to achieve? By designing and implementing the SMP, we want to groom local talent to take on leadership roles, improve job quality, and identify emerging skill-needs so as to build a future-ready workforce for the hotel sector.

The SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme for the Hotel Sector

4 To this end, I am delighted to announce that Republic Polytechnic (RP) and WDA are rolling out the Earn and Learn Programme for the hotel sector. This will boost the Hotel Industry’s thrust to grow a skilled workforce that is both competitive and future-ready. The ELP is a work-study programme that is designed to give our fresh polytechnic graduates or the boys who have completed NS, from the five polytechnics, a head-start in the hotel sector.

5 How so? Under the ELP, trainees will undertake a 12-month Specialist Diploma in Hospitality Business Management conducted by RP. Our ELP participants will deepen their knowledge and also acquire skills through On-The-Job-Training and working on company-based projects, and at the same time undergo classroom and e-Learning training. Where is the study component other than On-The-Job-Training, being guided by the mentor? Participating companies will release the trainees one day per week, for them to attend lessons at RP. I look forward to the sharing later by our ELP participants and the participating companies. They will share with you their insights. One graduate shared that the Earn and Learn Programme has really helped her in a very practical way. Students, when you come back to RP on Tuesdays, come back with good questions that were shaped when you were in the hotel, going through the On-The-Job-Training. One student told me, that this work-study arrangement helped her reinforce what she learned during that one day back at the polytechnic and could apply immediately the day after in the real-life work environment. Going through many iterations, it will get better with practice. Because it is very immediate, your retention is certainly better. At the same time, lecturers also shared with me that our ELP participants come back with very good and probing questions. These practical questions were shaped by their experiences gained during the other four days of the week. Because of that, the one day spent back at the polytechnic is more often than not, very interactive and engaging. This is one way that makes learning experiential and meaningful. This is the best way to fire up the passion for our students. For this run 48 trainees have enrolled in this programme. To date, this is the largest single intake for any ELP. To me, this underlines the strong support the programme is receiving from both employers and individuals.

6 If we reflect on why we have this strong support, it is because the programme benefits both employers and individuals. Participants will acquire the necessary skills for the job through structured training. The programme is curated with lessons so that the retention of knowledge is there and can be applied immediately. In the process, participants get an industry-recognised qualification upon completion of the 12-month programme. For employers, they will be able to strengthen their workplace learning capabilities, at the same time, work with the polys and WDA to develop career roadmaps for employees to enhance their talent retention strategy. This roadmap is not just important to recruit, but to develop and retain good staff for the hotel.

7 As the appointed Programme Manager for the ELP and Sector Co-ordinator for the hotel sector, RP has been working hard and closely with the other four polytechnics over the last few months. It has reached out to graduating cohorts and individuals who are completing their National Service, as well as employers. Through these concerted efforts, the ELP has garnered the support of 54 hotels with a projected 290 places for the next three years. A big thank you to all the hotels that have come on board. For this inaugural ELP run, RP has successfully placed 48 participants with 26 hotel partners like Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel Singapore, Marina Bay Sands and Pan Pacific Singapore. For each participating hotel, we have a very committed mentor. Mentorship is not easy, and they really want to value add to the participants for the next 12 months and beyond. The 48 trainees will be exposed to work in areas such as Front Office, Housekeeping, Sales and Marketing and Food and Beverage.

8 Out of the 48 participants, please allow me to share about two participants from this inaugural cohort who shine with their passion for the hotel industry and love for learning. First, ITE graduate Mohamed Aslam s/o Mohd Rafeek. He landed a job in a hotel with his Higher Nitec Certificate. Since then, he has not stopped upgrading his skills. In fact he has just completed a polytechnic hospitality diploma programme and is now embarking on this ELP which will lead to the Specialist Diploma with the support of his new employer, Marina Bay Sands. Congratulations Mohamed!

9 Another ELP participant is Charlene Chong Jun Leng. She is a bright and active student who excelled in her studies and extra-curricular activities. While studying at RP, Charlene was in the Director’s Roll of Honour for two years. She is very clear about what she wants. Instead of pursuing full-time further studies upon graduation, Charlene thought it is important for her to begin her working career in the hotel industry. She did so by joining Conrad Centennial Singapore and embarking on this ELP. Congratulations to you, Charlene! Besides Mohamed and Charlene, I am certain that our remaining 46 ELP participants all have very good stories to tell. I am certain, with their commitment and thirst for learning; they will gain from the headstart that they will get from their practical induction into the hotel sector.

10 Participants in this ELP are very privileged to have a wide variety of training labs that simulate the real industry work environment to enhance their learning. Here in RP, there is a state-of-the-art Hotel Lab equipped with digital and technological solutions, robotics and operational capabilities for student training. RP also collaborates actively with industry partners in the areas of applied research and productivity. Learning will be experiential and meaningful. I sincerely believe that only through experiential learning and combination of work-study type of programmes will our students be able to better understand the skillsets and the knowledge that has been imparted by our lecturers and mentors. That is how we can help to fire up the passion of our students in the particular industry.

11 Because of the strong support given by the participating companies to the ELP for the hotel sector, I am pleased to announce that RP will be extending its next run of ELP for the Hotel sector to ITE graduates in October 2016. This provides ITE graduates with opportunities to progress and attain a part-time Diploma in Business Practice (Hospitality Management) through the ELP route. This new pathway announced at the MOE’s Committee of Supply debate recently in April, will open up more opportunities and pathways for ITE graduates to help them develop their careers in this sector.

12 I want to take opportunity to thank RP and the industry for their efforts, as well as the efforts of the other four polytechnics and ITE in supporting the national SkillsFuture movement. The initial results have been very encouraging, especially from the responses to the ELP,

13 We cannot thank the employers enough. We know that other than focusing on your businesses, you have to take time off your busy schedules to guide our ELP participants as well as work with RP to better design the work-study programme and curate it. We want to thank you for coming on board with such commitment and it is only through coming together, can we then develop a strong and competitive Singapore workforce for the hotel industry.

Conclusion

14 We do this because all of us believe what SkillsFuture is all about. With SkillsFuture, individuals and businesses now have many pathways and opportunities for success and lifelong learning. I hope all of us here, especially Singaporeans capture the new possibilities that SkillsFuture is creating. SkillsFuture is not just about the $500 credit. SkillsFuture is also about today’s example of ELP and many other programmes. We hope each and everyone will be involved in one or more SkillsFuture initiatives. You can come on board to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge for a brighter future! On this note, I want to wish the 48 participants well. Enjoy your journey over the next 12 months. Once again, thank you to the mentors for guiding them and a big thank you to the participating companies as well as RP and the other four polys and ITE. Have a wonderful day ahead. Thank you.

Footnotes
  1. Source – Singapore Tourism Board “Towards Sustainable Growth for Singapore’s Hotel Industry”
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