Speech by Ms Low Yen Ling, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Trade and Industry, at the Official Opening of Asian Culinary Institute of Singapore at the Asian Culinary Institute, Lifelong Learning Institute Building

Published Date: 15 June 2016 12:00 AM

News Speeches

His Excellency, Mr Kenji Shinoda, Ambassador of Japan to Singapore

Mr Ng Cher Pong, Chief Executive, Singapore Workforce Development Agency

Ms Jeanne Liew, Principal & CEO, Nanyang Polytechnic

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Introduction

1. Good morning. It is my pleasure to be here at the official opening of the Asian Culinary Institute of Singapore (ACI), a collaboration between Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA).

Outlook of F&B industry – Importance of restructuring and transformation

2. Singapore is a food paradise, and Singaporeans love our food. Given Singapore’s reputation as one of Asia Pacific’s gourmet capitals, the Food and Beverage (F&B) Services industry plays a vital role in our economy. This industry contributed close to 1% to our total GDP in 2015, and employs more than 200,000 workers in over 6,700 F&B establishments. This sector has great potential for growth. However, the industry faces a challenging environment in terms of an ageing workforce, and a shortage of local workers equipped with the necessary skills to drive productivity in the sector. It is therefore crucial that we adopt measures to attract, develop and retain talent within this important industry, and improving HR practices is central to such efforts.

Government Support for Industry Transformation - Set up of ACI

3. To this end, the Food Services Sectoral Manpower Plan (SMP) is a key initiative in this regard because this will help us build a deeply-skilled Singaporean core in Food Services. This SMP was launched on 31 May this year and aims to accelerate job redesign, strengthen HR capabilities of companies as well as deepen the skills of the F&B sector through continual learning. Besides all these efforts, it is also very critical that we have the right training delivery and infrastructure like what you see today, to ensure trainees, young and old, pick up industry-relevant skills. To this end, NYP and WDA have therefore set up the Asian Culinary Institute (ACI) to support skills deepening and productivity in Food Services. Chefs now can acquire new skills and adopt the latest technologies through ACI which offers cutting-edge facilities and also state-of-the-art cooking equipment such as the Variocooker. I understand this Variocooker can benefit small kitchens with its high capacity as well as multifunctional cooking – it really is about helping expand capacity and strengthen capability development even within small kitchens. Such training will not only boost productivity in the kitchens. In fact, as consumers, we will all be happy to know that it will get food served to the tables faster. With such training and better skills, all these improvements can be achieved without compromising on the taste and quality of the food served to us. In addition to training and career services, ACI will also offer consultancy and undertake applied research projects to enhance sectoral practices. This could be in the area of manpower optimisation or even productivity improvements stemming from workflow redesign and automation.

4. In line with the effort to build a pipeline of local chefs, ACI has been appointed as the Programme Manager for the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme (ELP) in Food Services. Under this 15-month programme, fresh graduates from relevant polytechnic and ITE programmes can get a head-start into the F&B sector as culinary chefs or in F&B management. The programme includes a few modules such as structured on-the-job training. It is through experiential learning that our students really register the knowledge and skills that is being imparted to them. The programme also includes productivity improvement project for implementation at the workplace, mentorship as well as facilitated learning by ACI. I am pleased to note that to date, 18 polytechnic and ITE graduates have been successfully placed in eight F&B companies like the BreadTalk Group, the Sakae Group and the Tung Lok Group. We hope these numbers will increase over time.

5. Let me share with you Ms Lee Mei Jin’s story. She was recruited by BreadTalk and joined the Food Services ELP in July last year. She enjoys her training at ACI and, even more importantly, she has found the knowledge gained to be very relevant to her current job at BreadTalk. She shared with us that the training she received through the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme has broadened her horizon and widened her perspective especially in the area of management of staff, inventory and suppliers.

6. Competent mentors are very important in the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme model. They are the trainees’ first point of contact in the company and they play a crucial role in guiding them throughout their placement. We have launched a few SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programmes and I am very heartened to hear that in some cases the relationship between our trainees and mentors go beyond the ELP period. I understand ACI values the importance of mentorship. This is why ACI has rolled out a course called Mentoring for Effective ELP Implementation for companies participating in the Food Services ELP. This course will help potential mentors gain a better understanding of their role, and at the same time the knowledge and competencies required in the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme.

7. The SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme is a work-study programme, and many students and mentors have told us that this is a very good formula. This is because they would be able to immediately apply what they have learnt and also consult their mentors and supervisors regarding the differences between theory and practice. Our students are also very observant. We have heard from lecturers that because of this programme, students have also posed probing questions to the lecturers. This has led to highly interactive and engaging discussions between the lecturers and students. This is why we think SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme is one way for us to develop a pipeline of Singaporean core. Through such a work-study programme, it allows the student to reinforce what they have learnt, apply immediately, and also give them a very meaningful and experiential learning environment.

8. In addition to the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme, ACI has rolled out a suite of seven Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) programmes to equip new entrants with skills and knowledge, and help in-service employees upgrade and progress in their careers. These seven WSQ courses range from Certificate to Specialist Diploma levels in Culinary Arts and Asian Pastry & Bakery tracks, as well as short courses on Food Safety and Hygiene.

9. To date, I understand that 70 companies have sent their employees for training at ACI and the institute has trained more than 850 trainees.

Deepening skills through lifelong learning

10. ACI’s various courses provide many opportunities for Singaporeans to deepen their skills in the F&B sector, and many of these courses are eligible for SkillsFuture Credit. I am very happy to hear about Singaporeans enthusiastically pursuing their culinary passion as they use SkillsFuture Credit and sign up for ACI’s courses.

11. Take Mr Shum San Wah for example. The 66 year-old Singaporean was not a chef before – he had worked in the IT industry for 30 years. In 2014, he made a major decision to pursue his passion in cooking, and switched to working part-time in the F&B sector. Over the last two years, Mr Shum has completed the WSQ Certificate, Higher Certificate and Advanced Certificate in Culinary Arts (Asian Cuisine) at ACI. He had used his SkillsFuture Credit to offset part of his course fees. He shared with us that the training not only enhanced his skills; it has boosted his confidence and helped him perform even better in his part-time work. It has broadened his opportunities, and he is now working in the different restaurants in Resorts World Singapore. Mr Shum continues to pursue his passion and deepen his skills, and he is looking forward to taking up the WSQ Diploma in Culinary Arts (Asian Cuisine) next month.

12. Ms Clarine Lin is another wonderful example of Singaporeans pursuing lifelong learning. After completing the WSQ Certificate in Culinary Arts (Asian Cuisine), the former housewife with three young children re-entered the workforce as a part-time pastry cook at Grand Plaza City Hall. While the hotel is being renovated, Ms Lin has taken the initiative to upgrade her skills by enrolling in the WSQ Certificate in Asian Pastry and Bakery course at ACI. These additional skills certainly will put Ms Lin in good stead as she gains greater expertise in culinary arts.

Memorandum of Understanding with Industry Partners

13. These two examples show how ACI’s courses are equipping new entrants, such as stay-at-home mums and those who have made career switches, with the necessary skills to ease their entry into the F&B sector. To further attract and recruit new entrants into the F&B industry, ACI has signed MOUs with 11 F&B and hospitality organisations, including Pan Pacific Hotel, Neo Group and Kay Lee Pte Ltd. The areas of collaboration include a five-year sponsorship for new entrants and existing workers pursuing training programmes, work attachments and mentoring of ACI’s trainees, as well as culinary demonstrations by chefs to generate publicity and awareness on Asian cuisines.

14. Existing chefs who wish to upgrade their skills can also tap on a series of planned Masterclass programmes organised by ACI in areas such as new cooking techniques, innovative cuisines and the usage of new cooking equipment. Moving forward, especially in a digital era, for any business to make an impact, you have to focus on what tastes, looks and feels good because this are the things that matter to us. This is why ACI is actively rolling out MOUs with all the key partners to put together a compelling value proposition for in-service chefs and new entrants. For instance, ACI has signed an MOU with Japan Food Town Development to develop programmes in Japanese Cuisine. Under this MOU, ACI flew in Master Chef Shin-ichi Nan-moku, who has 36 years of experience in Japanese Culinary skills, to provide best-in-class training in Japanese Specialty food for Singapore chefs. This initiative is timely as 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Singapore and Japan’s diplomatic relations. We are already looking forward to the ACI offering more interesting Japan-related programmes.

Conclusion

15. ACI is well-positioned to be WDA’s CET Centre for the food industry with its wide range of course offerings and NYP’s strong industry links and state-of-the-art facilities.

16. I wish ACI every success in supporting the transformation of the Food Services industry and in enabling many Singaporeans to pursue skills deepening in this industry.

17. Thank you.

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