SINGAPORE – Mid-career job seekers looking to work at retailers that are integrating online and offline platforms, and firms in need of workers with such skills will soon be able to tap a new programme that matches one with the other.

The first run of the retail track of the professional conversion programme for executives will start in June, providing three months of classroom and on-the-job training. Participants could take on roles such as retail digital executives, supervisors or junior managers.

The programme is being run by the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) in collaboration with the Singapore Retailers Association and with government support, in an effort to transform the retail sector.

Dr Robert Yap, SNEF president since 2014, said the organisation – which represents 3,400 employers – will work with mall operators, such as CapitaLand, to encourage their retail tenants to tap the scheme.

It will also advise employers on how to access government grants – such as the Productivity Solutions Grant – so that they can adopt tech solutions and equipment and redesign their jobs and workplaces. This could enable older employees to continue in meaningful work.

Skills training and job redesign go hand in hand with the technology solutions that SNEF is pushing for, such as a national order management system to help the entire retail ecosystem better cater to more e-commerce orders and deliveries, Dr Yap told The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao in an interview on April 19, ahead of an event to celebrate SNEF’s 40th anniversary yesterday.

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Beyond retail, Dr Yap said that SNEF’s aims are to help employers boost their productivity through digitalising and tapping government grants, improve their human resources policy and manage industrial relations harmoniously.

For example, it is considering providing sector-specific guidance on how to manage work-from-home arrangements.

“We’d like to be more vocal in sharing or shouting best practices rather than always (being) behind the scenes, and be a stronger voice for employers,” he said.

SNEF will also monitor trends like digitalisation and the impact of Covid-19 in order to coach and mentor companies to navigate new challenges and turn them into opportunities, he added.

Dr Yap, 68, also emphasised the value of Singapore’s tripartite relationship of Government, employers and unions, which he called “a beautiful gem”.

“We should emphasise that and even strengthen it further so that we can use it as our differentiator as we compete regionally,” he said.

Some of the high-level discussions SNEF has been involved in have been through the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers, which recommended the increases in retirement and re-employment ages being implemented over this decade, and the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers, which is looking at how to extend the progressive wage model to more workers. Dr Yap is an adviser to both groups.

He acknowledged that without a progressive wage system, most employers would be paying greater attention to the higher rungs of staff who are seen as being able to help the company grow, than to lower-paid employees.

“So the progressive wage model has that impact of creating positivity… no matter how lowly you are paid, we make sure that you have a way of improving – and that is also providing dignity,” he said.

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