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Creative Craftsman Apprenticeship Programme fits in with thrust of SkillsFuture

SINGAPORE — Trade associations have been encouraged to craft programmes for workers to raise their quality of work, which in turn benefits industries as a whole.

SINGAPORE — Trade associations have been encouraged to craft programmes for workers to raise their quality of work, which in turn benefits industries as a whole.

One such initiative is the Creative Craftsman Apprenticeship Programme launched last February to develop a pool of skilled local carpenters for the Singapore furniture industry. This fits in with the thrust of SkillsFuture, a national effort that provides opportunities for Singaporeans to develop themselves throughout life. The initiative was raised at MediaCorp’s Budget forum, “Ask the Finance Minister”.

The programme is a collaboration among the SFIC Institute, the National Trades Union Congress, the Employment and Employability Institute or e2i, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and the Polytechnic of Western Australia. The programme is aimed at those who want to pursue a career in the furniture industry.

A sum of S$3.5 million has been set aside to place and train about 180 Singaporeans through this six-month structured apprenticeship programme. And since its launch, some 25 companies have signed up for the programme.

The trainee’s course fees and salaries will be paid by the employers, with funding support from e2i and WDA to encourage employers to hire more locals.

Eligible candidates are matched with participating employers and trainees are paid a starting salary of S$1,500 per month during the first six months of the programme.

Upon graduation, they will get a S$100 increment from their company. And if they stay a further six months, they will receive an additional S$200 - that adds up to S$1,800. And with this certification, they can rise up the ranks. A senior craftsman commands up to S$2,300 or up to S$4,000 as a master craftsman.

The syllabus comprises a 12-day induction programme and a 10-week carpentry skills workshop interspersed with on-the-job training and mentorship sessions with their new employers.

Mr Iszad Razali is a graduand of the programme. After his ‘O’-Levels, the 27-year-old held various jobs. But his true passion of being a carpenter or what’s now known as a creative craftsman became a reality when he signed up for the programme last year.

The course helped to sharpen the skills set of Mr Iszad - who was in the first batch of 18 students. “I learn a lot at my workplace, like how to handle the tools, the safety (aspects) and the techniques of work,” he said.

Employers are also noticing that the skills of their staff have improved, and this has helped with staff retention.

Mr Aaron Arthur Foeste, owner of Arthur Zaaro Design LLP, said: “Prior to the creative craftsman programme, it would be a question of how long do we want them to stay or how long are they willing to stay, because for some of them we can see within a couple of months that they probably shouldn’t stay.

“We get a lot of people who are job-hopping or are looking for a slightly easier type of work. Probably about a year on average would be how long people stay. And it’s very difficult for us because we probably lose money training someone and bringing someone up to speed for the first three or four months and if they are going to be gone within a year, it won’t be worth it.”

As a result of the programme, many are also taking pride in their work. Said Mr Ernie Koh, president of Singapore Furniture Industries: “We don’t want carpenters to be just carpenters. We want carpenters to be creative craftsmen. The difference between a carpenter and a craftsmen is that craftsmen are able to interpret designs or even able to contribute designs in technical terms and on top of that are able to manufacture and construct from design to become a physical product.” CHANNEL NEWSASIA

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