The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) wants corporates to offer job attachment opportunities to the staff of voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) so that these employees from the not-for-profit sector can pick up best practices.

The call came just hours after the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced that it was looking into professionalising the social service sector here, possibly through a centralised recruitment process which would give practitioners a structured career path, with opportunities for inter-agency rotations.

NCSS' chief executive Ang Bee Lian, speaking to The Business Times after NCSS' annual general meeting yesterday, said that the business community can afford to be more innovative in giving support to VWOs.

Beyond writing cheques and holding fund-raisers, she said, corporates should open their doors to offer attachment opportunities to VWO staffers who are hungry to improve their operations know-how.

"My sense is that some companies are open to this, which is a good thing because their strategies can be adapted for the social sector," she said.

For instance, an employee of a VWO which offers meal services to the needy could benefit immensely from a work stint in a logistics company. A six- to eight-week attachment would give the VWO employee valuable insights into efficient delivery systems, which would in turn go some way to minimise food wastage and the time taken to deliver the food.

Under NCSS' vision, corporates could adopt a charity for three to five years.

In addition to short job attachments, the longer- term relationship would facilitate more skills-based volunteerism, where the corporate's lawyers, accountants or other professionals can lend their expertise to VWOs.

Ms Ang said: "We're ready to talk to anyone who is keen to do this right now. This sort of cross-pollination between the private and non-profit sectors will mean better service for beneficiaries."

Earlier yesterday, at a conference for members of the NCSS, Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said his ministry was exploring new ideas to attract, develop and retain talent in the social service sector. Not enough young people were aspiring to join the industry, creating a key manpower challenge that the MSF was looking to address, he said.

Of the centralised recruitment and development process that will move selected social service practitioners through a number of agencies to gain experience, he said that the process would work like how the labour movement deploys its officers to different unions.

"If we can find new, interesting and creative models, perhaps we can have a breakthrough on how we can strengthen the way we recruit our people and deploy them . . . Perhaps we may even grow a new generation of social service leaders in time to come that has not just the depth in perspective of their respective organisation, but also the breadth of perspective across different organisations in the sector," said Mr Chan.

While this may broaden professionals' scope of practice, another idea being looked into aims to provide them with more support to specialise.

This would create a core group of professionals with deeper knowledge who can address more complex issues and mentor others in the sector.

Areas of particular importance will include elder care - especially because of Singapore's ageing population - and mental health.

A study by the Institute of Mental Health has found that one in eight Singaporeans will have at least one mental disorder in their lifetime.