Foodies can expect to look forward to a fresh generation of hawkers once a new Hawker Master Trainer (HMT) pilot programme jointly organised by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) takes off.
The initiative is supported by property firm Knight Frank and The Business Times; and marks the first collaborative effort between the government and the private sector to encourage entrepreneurship and preserve an important piece of our local street food culture.
It also aims to get veteran hawkers to pass on their culinary skills to interested "hawkerpreneurs" and build a pipeline of hawkers for the 10 new hawker centres to be built by 2017.
Two key aspects will be covered in the HMT for the 50 potential participants: Singapore Workforce Qualification Skills (WSQ) training and on-the-job (OJT) training.
The former will be administered by Project Dignity, a social enterprise that focuses on training the socially and physically disadvantaged to work in the F&B industry. The WSQ training will include service and hygiene modules to equip the trainees with the right skills to become successful hawkers, as well as to provide better service and raise a more professional image of hawkers.
From there, the participants will follow through with a four-week OJT training with veteran hawkers that have been featured in the upcoming CEOs' Hawker Guide, published by The Business Times and Knight Frank, and other foodie television shows. The first four hawkers to join the scheme are Thian Boon Hua of Boon Tong Kee Chicken Rice, Sulaiman Bin Abu of D'Authentic Nasi Lemak, Tan Ah Guan of Apollo Fresh Cockle Fried Kway Teow and Lai Yau Kiew of Ji Ji Wanton Noodle Specialist. More veteran hawkers are in the process of signing up to participate in the training programme.
After completing the OJT, the trainees will be required to work in stalls at either hawker centres, food courts or food shops for a minimum period of three months. NEA will provide incubation hawker stalls to allow trainee hawkers to showcase their culinary skills using traditional hawker recipes from the veteran hawkers.
WDA will provide a training grant of up to 90 per cent of the course fee for the WSQ training at Project Dignity while Knight Frank and The Business Times, via YMCA's Project Hawkerpreneurs (see sidebar), will fund up to 90 per cent of the OJT course fee charged by the veteran hawkers.
"With the HMT pilot programme, we want to groom a new generation of hawkerpreneurs to preserve our country's popular dishes and traditional hawker fare. This programme will allow aspiring hawkers to learn and hone their culinary skills from veteran hawkers," says Janice Foo, director, Tourism Division, WDA. "The WSQ modules, coupled with practical on-the-job training is a holistic approach to prepare the trainees to deal with real-life scenarios such as interacting with customers and payment processes."
Richard Tan, director of NEA's Hawker Centres Division adds: "This collaboration between NEA and WDA and the private sector will contribute to preserving our unique hawker heritage and ensuring that traditional hawker fare will continue to thrive, even as times change and food tastes evolve in Singapore. We hope that our veteran hawkers will also step forward to support this programme and pass on their expertise honed over many years."
The HMT Pilot Programme is open to Singapore Citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents aged 18 years and above who are able to commit full-time during the OJT training period. For more information on the Hawker Master Trainer Pilot Programme, visit www.wda.gov.sg. To register, contact Yeo Hiok Keat / Koh Seng Choon at Project Dignity Pte Ltd (Tel: 9853 9086 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org)