A $3.5 million programme has been drawn up to build a pool of Singaporeans trained in the art of carpentry.

The initiative, the Creative Craftsman Apprenticeship Programme, was announced yesterday by its joint partners - Singapore Furniture Industries Council Institute, the National Trades Union Congress' e2i (Employment and Employability Institute), the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and The Polytechnic of Western Australia.

Under the six-month apprenticeship, 180 Singaporeans will be trained and given job placements.

The partners said in a statement that the aim is to redesign the job from "carpenter" to "creative craftsman", and to encourage employers to hire more Singaporeans in this trade.

The programme will also involve putting in place a progressive wage model for the profession, the release said.

Eligible applicants will be matched with participating employers. The programme has attracted 17 employers, mostly furniture makers who fulfil hospitality contracts.

Apprentices will get a recommended starting salary of $1,500 a month during the programme.

Their course fees and salaries will be fully paid for by their employers, who are eligible for funding from e2i and the WDA.

WDA chief executive Ng Cher Pong said: "With job redesign and their involvement in training apprentices, employers will be able to meet their manpower needs.

"We urge individuals with a keen interest in this trade to seize this opportunity."