Bosses will have to do their part and provide good internships and training if Singapore's push to improve the career prospects of non-degree holders is to succeed, said MPs yesterday.

Mr Heng Chee How (Whampoa) told Parliament: "The best intentions will come to naught if companies are not doing their best to retain and upgrade talent, skills and experience."

His remarks echoed those of Mr David Ong (Jurong GRC), who called for workplace practices to be in line with the recommendations of the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (Aspire) panel, which were endorsed by the House yesterday.

One area of concern centred on small businesses grappling with the short-term challenges of hosting and training interns or providing apprenticeships.

Mr Zainudin Nordin (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) called for internships to be proper learning experiences rather than "just another excursion in... a study programme".

But small firms may not have enough staff to supervise and mentor interns or the budget to compensate them, said Ms Lee Li Lian (Punggol East) and Nominated MP Thomas Chua, president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He said smaller firms already fear being edged out by larger ones in hiring: "The pool of young people is like a cake... Large and multinational corporations have big appetites and strong appeal. Very quickly, this cake would be entirely eaten up by them."

Mr Chua urged smaller firms to participate in the process of improving technical education as it will help them attract polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates.

MPs suggested the Government help these firms take on students by giving them training grants or tax incentives. Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah replied that such schemes are already in place.

The labour movement supports Aspire's recommendation to more closely link what polytechnics and the ITE teach with what industries need, said Mr Heng.

He and fellow Labour MP Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) called on companies to work with unions on continual training.

Bosses could enrol their workers for courses at the Devan Nair Institute of Employment and Employability run by NTUC - a suggestion backed by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.


This article was first published on September 10, 2014. 
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