THE lack of skilled workers is a real threat to Singapore's economy ("Shortage of skilled staff in some sectors"; Tuesday).
The local workforce is drawn to certain industries more than others, owing to social perceptions.
Some sectors, such as crane operations, are viewed less favourably despite the high-level skills required. Other sectors, such as engineering, have grown increasingly unattractive in recent years.
There is an urgent need to correct this imbalance.
First, mid-career switches should be made a viable alternative for the local workforce. Technical skills should be taught to those who wish to switch to a new sector if they are currently employed in a related industry. The training period should not be unnecessarily prolonged, but should ensure an efficient transfer of skills.
A good example would be the upcoming third law school targeted at mature students with experience in fields such as social work and law enforcement. Other training institutes for different sectors could be set up and promoted in a similar manner.
Second, wages should be periodically adjusted to properly reflect industry demand. This has to correspond with the skill levels required for the job.
Also, the Wage Credit Scheme could be extended to cover employers in the affected industries, to bolster pay rises.
That said, there should be safeguards to prevent artificial or inflated pay rises. Industry associations, for example, should guard against wage increases that do not correspond with productivity.
Third, educational institutes at all levels should expose students to as wide an array of potential job opportunities as possible. This can be done through regular career fairs, talks and even industry site visits.
Students should be made aware of the adaptability and utility of their skills. Internships should not be entirely limited by discipline. More internship opportunities should be made available, with support from the relevant industry associations or regulatory authorities.
It is timely to review and adjust our current educational and training systems to match economic demands.