THE progressive wage model - which links pay hikes to training - has expanded to cover a lot more companies and sectors over the past two years, said the labour movement.

Nearly 270 unionised companies, or one in five, have implemented the wage ladders since the model was introduced in June 2012. They are from a variety of sectors such as aerospace, transport, hospitality, cleaning, security and the public sector, said National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong.

"We are hoping that from the early successes we have, we can use them as prototypes to share with other companies," she said after a seminar on the model yesterday. The unions will continue to push for greater adoption of the model. The target is at least half of all unionised companies, or about 700, by the end of next year.

"Time is really not with us," Ms Cham added, stressing the urgency for firms to reshape themselves to remain competitive.

NTUC also came out to debunk the perception that the progressive wage model is only for low- wage workers, especially with retaining workers being a challenge.

"It is for all levels of workers," labour chief Lim Swee Say told the seminar audience of 600 employers and unionists.

"The issue of skills upgrading, productivity enhancement, career development and wage progression applies to all workers, whether you're an engineer, technician or professional."

When workers are better trained, they can be more productive, added Mr Lim, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

That is especially useful as Singapore grapples with smaller workforce growth while maintaining economic development, he said. NTUC estimates that more than 150,000 workers ranging from low-wage workers to professionals, managers and executives have benefited from the wage ladders so far.

They are workers in companies such as Singapore Airlines, the American Club and Eighteen Chefs, which shared at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability how they use the wage ladders to improve workers' skills, pay and productivity, as well as to attract and retain staff.

There may even be room to grow for older workers such as Mr Lee Fock Wah, 60, a technical service manager who has been with paint and coatings company Jotun (Singapore) for 32 years.

Jotun expanded its career paths for coatings advisers this year to cover four different tracks, including trainers and product experts.

Mr Lee hopes that there will be a chance for him to take up more responsibilities within his specia-lity.

"I want to contribute my knowledge back to the company," he said.