Thursday, July 27, 2017

Motivate jobless Singaporeans to attend training courses by providing a training allowance: An open proposal to the Singapore Government

In an effort to get all Singaporeans to upgrade their skills in an ever-fast changing world to meet global challenges, the Singapore Government has come up with a skills future credit in which those who attend training courses need not have to fork out cash, but can use the skills credits to pay for a wide range of approved courses.

Time and again government leaders have been reminding Singaporeans to attend training courses.

Unfortunately, the take-up rate for the skills credit scheme for training courses is weak, and there is a dire need to examine why many unemployed Singaporeans are not taking advantage of this scheme.

It was only when I attended a training course that I now fully understand why this is so. Let me recap my experience.

I am 67 years old, a Singapore citizen and have been unemployed for more than 10 years. I recently attended an 8-day full-time course (4 modules) that was conducted by Asia Gold Bell Singapore in Paya Lebar. This is to equip me with the necessary skills to get back into the workforce.

The 4 modules included:
(a) Maintain personal presentation at supervisory level.
(b) Communicate and relative effectively.
(c) Work in a team.
(d) Solve problems and make decisions at operational level.

The course was full funded by the Government using the skills credit. The trainer, Keith Yuen was very good. Kudos to Yuen for motivating the 20 participants.

I was told that people like myself are not allowed to claim a training allowance through workfare. I have been unemployed for more than a decade. On the other hand, those who are currently employed can claim the training allowance through the workfare scheme. There were several participants who are unemployed.

May I ask if the government is prepared to review the scheme to provide a training allowance for the total number of training hours for Singaporeans who want to upgrade themselves. In my case, this work out works out to 36 training hours?

The course started on Monday 17th July and ended on Wednesday 26th July 2017. It does not make sense to me that those who are employed can be given a training allowance while those who are out of work can’t make any claim whatsoever.

Participants had little or no choice but to take their meals which include breakfast and lunch at the Kopi Tiam Food Court at this place. It is expensive to eat at the food court and the meals cost at least $10 per day, which works out to around $80 for the 8 days training. Then what about transport cost? For Singaporeans who are unemployed, it will be a financial strain on them. This amount can be used for 2 weeks marketing for those who are jobless. More so when the cost of living is skyrocketing.

On the 19th July 2017, I wrote to the Employment & Employability Institute, e2i as well as phoned one of the staff there, but at first no one was willing to give me a reply. I then had to write an email to Mr Heng Chee How in his capacity as Deputy Secretary of NTUC and copied it to Mr Chan Chun Sing, the Secretary General of NTUC, having to explain myself all over again.

Mr Heng who is a fine gentleman and who cares about my welfare and that of all Singaporeans took the imitative and informed the management of e21. This is the kind of leader Singapore needs.

On Thursday 27th July, a Ms Irene, coach at e21 phoned me to apologize for the delay in replying to me as she informed me she was on leave.

In striving for excellence, let us not just implement a scheme or policy without studying the implications. Moreover, the media has an important role to play in highlighting constructive and useful suggestions. Forums letters that can help make improvements to any policy or scheme should be published with a mindset that active citizenry plays an important role in nation-building.

Policies that are outdated or not fine-tuned will not help to build a better society. We cannot have a “one-size fit all” scheme that benefits some Singaporeans, and does not provide the much-needed support for another group of Singaporeans.

I would therefore urge the Singapore Government to consider reviewing the skills credit scheme to allow unemployed Singaporeans to be given the same training allowance that employed Singaporeans get when they attend such courses.

I have every confidence that if such an allowance can be given to unemployed Singaporeans, much more jobless Singaporeans will be motivated to attend training courses to upgrade themselves, and the scheme will become a success story.

The Ministry of Manpower and NTUC could undertake a brainstorming project to fully understand why the skills credit scheme is not working as well as it ought to. Civil servants must feel ‘comfortable’ to give their points of view and provide useful suggestions to improve the lives of all Singaporeans.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Article for The Malayan Chronicles: Pave the way for the healing process for PM Lee’s family

"We all use language to communicate, to express ourselves, to get our ideas across, and to connect with the person to whom we are speaking. When a relationship is working, the act of communicating seems to flow relatively effortlessly. When a relationship is deteriorating, the act of communicating can be as frustrating as climbing a hill of sand."
- Chip Rose, attorney and mediator -
I have, with much sadness, followed closely the on-going feud between Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling.
While Workers Party Chief Low Thia Khiang and his fellow members of Parliament are of the view that the best way to settle the dispute is for PM Lee to sue his siblings for the serious allegations (“Dispute should be resolved in court: WP Chief’), I fully support PM Lee’s view that it would not do any good to sue his own siblings for they are still his own flesh and blood (Suing siblings cannot be my preferred choice, says PM Lee”;  Monday 3rd July 2017, The Strait Times)
It is troubling that because of this unsettled feud, the whole Lee family is paraded on the world – and for all the wrong reasons.
When it comes to getting money, often, sadly, there is no such as family.  Many families get caught into this unfortunate predicament, and that’s the harsh reality. Certainly, those with special needs have to get better protection as their conditions can be taken advantage of and be deprived of a fair share when properties are sold.
While social media is useful is raising awareness of social problems, it can also be unhelpful in some ways.
If one looks at the many problems that arise in relationships, you would be able to find a common pattern – many people just don’t know how to communicate or at least communicate in an effective manner. 
American psychologist, philosopher and author William James once said: “Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship or deepening it.  That factor is attitude.” 
As with any relationship, every happy successful partnership begins and ends with the same ingredient – the willingness to negotiate.  Unfortunately, as human beings, we have the tendency of not wanting to submit.  We do not want to admit that we are wrong as it can be seen as “losing face.” 
Bear in mind that bitterness only eats inside of us and will eventually destroy us. One problem that should not be ignored is physical illness. When you’re bitter, you’re causing your body stress, and sustained stress can make you sick. In addition, bitterness robs you of your chance to be happy.
I have always admired Dr Lee Wei Ling as she has been an extraordinary caregiver to her father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. She was always there for him – often 24/7.  Caregiving is extremely taxing and entails huge sacrifices.  Perhaps this arduous journey could have taken a toll on her with her being bent on protecting her dad and his wishes.  Dr Lee should have been given an award by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Family and Development for her remarkable caregiving responsibilities.  It is not too late to do so.
Now that both PM Lee and his siblings have made their views public, let us put an end to the squabbling and begin the healing process. Top-notch family therapists and counsellors could help with reconciliation efforts.
For all intents and purposes, let’s remember that it takes years to build trust and just seconds to destroy it. This applies to marriage, while studying, nation-building , at the workplace and in the community.
With the Lunar New Year 7 months away, I am sure all Singaporeans would love to see the Lees reunite for the reunion dinner on the eve of this beautiful spring festival.
Footnote: I had earlier submitted a shorter version of this article to the Forum Editor of The Strait Times, but he chose not to publish it.  In fact, of late all my letters to the Forum Page of the ST have been rejected.