With the pandemic impacting worldwide food supply chains, Singapore is focusing on boosting local production capacity and creating a high-tech, productive, and resource-efficient agri-tech sector in order to improve food security.
With Singapore being one of Asia’s most densely populated cities, there has been a shortage of arable land and resources as well as an increased vulnerability to supply disruptions.
At the same time, over the next decade, demand for affordable quality food will likely increase as a result of growing incomes. These two factors highlight the need to beef up local production capacity.
To reach this ambitious goal, Singapore needs to increase its agri-tech labor force. Thus, the government is implementing a career conversion program (CCP) to help with this transition, and 100 job seekers are expected to make the shift into agri-tech in the next two years.
So far, 15 firms have expressed interest in recruiting people through the agri-tech CCP, which is a collaboration between government agencies Workforce Singapore (WSG) and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), as well as Republic Polytechnic (RP). Employers will cover the full costs of the RP courses, which include classroom instruction as well as structured on-the-job training.
The CCP will allow employers to hire mid-career job seekers with relevant qualifications, experience, and skills. The companies will be able to send them for upskilling programs which can equip workers for more senior roles in the agri-food sector.
Under the agri-tech CCP, diploma or degree holders will be trained as agri-tech specialists for roles such as farm managers and engineers, crop scientists, agronomists, or soil management experts for a period of six months.
Non-PMETs may apply for non-supervisory agriculture job roles such as assistants, farm technicians, and operations executives after three months of training.
Under the CCP, new hires will be paid at least S$2,500 ($1,850) a month for agri-tech specialists or S$2,000 ($1,480) a month for agri-tech operators.
According to the country’s Manpower Minister Tan See Leng, over 100 job seekers could take part in the program if demand increases. He said that for now, the aim is to triple employment in agri-tech by 2030, from 2,000 workers at present to around 6,700 workers by the end of the decade.
“We should be looking at innovation, we should be looking at improvements in productivity, to ensure that efficiency actually translates into added savings for the food supply chain,” Tan added.