Targeted at easier entry into bus careers, and enhancing career pathways, in order to strengthen the Singaporean core, the sectoral manpower plan for the bus industry has been announced.

Launched by senior minister of state from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Transport, Josephine Teo, the plan was developed by the Public Transport Sectoral Tripartite Committee.

The five strategies (and the action plans) behind the plan are given below:

  1. Facilitate entry and transition to bus careers
  2. Enhance training to uplift and professionalise bus careers
  3. Promote attractive benefits and career progression pathways
  4. Build pipeline of future bus professionals through pre-employment programmes
  5. Strengthen outreach and community appreciation of bus professionals

Speaking to Human Resources, Gerard Koh, SMRT’s vice president for HR, said SMRT welcomed this concerted effort to encourage more to take up a career in the public bus industry.

"We are glad that the sectoral manpower plan seeks to jointly brand and promote bus careers, and we hope this will encourage more Singaporeans to see that this is a rewarding career that offers development opportunities and progression," he said.

[Scroll down for a list of the initiatives proposed in the plan, as well as a take on SMRT's policies]

#1 Facilitate entry and transition to bus careers

  • e2i’s Career Transition Programme to increase employability of workers through preparatory workshops (e.g. resume writing skills), industry previews and learning visits.
  • Accelerated pathways to meet the eligibility criteria of becoming a bus captain. For non-drivers, LTA will fast-track the process of attaining a Class 3 Driving Licence.
  • Place-and-Train programme will be implemented by e2i and the public bus operators, coupled with structured in-house training and mentorship guidance for new hires.

SMRT's Gerard Koh added that measures such as the standardisation of skill standards will go a long way to enhance service standards and allow firms to reward bus captains accordingly.

"While it is not easy to recruit more Singaporeans to drive public buses, and as our current bus captains age and retire in increasing numbers, we are optimistic these measures will help," he said.

#2 Enhance training to uplift and professionalise bus careers

  • LTA, e2i, WDA, NTWU, SBST, SMRT, TTS and GAS entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to mark the establishment of the Singapore Bus Academy.
  • The Singapore Bus Academy will be operational at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability from the second half of 2016.
  • It will offer the Enhanced Vocational Licence Training Programme, a five-day programme for foundational training of new bus captains, and announce more programmes in the future.
  • LTA and WDA will offer 15 SkillsFuture Study Awards this year for bus professionals who wish to upgrade or deepen their skills at the various institutes of higher learning.

Koh of SMRT noted the public transport operator's responsibility in such an initiative: "SMRT will also play a key role in the Singapore Bus Academy by running training modules for bus captains across the industry."

#3 Promote attractive benefits and career progression pathways

  • To ensure the job of bus captain is attractive to locals, compensation packages will continue to be competitive, as well as get alternative career opportunities in other job roles.
  • To create a conducive workplace for bus captains, infrastructure upgrades at bus interchanges have been done, along with stronger emphasis  on workplace health management.
  • To facilitate the new bus contracting model, the Omnibus Driver’s Vocational Licence will be made fully portable across the industry, cutting down administrative hassle.

#4 Build pipeline of future bus professionals through pre-employment programmes

  • LTA has signed a MOU with Republic Polytechnic to introduce more bus-related content within the final-year curriculum of its new Diploma in Engineering Systems and Management.
  • The ITE has also introduced attachment opportunities with the public bus operators through the Enhanced Internship Programme in Automotive Technology since January 2016.

#5 Strengthen outreach and community appreciation of bus professionals

  • The Singapore Bus Academy and e2i will carry out outreach programmes to help Singaporeans better understand career opportunities within the public bus industry.
  • LTA has recently launched a "Happy to be part of your every day" campaign, to encourage the general public to show bus professionals recognition and respect for their role.

Gerard Koh noted that SMRT has in recent years enhanced the career path, salaries, and training of its bus captains to raise their level of professionalism and pride.

He called out the Bus Captain’s Career Scheme, in place since 2013, which introduced simulators in captains' training, and regularly reviews their salaries to encourage better performance.

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