Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong (Hougang): Extending from my Budget debate speech earlier this week, I wish to highlight the need for a Just Transition for the manpower currently within the petrolchemicals industry otherwise known as the energy and chemicals industry. While Singapore is accelerating the green transition, we must not forget that there are around 27,000 people working in the sector, a majority in their 30s and 40s. With an increasing resistance to working within this space, we may be losing sight of the forest for the trees as we do require petrochemicals, albeit at a reduced level, as we transition to a green economy and society.
This does also mean that many in the sector may be at risk of losing their jobs in the near to medium-term. Those who remain in the fossil fuel industry may find some of their jobs fundamentally change to fit the greening economy. Many workers in the field should be looking to make mid-career switches into the green economy. But how can we integrate a Just Transition in this sector then, so that no one is left behind?
This requires buy in not just from the Government, but from companies who are invested in the green transition. Shell announced in November 2021 that it is halving its crude processing capacity at its Singapore hub and reducing fuel exports as it transits from fossil fuels to cut emissions and meet global low-carbon energy needs. How will such industrial developments in our petrochemical industry affect existing employment?
For a start, I hope that both the employers and the Government will work to ensure that as many existing workers can be retrained and converted to new positions under new green ventures within the organisations.
Next, at this point in time, our aggregate level of green skills level may not be sufficient. LinkedIn published its first ever report on the state of the green economy in a Global Green Skills Report on 22 February, which noted that Singapore ranks 24th out of the top 25 countries in terms of relative green skill intensity, lower than the global average.
Therefore, it is not enough to emphasise on skills and competencies to incorporate into Singapore’s education curriculum. Our workers in the industry must develop the ability to think at a systems level, to have grit and resilience in order to transit and compete in the global green economy and ready with global talent.
I therefore ask the Minister for Manpower to give more specifics on transitioning our workers in the fossil fuel industry towards jobs within the green economy. How will Career Conversion Programmes being offered by Workforce Singapore (WSG) be augmented to reskill existing workers or train new hires in the sustainability sector? Will more Continuing Education and Training (CET) Courses be jointly developed by NEA together with industry and partner stakeholders and offered by Institutes of Higher Learning such as Polytechnics and ITEs? How will they plan to reach the individuals working within the industry to ensure that they are ready for the transition? How will the Ministry collaborate with the companies within this sector to provide the necessary information for their employees in this green transition?
I therefore ask the Minister to give an update on how MOM intends to keep a domestic talent pipeline for the petrochemical segments where petrochemicals are still envisioned to be used in the green future.
4 March 2022
Ministry of Manpower