Introduced in 2020 to mitigate the severe impact COVID-19 had on the jobs market, the SGUnited Traineeships and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways programmes aim to help recent graduates and mid-career individuals develop industry-relevant skills and increase employability.
Since inception, more than 2,500 host companies have tapped onto the programmes, with nearly 9 in 10 being SMEs.
During Budget 2021 earlier this year, the SGUnited Traineeships and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways programmes were enhanced and extended till 31 March 2022.
What Is the SGUnited Traineeships & Mid-Career Pathways Programme?
Under the SGUnited Traineeships programme, companies will receive government funding of 80% on the training allowance when they hire Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents who are recent graduates or will soon be graduating from educational institutions between 2019 and 2021.
Polytechnic and Institution of Technical Education (ITE) graduates who started their traineeship on 1 April 2021 will be receiving a maximum training allowance of $2,100 and $1,800 respectively – an increase of $300 from the previous maximum training allowance.
The training allowance of $1,800 to $2,500 for university graduates remains unchanged.
Under the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways programme, companies will receive government funding of up to 90% on the training allowance when they hire mid-career individuals. This programme is for all Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents, except those who should be hired under the SGUnited Traineeships programme.
Companies with mid-career hires aged 40 and above who started their attachment on 1 April 2021 will receive government funding of 90% on the training allowance. The funding support on the allowance for mid-career hires below 40 will remain at 80%.
How Can Companies Better Retain Their Trainees?
While trainees are allowed to leave their traineeships at any point, this is generally not an ideal outcome for host companies as they would have already invested their time and effort in training the individual.
It is also especially counterproductive if host companies have worked on a customised development programme for their trainees and intend to convert them to a full-timer if they succeed in the programme.
Moreover, converting trainees may be better than dipping into the employment market as businesses already know the trainees and they have spent time adapting to the company culture and working style. Trainees also have the leeway to gradually shoulder more responsibilities as they work towards conversion to full-time employment. In contrast, new hires will have to jump in at the deep end from day 1.
For a better chance at converting your trainees, here are some steps that host companies can use.
#1 Hire Good Trainees In The First Place (And Expand Talent Pool For A Start)
According to WSG, employers are increasingly depending on the “Applicant Tracking System (ATS)” software to filter out resumes. Shortlisting jobseekers based on their softer skills instead of only their hard skills will provide employers with a wider pool of candidates to find good trainees.
During the interview, employers should look out for relevant character traits and should hire the jobseeker with the intention of a possible conversion to a full-time role. Knowing what this full-time role could be at this point of the process and customising a development plan could help mould the person into a better fit.
Hiring with the intention of converting candidates to full-timers will likely lead to more meaningful traineeship stints for both employers and trainees.
#2 Propose And Follow Through On A Customised Training Plan
Under the SGUnited Traineeships and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways programmes, host companies are required to provide a development plan during the traineeship period, subject to approval by the appointed programme manager Singapore Business Federation (SBF).
Creating a detailed and customised training plan (and following through) will keep both employers and trainees accountable. As trainees may be new to the workforce or sector, the development plan also gives them some structure, even if your business is in a fast-paced and high-pressure field. The development programme will also manage expectations for both employers and trainees and give trainees space to pick up relevant skill sets.
#3 Consider Converting Trainees Once They Are Job-Ready
If the trainee performs well during their traineeship/attachment period, employers can consider offering a full-time position immediately rather than wait out the traineeship.
This signals to trainee that they are the right fit for your team which might encourage them to enter a full-time employment arrangement with your company. This also shows sincerity on the part of the company.
Moreover, companies may free up an additional slot for a new trainee that they can repeat the successful stint with.
#4 Provide Trainee With “Employee Benefits” Even Though There’s No Need To
As traineeships are not employment arrangements, host companies are not obliged to provide sick leave, annual leave or other obligations under the Employment Act to their trainees. Trainees are also not entitled to bonuses or eligible for overtime pay.
This also means host companies aren’t allowed to make CPF contributions to trainees under the SGUnited Traineeships and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathway programmes. The WSG FAQs clearly states that “If there is intention to contribute CPF and establish an employment relationship, then such arrangements will not be eligible for funding under the SGUnited Traineeship programme.”
However, companies may choose to offer non-monetary benefits on a discretionary goodwill basis. These perks can include the reimbursement of transport or meal allowances (at the company’s costs), as well as paid annual leave and medical leave per year of traineeship.While this should not be a gamechanger, extending such perks to trainees can signal the company culture and enable trainees to be at the same level as employees to some extent.
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