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Above image: Infographic on Environmental Services Industry Transformation Map/ Credit: NEA

Above image: Infographic on Environmental Services Industry Transformation Map/ Credit: NEA

Singapore’s Environmental Services ITM aims to boost innovation and technology adoption, creating 30,000 higher value-added jobs by 2025

The Singapore Government launched the Environmental Services Industry Transformation Map (ES ITM) today, unveiling the strategies and initiatives to ensure a vibrant, sustainable and professional industry that will provide services and solutions to help achieve a Zero Waste vision and a clean and liveable Singapore.

More than 78,000 professionals and 1,700 companies in the cleaning and waste management sectors keep Singapore clean and liveable every day. As demand for environmental services continues to rise, increasing manpower to meet service demand is not sustainable given Singapore’s manpower constraints. Transforming the industry would be necessary to improve productivity, promote growth and create better jobs for these sectors.

Roadmaps are being developed for 23 industries to address issues within each industry and deepen partnerships between the Government, firms, industries, trade associations and chambers. The ITMs are grouped into 6 broad cluster: Manufacturing, Built environment, Trade & connectivity, Essential Domestic Services, Modern services and Lifestyle. The ES ITM is one of the four ITMs under the Built Environment cluster, which also includes the construction, real estate and security sectors.

Speaking at the ITM launch, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli said, “In sustaining a clean and liveable environment, Singapore is also working towards the vision of being a Zero Waste nation – where waste is re-defined and innovative technologies would be deployed in waste reduction, separation, recycling and treatment to enable us to close the waste loop. The ES ITM will provide many opportunities for technology collaboration and adaptation across the cleaning and waste management sectors. Jobs will be enhanced as the future of delivering services via system-level infrastructure, such as Pneumatic Waste Conveyance Systems and autonomous machines, calls for new skillsets. Service buyers will also need to play their part by adopting outcome-based contracting which enables wider technology adoption to improve productivity in the cleaning sector. The shift in industry procurement practices will support more manpower-efficient work processes.”

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has worked with various Government agencies, industry, unions and other stakeholders to develop 33 initiatives across 12 strategies to transform the ES industry.

With the implementation of these strategies and initiatives, by 2025, about 30,000 individuals in the environmental services industry are expected to benefit from higher value-added jobs through upskilling and technology adoption by companies.

These strategies are grouped under four categories:

Driving innovation and wider technology adoption

NEA will be engaging with its partners to identify key challenges and capability development opportunities in preparation for subsequent grant calls for technology solutions. To encourage greater use of technology and automation to increase the overall productivity, funding schemes that facilitate the development and deployment of innovative and smart technologies are available.

NEA has also been organising regular thematic and broad-based technology connect sessions, and it will continue to engage the industry to prototype, pilot and profile environmental services solutions through the INCUBATE initiative (INnovating and CUrating Better Automation and Technologies for Environmental Services), which embodies the partnership between the technology providers and service providers, premises owners, and the Government, to collectively innovate and curate better technologies, solutions and innovations for the environmental services industry

As part of the launch event, NEA signed Letters of Intent (LOI) with seven INCUBATE partners, to officiate the beginning of a series of trials that will be carried out at our partners’ premises over the next few years.

NEA is also working with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on the Smart Facility Management (FM) initiative, which aims to transform the environmental services industry through the use of Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, data analytics and other technology, to ensure a well-maintained built-environment.

Together with Workforce Singapore (WSG), NEA will continue the engagements with the industry through job redesign clinics to raise awareness on scalable and ready solutions in order to promote wider adoption. NEA will also explore alternative technology procurement models (such as leasing) with equipment suppliers and service buyers, instead of buying of cleaning or waste management equipment. In addition, NEA will also explore encouraging service buyers to procure technology equipment instead of relying on their service providers.

Upskilling the workforce to take on better jobs

NEA is working with the Future Economy Council’s Built Environment Cluster Sub-committee to step up effort in upstream design for improved maintainability. NEA will continue to work with partners in schools, organisations and the community to promote care for the environment and engender a “self-serve” and waste minimisation mindset.

To facilitate job redesign and promote greater adoption of technology, NEA has been working with WSG, the industry and solution providers to facilitate and drive adoption of scalable and ready job redesign solutions. Companies looking to redesign job roles can tap on funds from WSG’s WorkPro Job Redesign Grant to adopt solutions that will make the jobs of older workers easier, safer and smarter.

Improving the image of the environmental services industry is also key in attracting new sources of manpower, such as the mid-career switchers, back-to-work women and young people into the industry. Some examples include the development of a set of industry-wide uniform guidelines, organisation of appreciation events for environmental services professionals, and distribution of workforce collaterals to showcase the wide variety of environmental services job roles available.

The Skills Framework for Environmental Services was also launched today. It was jointly developed by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), Workforce Singapore (WSG) and NEA, employers, industry associations, unions, and education and training institutions, in support of the Jobs and Skills pillar in the ES ITM.

The framework covers five career tracks involving 24 key job roles. The five tracks are Cleaning Operations, Waste Collection, Material Recovery, Treatment and Disposal, and Environment, Health and Safety. The Skills Framework provides key information about the industry and identifies 46 existing and emerging technical skills and competencies and 18 generic skills and competencies. It is a reference document for individuals who wish to upgrade their skills and prepare themselves for better jobs in the environmental services industry, for employers to recognise the necessary skills and train their employees for career development and skills upgrading, and for education and training institutions to design programmes to address the sector needs in response to emerging skills and competencies such as Data and Statistical Analytics, Automation Research and Implementation and Robotics and Automation Application. 

Industry information, upskilling options and job-matching services will be made available via MySkillsFuture.sg, a one-stop online portal for users to access the Jobs Bank as well as resources related to jobs, education and skills training. WSG’s Careers Connect and NTUC’s e2i centres also offer a suite of customised career matching services to guide individuals interested in joining the environmental services industry in their job search and career journey.

NEA is also working with companies and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) to increase internship opportunities and placements within the industry.

A programme that will benefit the environmental services workforce will be rolled out in early 2018 and details will be announced by the Post-Secondary Education Institution (PSEI) when ready. More pre-employment training (PET) and continuing education and training (CET) programmes will be gradually put in place to address the skills and training needs of the industry.

With the strong push for technology adoption, job roles are not expected to stay the same. Access to HR diagnostic tools and assistance for consultancy services will be provided to help strengthen companies’ Human Resources policies and practices in this transformation journey.

Improving productivity through better procurement practices

NEA has worked with the Ministry of Finance, Government agencies and industry stakeholders to develop a Guide on Specifications for Outcome-based Cleaning Contract as a reference for service buyers in drafting outcome-based contracts.

The typical duration of a cleaning contract is two years. Such duration does not encourage the use of machinery/ technology as it does not enable service providers to justify returns of investment. The industry has given feedback that service buyers tend to award contract based on price. As there is a lack of focus on quality and productivity, NEA will work on some recommended guidelines on minimal contract duration and enhance contract specifications to facilitate technology adoption. To enhance the tender evaluation framework, NEA will also develop a guide on Price-Quality ratio and a definitive set of qualitative attributes, with higher weightage on productivity and technology for tender evaluation.

Activity-based indicators are being developed to (a) provide service providers and buyers with a benchmark on the time taken to complete key cleaning tasks. Such indicators would serve to help them assess work efficiency of cleaners based on standardised cleaning procedures and outcomes; and (b) enable service providers and buyers to quantify work volume, and have a better sense on manpower requirements and deployment.

Through motion time studies of cleaning tasks, NEA has developed the first set of activity-based productivity indicators for washroom and office cleaning. These indicators provide a benchmark for the time taken to complete a cleaning task. For example, the time taken to 4 clean a washroom (with an estimated area of 25 sq metres with three toilet bowls, four urinals and three washbasins etc.) is about 39 minutes.

NEA will also be developing industry manpower indicators, which will serve as a broad guide for service providers and buyers to gauge their workforce needs for the cleaning of premises. It will guide them in ascertaining their manpower needs, ascertain how they fare in terms of manpower productivity as compared to the industry benchmark, and help service buyers to assess and evaluate tender and manpower proposals.

Capturing value overseas

NEA will continue to help profile the environmental services industry’s capabilities through engagement with overseas counterparts, as well as in international projects. NEA will continue to support environmental services companies and associations in their various overseas business trips to source for technology or to promote their capabilities at international platforms and events.

NEA will work with SPRING Singapore and IE Singapore to enhance enterprise capabilities, and drive the adoption of internationally-benchmarked standards, to help more companies capture overseas market opportunities.  

NEA will be working with companies that have developed solutions translatable to other cities and are gearing for overseas expansion to identify the right markets to enter. NEA will also work across the industry sectors in the Built Environment Cluster to help form partnerships and offer holistic and integrated solutions for city planning and development projects overseas.

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