Singapore’s Environmental Services ITM aims to boost innovation and technology adoption

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

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has worked with
various Government agencies, industry, unions and other stakeholders to develop
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
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
(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

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,
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

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

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.

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

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.