New programme to train poly & ITE grads to be hawkers; netizens question if this will lead to more PMET positions going to FTs

A new work-study post-diploma programme under SkillsFuture will be launched in March to help young people enter into the hawker trade.

Announcing the first-of-its-kind programme at the second SG Hawker Seminar on Monday (11 January), Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor said, “With the increasing recognition and appreciation of hawker fare, setting up a hawker stall can be considered as a gateway into the F&B sector, and there could be budding food and beverage entrepreneurs who may aspire to join the hawker trade.”

Dr Khor added that the National Environment Agency (NEA) and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) will collaborate with Temasek Polytechnic in launching the programme as a new path under the Hawkers’ Development Programme (HDP).

The HDP was launched in January 2020 to help equip hawkers with the appropriate skills and competencies for running a hawker stall.

This new year-long programme will welcome all recent graduates from the Institute of Technical Education and polytechnics starting March this year.

The programme entails a two-month classroom training, then a four-month apprenticeship before a six-month mentorship with experienced hawkers. Mentors will receive a monthly training allowance of S$500 while apprentices get S$1,000.

According to Dr Khor, more than 170 people have completed the training stage of the programme with 41 of them moving into the final stage, which is the setup of their incubation stalls.

Given the high response, Dr Khor said that the programme will be expanded over the next two years to accommodate 300 training places.

As such, the number of stalls under the Incubation Stall Programme (ISP) will also be increased from 20 to 80 in the next few years.

The ISP provides support for aspiring hawkers via pre-fitted stalls and 15-months’ subsidised rentals.

Dr Khor further noted that hawkers themselves have also received support in the move to digitalise via a new model launched by the NA and SSG called “Adapt to Change – Digitalisation for Hawkers” which also falls under the HDP.

This particular module is though at the Asian Culinary Institute of the Nanyang Polytechnic.

Ms Khor said in her address, “To keep our hawker culture thriving, we cannot just do the same things (in) the same way. We need to adapt to change and do the same things in different ways, which is borne out by our experience with the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The response to this new programme by the public is a bit of a mixed bag, with some netizens voicing concerns over the fact that even parents who are or were hawkers would dissuade their children from entering such a laborious industry.

Others questioned whether these young hawkers would be able to sustain themselves in the long run, given the fluctuating income of the industry, and whether they will be able to save up for a family or even retirement.

Others are also concerns that encouraging Singaporean graduates to become hawkers only creates more space for “foreign talent” to swoop in and take up coveted PMET positions.

A couple of netizens asked why the programme was only open to polytechnic and ITE graduates and not National University of Singapore (NUS) or Nanyang Technological University (NTU) graduates as well. One netizen asked, “What is the underlying message for our education system here?”

On the other hand, others seem to be on board with the plan to further preserve the hawker culture in Singapore and create a new generation of hawkers to take over as the current ageing generation retires.

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