The unmistakable whirring of a vacuum and sounds of incessant scrubbing on a bathroom floor tile fills up the atmosphere. Stained glass surfaces are spritzed with chemicals from spray bottles and wiped spotless with a rag.
Stationed behind each tool is Tan Jin Hui and his team at EasyCleanSG, a professional cleaning company licensed by the National Environment Agency (NEA).
As an operations manager, Jin Hui ensures that every member of the cleaning crew is equipped with knowledge about the company’s services by providing them with in-house training and sending them for external courses.
However, the 27-year-old was initially never quite acquainted with the world of cleaning.
He started out as an Electrical Engineering student, pursuing a Higher NITEC certification in the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). Thereafter, he attended Singapore Polytechnic for a two-year diploma course in Electrical Electronic Engineering.
Upon completion of his National Service, Jin Hui’s first glimpse into the workforce saw him as a coordinator in the construction sector. Finding it difficult to cope with the stress that came with the job, he decided to quit not long after he signed on.
As fate would have it, an opportunity arose in the midst of his resignation. His current business partner, Joel, had approached him to venture into the cleaning industry. Despite having little prior knowledge about the profession, he agreed.
“We started by selling off some cleaning supplies and products, because we still had other full-time jobs. For myself, I actually enrolled into another electrical company where we supplied high-voltage electrical equipment to Singapore PowerGrid,” said Jin Hui.
“I stayed there for around two years, before I left and started doing this full-time,” he added.
Today, EasyCleanSG serves as a “one-stop service provider” for customers. Services such as painting, air conditioning, marble polishing and disinfection for residential and commercial areas are just some of the services provided.
A usual work day begins with an on-site briefing that is conducted with a potential client to address specific areas of concern.
Once the team and the client have mutually agreed on the tasks to be completed in the space, the appointed service leader will assign individual tasks to each member.
For the cleaning procedures, the crew utilises multiple techniques. One of which is the High-Low method – where the top area of the space is cleared first for dust to descend to the ground. Dirt and other debris will then be swept away when works begin for the bottom half of the space.
Alternatively, the team would start cleaning from the room located furthest away from the entrance and work their way out. This ensures that their efforts are fully optimised within the stipulated time.
However, coming up with this extensive list of cleaning techniques was no easy feat. Rather, it is still a work in progress. Till today, Jin Hui and his team continue to sharpen their abilities by sending each other short videos of cleaning hacks from various social media platforms.
Apart from this, they also challenge their problem-solving skills by “throwing themselves into difficult situations” to think of effective cleaning solutions in real time.
Though he has now gained more knowledge and refined his skills, starting out was challenging due to Jin Hui’s lack of expertise in the profession.
He even admits to the initial reservations he had towards the occupation – that it was “a low-wage, dirty kind of job meant for the older generations”.
Ironically, he was then subjected to stereotypes when he began his career as a cleaner. Because of his age, Jin Hui was deemed as inexperienced and caused potential clients to be doubtful over the quality of his team’s cleaning services.
The EasyCleanSG team would then have to win over these clients with their attention to detail and thoroughness in cleaning.
Concerns about his knowledge of the job were raised not only by clients, but among Jin Hui’s family as well. Before he had fully committed to cleaning as a career, his family members were worried about uncertainties surrounding the job scope, wage and working hours.
His insistence on pursuing his new career path was something that his family eventually had to come to terms with, regardless of their concerns.
Another challenge that comes with the job is the futile efforts to source for more manpower.
Because of the strenuous physical labour required for the job, many are put off from the idea of working in the cleaning industry.
Bending over backwards and scrubbing away for hours is the bare minimum required for this profession. According to Jin Hui, the average four-room flat is completed by his team in four to five hours. For places with extreme conditions, it may go up to nine hours.
“(The fact that) our job is very labour-intensive, together with the stigma of the public’s viewpoint that it’s a dirty job – it’s very, very hard for us to find additional manpower,” he laments.
Like any other job, the financial aspect is arguably one of the most important considerations when selecting a career to pursue. However, this was not a priority of Jin Hui’s.
Although his current income is not affected by the number of jobs he accepts, it is still substantially less than what he would be earning had he continued in engineering.
“We are still trying to maintain (our services) at a bearable cost that customers are willing to pay. As such, we are still trying to fight as much as possible to have an increase (in salary),” said Jin Hui.
Despite the money woes, witnessing a satisfied customer’s reaction to EasyCleanSG’s work serves as motivation for Jin Hui to persevere through his job.
Receiving the Environmental Services Star Award last year in December was a testament to his efforts. He shares that he feels recognised for his contributions to the industry.
The award is presented by NEA to those who have demonstrated exceptional service excellence, good leadership, a proactive attitude to upskilling themselves and made outstanding contributions to environmental sustainability in their profession.
One of his goals for the future of the cleaning industry is to encourage youths to join his profession. Along with defusing negative stereotypes about the industry, Jin Hui hopes to emphasise the importance of cleaners and their value in society.
When asked about advice for youths who are considering a career switch, he mentions three key points – to recognise one’s passions, to be open-minded and to take the first step out by giving the job a try.
As he was initially almost closed off to the idea of working as a cleaner, he explained that it was the idea of making a difference in the industry that convinced him to embark on the new prospect.
“So what really changed my mind were the end results that (Joel) wanted – to bring more youths into this industry and to create an impact, where we hoped that this particular industry would be viewed as a professional profession, just like all other professions.”
What is ETIH@TP
• To establish an ideation & learning space for development, test-bedding and sharing of industrial best practices and benchmarking for industrial adoption in collaboration with industry players, trade associations, institutes of higher learning (IHLs) and government agencies.
• Working closely with partners, ETIH@TP aims to gather different perspectives and thoughts and transform them into ideas and projects to create products and services that could uplift the entire environmental cleaning industry.
• We also aim to upskill the workforce with facilitated training and coaching programmes that are validated collectively by government agencies, IHLs and trade associations.
The underlying inspiration to initiate ETIH@TP
• Because of urbanization, Covid-19 pandemic and mandatory Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting, the demand for environmental cleaning services continues to rise.
• The common approach of increasing manpower to meet the service demand, quantitatively and qualitatively, is not sustainable as a result of our manpower constraints and aging society.
• It is therefore crucial to transform and level up the environmental cleaning industry by optimizing operations and processes, developing and adopting technologies as well as upskilling workers for long term productivity gain and sustainable growth.
• In alignment with the objectives of the Environment Services Industry Transformation Map (ES ITM), EITH@TP aims to make our contribution by developing capability, test-bedding and sharing of industrial best practices and benchmarks for adoption of robotics & automation technologies in Built Environment, digital performance/outcome evaluation for productivity and low carbon emission operation in Built Environment.
Who are involved in ETIH@TP
• National Environment Agency (NEA), Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and enviro tech consortia.
• ETIH@TP is a Living Laboratory hosted in Temasek Polytechnic (TP), coordinated by TP, EMAS and LS 2 Holdings Limited in collaboration with enviro tech consortium partners namely Republic Power Pte Ltd, Cleantools Pte Ltd, Karcher Singapore Pte Ltd & Nilfisk Pte Ltd.
Source of this article by LS2 Holdings Limited, refer to this: 230607_Factsheet_for_Enviro_Tech_Innovation_Hub_at_TP
Temasek Polytechnic (“TP”), together with the Environmental Management Association of Singapore (“EMAS”), and industry players LS 2 Holdings Limited (“LS2”), Republic Power Pte Ltd (“Republic Power”), Cleantools Pte Ltd (“Cleantools”), Karcher Singapore Pte Ltd (“Karcher”), and Nilfisk Pte Ltd (“Nilfisk”) joined hands today to launch Singapore’s first Enviro Tech Innovation Hub (“ETIH@TP”).
This Innovation Hub will serve as a pioneering “Living Laboratory” dedicated to the advancement of sustainable environmental cleaning and integrated facilities management. The first-of-its-kind in Singapore, the hub will serve as a platform for developing capabilities, cocreation and test-bedding of innovative solutions in the cleaning industry. ETIH@TP will be housed within TP and will operate under the joint coordination of TP, EMAS, and LS 2, in collaboration with a consortium of enviro tech partners including Republic Power, Cleantools, Karcher and Nilfisk, with the support of the National Environment Agency (NEA).
The seven organisations jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding today at the CESG Catalyst 2023 event at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands Singapore. The MOU signing was witnessed by Mr Ng Chun Pin, Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Planning, Corporate and Technology) of NEA and Mr Aw Tuan Kee, Deputy Principal of Temasek Polytechnic.
The ETIH@TP will officially open its door at the end of 2023 and will be accessible to all environmental cleaning industry partners in a bid to support transformation in the Environmental Services (ES) industry. ETIH@TP will also promote training and skills development through joint CET courses. [Refer to Annex for more information on ETIH@TP.]
Mr Song Kwok Yuen, Director, School of Engineering at Temasek Polytechnic said, “Temasek Polytechnic is committed to support the transformation of the environment industry. ETIH@TP will curate and offer customised workforce upskilling courses and programmes that are validated collectively by government agencies, IHLs and trade associations to meet targeted training needs in the environmental services industry. We hope to grow awareness and upskill workers to adopt new technologies such as robotics and automation, IoT and data analytics in environmental services. We will also develop training programs to support those in new job roles such as, integrated facility specialists, sustainability specialists.”
Mr Tony Chooi, EMAS President said, “Through consultation and joint effort with the National Environment Agency, TP and EMAS together with enviro tech consortium partners (such as LS2, Republic Power, Cleantools, Karcher, Nilfisk, etc.), the Hub will plan and carry out initiatives for workforce upskilling, talent development and test-bedding of new solutions. EMAS and enviro tech consortium partners will also provide consultancy on outcome-based contracting to help address the issues of manpower constraints and to boost efficiency and productivity in the fast-changing environmental cleaning landscape.”
Mr. Alvin Ong, CEO of LS 2 said, “Reinventing our operational models and refreshing our skillsets is critical in today’s world where technology (such as robotics and AI) will push us to rethink and rebuild our business operating models in order to stay agile and competitive. With the ETIH@TP, we are able to support and expedite the skills and capabilities transformation of environmental cleaning industry players and help them to undergo the relevant digital transition to manage ongoing challenges whilst enabling them to take on fresh opportunities, not just in Singapore but also in global markets. We are therefore seeking like-minded practitioners to join ETIH@TP to grow and contribute to the development of tech solutions, innovations and robotics for the environmental cleaning industry.”
The launch of ETIH@TP align with the goals of the Environmental Services Industry Transformation Map (ES ITM 2025), which aims to enhance ongoing industry transformation initiatives by fostering the development of technology-driven companies and exploring emerging areas of growth in environmental sustainability. For more information on ES ITM 2025, visit https://www.nea.gov.sg/industry-transformation-map/environmental-services-industrytransformation-map.
Source of this article by LS2 Holdings Limited, refer to this article: 230607_Media_Release__Launch_Enviro_Tech_Innovation_Hub_at_TP
Singapore’s cleaning sector must look to technology and digitalisation to improve efficiency and overcome manpower challenges, says Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor. As the cleaning workforce ages, innovation becomes especially important to attract young people, she adds. Claudia Lim reports.
Click the link to watch the video: Channel NewsAsia
More SMEs appear to be stepping up when it comes to workplace safety. The Workplace Safety and Health Council said the number of monthly sign-ups for the StartSAFE programme has more than doubled since September last year. That is when the heightened safety period kicked in to address a concerning rise in workplace fatalities. Seven deaths have been reported since the start of the year.
Video Source: Youtube – Official CNA Channel
In parliament on Feb 6, MPs debated the Environment Public Health Bill. They called for extra penalties, including mandatory Corrective Work Orders for all littering offenders, not just recalcitrant ones. The bill, which was passed, also seeks stricter licensing rules for waste management and cleaning companies, as well as progressive wages for their staff.
Video Source: Youtube – Official CNA channel
SINGAPORE – Certain companies in cleaning, waste collection and pest management will be encouraged to broaden their services beyond one environmental service sector amid labour constraints.
This was one aim outlined by the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Monday at the launch of its refreshed plan to improve productivity and raise standards in the environmental services industry by 2025.
NEA said it envisages that by building on the capabilities of companies with sufficient resources, about 10 per cent of them will expand into more than one environmental service sector.
This comes as the industry grapples with a declining workforce, exacerbated by a manpower shortage in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw many cleaners and waste collection attendants returning to Malaysia.
The pandemic, however, also helped to reduce the industry’s reliance on manual labour as companies adopted more forms of technology, such as robotic floor sweepers, NEA noted.
NEA’s refreshed plan to transform the industry aims to create more than 1,600 professional, managerial, executive and technical jobs by 2025.
These roles include those of data analysts and sustainability managers as the agency looks to support green growth areas in the industry.
Speaking at the launch of the Environmental Services Industry Transformation Map 2025 at the Environment Building in Scotts Road, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Koh Poh Koon said: “The environmental services industry will be positioned as one that turns national and industry challenges into value creation opportunities through research, development and innovation.
“It will prepare environmental services firms for emerging opportunities in growth areas, both locally and internationally, such as robotics and automation, resource recovery, circularity of materials… and carbon capture from waste management.”
With the introduction of the Progressive Wage Model for the cleaning and waste management sectors from July 1, more than 44,000 resident workers are expected to benefit from upcoming wage climbs and upskilling opportunities, he added.
The industry now comprises about 1,700 companies and has more than 71,000 workers.
The plan to transform standards in the environmental services industry was launched in 2017, with the pest management sector included in the map about two years later.
In 2020, a study of the pest management sector commissioned by NEA and Workforce Singapore brought up issues such as varied quality standards, in part due to low entry barriers, as well as a manpower shortage that was compounded by the poor public perception of such jobs.
Adoption of science and technology was also slow owing to duplication of efforts in research and development by both service providers and suppliers, and concerns over efficacy and returns on investment, the study found.
President of the Singapore Pest Management Association Albert Lee said the refreshed plan, with initiatives such as the NEA-Industry Scholarship Programme, will help attract young talent.
“For the past decade, the labour pool in the pest management sector has been declining as we compete for the same workforce as those working for logistics and delivery platforms, which initially offer a higher pay,” he said.
“This transformation plan helps outline future career paths that we can tap, as well as opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises to optimise and digitalise their processes.”
Ms Goh Fang Wei, executive director of the Waste Management & Recycling Association of Singapore, noted that while digitalisation and automation will reduce reliance on manpower, attracting younger workers will still be important for the future of the industry.
She said the refreshed map shows the younger generation that waste collection requires skills and there are also many esteemed positions available. “It’s no longer like the older generation used to say: ‘If you don’t study or don’t do well, you become a garbage collector.’”
As part of the industry’s transformation, all government agencies have been required since May 2020 to adopt outcome-based cleaning contracts in new tenders.
These specify outcomes, whereas traditional manpower-based contracts fixed the number of workers deployed. Outcome-based contracts give cleaning companies more flexibility to optimise manpower, technology and processes amid a declining workforce.
To date, about 40 per cent of large service buyers have shifted to such contracts, said NEA, adding that it intends to encourage greater adoption of such contracts in the private sector.
Under a programme to foster collaborations between NEA and the industry, more than 35 companies have also successfully exported their technology solutions overseas.
Among them is local cleaning robot company LionsBot International, which designs and manufactures robots here and has deployed 1,500 robots worldwide. About 400 of these robots clean places in Singapore, including shopping malls, schools and MRT stations.
Mr Dylan Ng Terntzer, co-founder and chief executive of LionsBot International, said that where professional cleaning robots are concerned, “Singapore has the highest number of cleaning robots for a city”.
“NEA’s focus on technology growth really helped to accelerate adoption and acceptance of cleaning robots in the whole ecosystem,” he said.
Source of News: The Straits Times
SINGAPORE – Employers are required to pay eligible workers the applicable progressive wage based on each worker’s job scope, and the Manpower Ministry (MOM) enforces compliance with these requirements through inspections and investigations of complaints, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng.
Dr Tan was responding to Associate Professor Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) in a written reply to his Parliament question on Monday.
The Workers’ Party MP had asked if MOM tracks employee compensation patterns for firms that have adopted the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), and in particular, whether the ministry has detected any systematic efforts to reduce total compensation disbursed by the company to the employee, in response to instituting the PWM.
Dr Tan said that employers may face suspension of work pass privileges if they are found to be non-compliant with progressive wage requirements.
Enforcement is complemented by education, so that employers are aware of the requirements. Employers can decide on workers’ overall compensation structure, provided progressive wage requirements are adhered to.
Developed by tripartite committees consisting of unions, employers and the Government, the PWM helps to uplift lower-wage workers’ wages. It covers Singapore citizens and permanent residents in sectors like cleaning, security, landscape, lift and escalator, and retail job roles.
Since the progressive wage approach was expanded in 2022, MOM has not found any substantiated case of companies reducing total compensation to employees in response to progressive wage requirements.
“In a tight labour market, it is not in employers’ interests to do so. Those who do will likely not be able to attract and retain their workers,” said Dr Tan.
He added that progressive wages increase annually according to a schedule that is negotiated by tripartite consensus, which ensures that workers see meaningful wage increases over time.
In the five-year period from 2016 to 2021, the real median gross monthly wages of cleaners, security guards and landscape maintenance workers grew by an average cumulative rate of 13 per cent, faster than the median worker at 10 per cent.
Source: The Straits Times