SGUnited Traineeship Programme: 5 Things to Know Before You Accept an Offer

SGUnited Traineeship Programme: 5 Things to Know Before You Accept an Offer

Now that SGUnited Traineeship Programme is in full swing, it seems the old scepticism of the programme is long gone.

While most fresh graduates are just happy to have a “job” and earn some money, there are actually more factors worth considering before you thank your host company for taking you in.

This article will cover the differences between SGUnited traineeships vs normal employment, and what you should look out for in your contract.

What is the SGUnited Traineeship Programme?

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Workforce Singapore (WSG) created the SGUnited initiative to keep fresh graduates occupied during a flu-ridden economy. The government co-funds up to 80% of trainees’ allowances.

Potential trainees can choose jobs ranging from manufacturing, food and beverage, Infocomm technology, logistics, healthcare and retail. See all SGUnited jobs here.

Each SGUnited traineeship will last up to 9 months with the following requirements:

  • Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident; 
  • Graduates of 2019 or 2020 from ITE, Polytechnics, Universities, or other educational institutions (e.g. private universities and overseas institutions);
  • Completed National Service in 2019 or 2020
  • Traineeship must commence by 31 December 2020.

On the surface, it seems like fresh graduates’ prayers are answered — they can finally get jobs. But is that really the case?

Here are 5 things you should know about SGUnited traineeships.

1. SGUnited trainees are technically not “employed”

Yes, you have to go to work but you’re still not really employed. Sorry!

The Ministry of Manpower defines employment as “those who worked for pay, profit or family gains during the reference period”. These include full-timers, part-timers and self-employed. Anything outside the definition, you are considered unemployed in MOM’s eyes.

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But wait! Aren’t you “working for pay” too?

Well, as the name suggests, SGUnited trainees are actually working for the training opportunities. Yup, just like an intern. You get some money but it’s known as your training allowance, not your “pay”.

Not being part of the employed labour force has its implications — for example, you’re not subject to CPF rules and you are also not shielded under the employment act in Singapore. 

2. SGUnited trainees do not get CPF contributions

Sorry to burst your bubble, but you won’t be earning much as an SGUnited trainee. 

First, your earnings are known as an allowance, not salary. The maximum you can earn every month is $2,500, but it also depends on your qualifications. 

Qualification Training Allowance
University degree or above $1,800 to $2,500
Polytechnic diploma or professional qualifications $1,700 to $2,100
ITE or equivalent $1,600 to $1,800

Note: The original SGUnited training allowance started from just $1,100 for ITE grads, but the benchmarks have since been increased.

As you are not an employee, you also do not get any CPF contributions, meaning you’ll lose out on up to 9 months’ worth of CPF (i.e. your first home downpayment!) as long as you remain a trainee. 

Of course, since the allowance is already quite low, not being subject to CPF also means you take home more money in cash…

3. SGUnited Trainees are not entitled to annual leave or sick leave

No mandated annual leave or sick leave? Now this is truly the curse of not being covered under the Employment Act.

While most employed Singaporeans are given minimally 7 paid annual leave days and 14 paid medical leave days, there is no law to say that SGUnited trainees must have any leave at all. 

If you have no leave entitlements, this means that if you miss out on work, your allowance will be deducted proportionately. Ouch.

Does that mean that you need to slave away for the next 9 months? 

Well, not if you have a decent traineeship host company. While not mandatory, the government does encourage companies to grant at least 7 annual leave and 7 paid medical leave days

This Reddit thread confirms that not all companies are that heartless, with some offering their trainees 7 to 21 days of annual leave. Trainees can find the terms in their contract. 

4. SGUnited trainees do not have a specific notice period

Another implication of being technically unemployed is that there is no mandatory notice period for you to serve. But that doesn’t mean you or your host company can simply go MIA on each other.

Your boss is not allowed to fire you simply based on his/her mood. Instead, the host company needs to provide an explanation for termination to the Singapore Business Federation, and approval is required. 

Similarly, SGUnited trainees need to provide a proper reason if they quit — like finally landing a real job. (Duh!)

Don’t get a shock if you still see a notice period in your contract. Most host companies do still stipulate a reasonable period long enough for proper handover. 

Make sure you check your contract and negotiate a reasonable transition period before you sign your life away.

5. SGUnited trainees need to sign a new contract if they are offered a permanent role

Remember, the money-burning SGUnited initiative was always meant to be temporary.

The assumption is that COVID-19 will be gone by the end of SGUnited, and companies will finally have the budget to hire their trainees. 

So if after 9 months your company is keen to keep you onboard the team, they will need to offer you a new contract. The new contract should include:

  • Hours of work and overtime
  • Annual leave
  • Sick leave
  • Public holiday entitlements
  • CPF contributions

Hopefully, your employer offers you more than $2,500 as your monthly salary…

And yes, if you sign the employment contract, you will finally be protected under the Employment Act.

Is SGUnited traineeship really great?

The SGUnited traineeship isn’t a magic bullet that can solve the problem of youngsters graduating into a pandemic. It’s more of a stopgap measure to ease the pain a little.

But the truth is that most of the regulations are kept grey. A lot of times it is up to host companies to provide good benefits out of “goodwill” to their trainees. 

There are several concerns flagged up by Singaporeans on online forums:

Thankfully, the government has stepped up measures to ensure that companies need to declare if they have undertaken cost-cutting measures or retrenchment exercises.

Singapore Business Federation has also stepped up to be the “guardian” of trainees. Trainees who feel that they have been treated unfairly can bao toh malpractice via phone or email SBF at [email protected].

It’s not perfect, but SGUnited traineeship should hopefully be a win-win situation for both employees and trainees. Companies get to save cost and get additional manpower while trainees get some work experience that is transferable to their next job. 

Liked this article? Share it with your SGUnited trainee friends.