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SINGAPORE – Upgrading works will soon begin on two Geylang Serai landmarks as part of larger efforts to preserve Singapore’s cultural heritage, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday.

To be completed in 2024, renovation to Geylang Serai Market will start with a new external façade for the market and an improvement of the area’s walkways and public spaces, he said in Malay during his National Day Rally speech.

Another location opposite the market, Joo Chiat Complex, too, will get a facelift, with a new glass canopy and event space at its main entrance and public spaces. Public spaces around the 38-year-old building will also be renewed.

The upgrades are part of the Geylang Serai Cultural Belt (GSCB) project, first announced during the 2018 National Day Rally. Some parts of the project such as Wisma Geylang Serai (WGS) and Anjung@WGS, a sheltered hard court within the community hub for sports and community activities, have already been completed.

“Geylang Serai is an important cultural hub, not only for the Malay community but also for all Singaporeans as well as tourists,” said PM Lee, adding that the area’s makeover is meant to showcase the beauty and richness of Singapore’s Malay cultural heritage.

In his speech, PM Lee also outlined how communities here can overcome economic uncertainties and challenges ahead, taking in suggestions made at Forward SG discussions led by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong.

Specifically, PM Lee touched on job opportunities in the digital economy as well as a new temporary safety net to help workers who lost their jobs upskill for the next one.

“The digital domain offers a wide range of job opportunities. You can be a YouTuber, a data scientist, or a user experience or user interface designer,” he said.

He added that job seekers may also make a living by being a professional online gamer, coach, or even a commentator. “Who says you can’t make a living from online games?”

Among the 400-member group of Malay/Muslim digital professionals (Malay Muslims iN Tech) on LinkedIn is Ms Atiqah Abdul Khalim, 29.

She graduated from the National University of Singapore with a political science degree but later opted to study user experience (UX) design for apps, websites and devices.

Now a senior UX designer with Rakuten Viki, Ms Atiqah also acts as an instructor, passing her passion and expertise in digital design to others, PM Lee said.

Malay Muslims iN Tech aims to make the tech industry and tech roles more accessible, Ms Atiqah told The Straits Times.

“Many industries and roles are also becoming digitised. Upskilling yourself will be helpful regardless of whether you intend to enter traditional tech roles,” she said.

He noted the flipside of such opportunities is the anxiety that jobs may be lost as trends shift, due to factors such as automation or artificial intelligence.

“We can certainly expect more job disruptions. More of our workers will be affected by such disruptions and may lose their jobs several times throughout their careers,” he said.

Existing schemes such as the SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme and Workforce Singapore’s Career Conversion Programme help workers here learn new skills and move to different industries. But he is also aware that workers facing financial pressure may find it difficult to go for such training.

As such, a new scheme is being developed to offer temporary financial support for retrenched workers as they upgrade their skills, he said. More details to be shared once the Forward SG initiative is completed.

Mr Lee also noted Mendaki is working closely with other Malay/Muslim organisations to reach out to Malay workers, while Malay leaders in the National Trades Union Congress are actively involved in helping them upskill and find jobs.

“Together, they have strengthened their referral processes for training, upskilling and job placements,” he said.

One beneficiary is Ms Nur Asyura Senin, 26, who previously worked as an administrative assistant in a construction company before leaving the workforce for four years to care for her children.

When she decided to rejoin the workforce, she wanted to switch to a job in dentistry. In 2022, she enrolled in Mendaki’s Women@Work programme, where a career advisor helped map out a career action plan and suggested suitable courses.

Ms Asyura used her SkillsFuture Credits to obtain a certificate in basic dental assisting, and managed to land a full-time job as a dental surgery assistant at a clinic even as she was undergoing her training.

“I hope more mothers will follow Asyura’s example. The Government will support you and I hope your families too will give you their full support,” he said.

Mr Lee said that 58 years ago, modern Singapore’s founders were driven by a desire to overcome challenges and work for a brighter future.

That same “reinvigorated spirit” is needed to take Singapore even further forward, he said.

“We will face various complex challenges in the years to come and we want to implement various new plans. But with the same confidence and values our forefathers displayed, I am confident we can make our aspirations a reality,” he said.

  • Additional reporting by Shabana Begum

Watch PM Lee’s National Day Rally speech here: NDR 2023: Upgrading works for Geylang Serai Market, Joo Chiat Complex to begin soon , Latest Singapore News

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