Setting up a shared pool of social service professionals who will be groomed for leadership roles in the sector appears to be a sound approach.
Under the new scheme, the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) - which oversees social service agencies - and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) will team up to recruit and train social service professionals and deploy them to various agencies.
The aim is to make the social services sector more attractive by creating better personal development and career prospects, said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Thursday.
The lack of structured career development paths for social service professionals - because most VWOs are small - has often been cited as a problem in drawing new people and retaining existing employees.
But Mr Chan said: "In order for us to make a breakthrough in this, everyone has to think the sector first, and not the individual VWO first."
His comment hints at the challenges of making the scheme succeed.
While it may bring fresh talent from beyond the sector, it is open to existing professionals as well.
This means VWOs risk losing their painstakingly recruited and nurtured talent to the central pool - something they would be loath to see, especially given the scarcity.
This fear had been raised earlier for a similar scheme by the NCSS, which is still running.
The Social Service Talent Development Scheme was launched in October 2011 "with the aim of developing a pipeline of well-qualified, highly experienced and well-rounded professionals who would provide leadership for the social service sector", the NCSS said on its website.
Each year, eight candidates are picked from NCSS scholarship holders or outstanding social service professionals nominated by their employers. They then get fellowships for further training or attachments overseas, or are seconded to the ministry, NCSS or other VWOs.
But the VWOs' fear has been allayed because their nominees have to return to them after the stints.
For the new scheme to succeed, the VWOs have to be convinced that they will ultimately benefit from it.
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