The Committee to Strengthen National Service announced 30 recommendations, including a new volunteer corps. Here are some of the changes that are recommended:
1. IMPROVED RECOGNITIONS BENEFITS
Currently, NSmen get a total of $9,000 for their Post-Secondary Education Account and Central Provident Fund (Ordinary, Special and Medisave) Accounts in three payouts from the start to the end of their operationally-ready training cycle.
This will be upped to $15,000, with the additional $6,000 going into the Medisave account. These benefits will be known as the NS Housing, Medical and Education Awards.
2. BETTER LIFE AND PERSONAL ACCIDENT INSURANCE
National servicemen will be covered up to $150,000 for incidents that occur during their service. This is an increase from $100,000 today.
3. CHANGES TO THE INDIVIDUAL PHYSICAL PROFICIENCY TEST (IPPT) SYSTEM
IPPT incentives will be increased by $100. So, gold award winners will get $500, silver award winners $300, while those who pass and meet the requirement for the incentive get $200.
There will be more time to meet requirements for IPPT, IPPT Preparatory Training (IPT) and Remedial Training (RT).
Currently, national servicemen must pass their IPPT or IPT within the nine months after their birthday, and complete their RT in the remaining three months if they fail to meet the IPPT or IPT requirements.
When the changes are implemented, servicemen will have a one-year window to clear their IPPT or IPT, with the subsequent year to complete 20 sessions of RT if necessary.
Those who choose to take part in IPT will have to complete 10 IPT sessions in their first year. If they fail to meet the IPT standards, they only need to complete 10 RT sessions for the subsequent year.
4. RECOGNITION OF NSMEN'S PERFORMANCE
NSmen who are among the top 30 per cent performers during their in-camp training will receive up to $200 in vouchers. Currently, only the top 10 per cent performers receive $100 in vouchers
5. MORE REGULAR TRAINERS
1,100 SAF regulars and 230 Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force regulars will be hired as trainers to improve the effectiveness of training.
1. MAXIMISING AND ACCREDITING SKILLS
NSFs with skills obtained prior to enlistment, such as those holding nursing diplomas from polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education, will be given vocations which can tap on these skills, subject to operational requirements.
NSFs will be accredited with relevant Work Skills Qualifications (WSQ) certification when they attend various courses during their NS. For example, those trained in security-related roles can receive a WSQ certificate for security, which they can use when looking for jobs. Those who pick up skills in command and management can also be accredited for leadership-related qualifications.
2. LIFE AND PERSONAL ACCIDENT INSURANCE
NSFs will get the same increased coverage as NSmen, of up to $150,000 for incidents that occur during their service.
3. MORE REGULAR TRAINERS
NSFs will also benefit from the 1,100 SAF regulars and 230 police and civil defence regulars hired.
WHAT: Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC)
WHO: For women, permanent residents or new citizens
Volunteers can enter one of two tracks when they enlist in the SAFVC.
TRACK 1: OPERATIONS
Age: 18 to 35
Role: Serve operational roles, such as protecting key installations or play supporting roles in medical and communications.
TRACK 2: SPECIALIST
Age: 18 to 45
Role: Those with relevant professional experience can also be placed in the specialist track, where they can contribute to areas such as legal, psychology, information, medical, engineering and maritime fields.
Service period: One to two weeks every year for a minimum of three years
How many: Mindef hopes to enlist around 100 to 150 people in its first batch of volunteers by mid-2015.
If you are serious, be warned:
There will not be a unit comprised solely of volunteers. Volunteers can be deployed alongside other units, serving in combat or support roles.
Joining the SAFVC is not at all like participating in a holiday camp. Similar to full-time and operationally-ready national servicemen, SAFVC volunteers will be bound to their commitments as military personnel and can be called up for service for up to two weeks every year.
You can leave only after three years.
Before enlistment, volunteers will have to undergo a screening process and a medical check-up and be given a Physical Employment Status, just like NSFs and NSmen.
After enlistment, they would first have to undergo a four-week basic military skills course - two weeks to teach volunteers about military life and regimentation, and the remaining two weeks to teach them about the roles they will be playing.
Mindef has not yet announced its plans for compensating or rewarding volunteers, but it is considering the option of offering allowance or make-up pay.
But it does not want people to think of joining the SAFVC as a way of passing time or getting a break from work while being paid.
The ministry is looking into using the existing SAF Act to compel people who have signed up for the SAFVC to commit fully.
SUGGESTIONS NOT ACCEPTED
There will be no preferential admission of children of NSmen to primary schools.
First-time homeowners who have served NS will not get priority in HDB flat allocation.
There will not be a substantial increase in NS allowance or subsidised public transport for NSFs at this point of time.
Employers will have to continue paying the CPF contributions of NSmen while they are in training as it is a way for companies to contribute to NS.
Q: What is the purpose of the SAFVC? How many people are the ministry aiming to attract and how would it be kept sustainable?
Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen: This is not an exercise in numbers obviously. Whether it is for the SPF, SCDF or SAF, every year, we have at least 20,000 enlistees and they are adequate from the operations point of view. (The SAFVC) is to allow an avenue for those who don't have NS obligations to serve. Regarding the numbers who come forward, we will deal with it, see how it is and we will encourage those who feel that they can contribute as volunteers to come forward. I feel fairly confident that we will be able to hold courses for those who come forward and the experience of the police and SCDF gives us some confidence too.
Q: Has the committee looked at providing incentives or compensation for volunteers?
Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman: It is still early days for us to look at implications for the volunteers. As with national service, the moment they become a volunteer, they will be subjected to similar NS requirements.
Dr Ng: Let me just say that the details of the Volunteer Corps would still have to be worked out. We feel that this is a virtuous idea that allows expression of those who are not obligated to perform NS to do it. And we expect that people who come forward won't be looking to do it for the benefits, because there won't be (many). It is really for people who come forward because they want to defend Singapore and do their part for national service.
Q: How do you balance the need for volunteers to commit to the SAF versus the interests of employers to keep their staff productive?
Dr Maliki: We have had engagements with various employers and we asked them whether they would encourage or welcome the proposal. Many employers already encourage their employees to take part in these opportunities and they see (the SAFVC) as another one of these.
This article was first published on May 23, 2014.
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