Remarks by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, at the Launch of the Hawkers’ Development Programme, at Ci Yuan Community Club Atrium, on Monday, 20 January 2020
1. Good morning everyone. I am happy to see many familiar faces here today. This is a gathering of a community which shares a common cause -- to nurture and sustain Singapore’s much loved hawker trade and culture, and support more Singaporeans who wish to pursue a career as a hawker.
Encouraging New Entrants to Join the Hawker Trade
2. As mentioned by Minister Ong, our hawker culture is a defining aspect of the Singaporean way of life. And our people are at the heart of our hawker culture. We are proud of how Singaporeans of all races and religions, and from all walks of life, regularly gather at hawker centres or community dining rooms to bond over good food. This is why we are aspiring to inscribe our hawker culture on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list. Hawkers are key custodians of Singapore’s hawker culture. And we celebrate every accolade received by our hawkers. Their passion and hard work have built a treasured legacy of local flavours, and we want to continue to build on this with new generations of hawkers. But with the median age of our hawkers at 60 years old, it is important to grow the pool of hawkers to sustain the trade.
3. This is why the National Environment Agency (or NEA) has been working closely with the hawker community, to nurture and support young Singaporeans who wish to join the trade. Since 2017, my Ministry and NEA have rolled out several initiatives recommended by the Hawker Centre 3.0 committee to sustain the hawker trade. These include providing affordable training programmes to support aspiring hawkers. Let me share some examples.
4. One of the critical factors for success of a hawker is how good your food is. If your food is good, Singaporeans will travel from across the island for it. For aspiring hawkers, it can be struggle to get your dish from good to great. This is where advice from veteran hawkers can be invaluable. So NEA and the People’s Association’s Hawker Fare Series has been bringing in veteran hawkers to share their recipes and nifty cooking tips with aspiring hawkers. We have been very fortunate to get veteran hawkers like Mdm Hajjah Roziah, who has her own stall at Bedok Food Centre. She has taught participants her technique for making curry and flipping Roti Prata, just like how she learnt from observing another stallholder do it many years ago. Many other veteran hawkers have generously shared their secrets in the Series, and a total of 308 participants have benefitted from the Hawker Fare Series since 2017.
5. Another step to being a successful hawker, is to run your business well. So NEA and the Institute of Technical Education (or ITE) developed the “Introduction to Managing a Hawker Business” course to help new hawkers. A total of 329 have benefitted.
6. New hawkers also need time to learn the ropes and build up their clientele. And perhaps there are some who would like to try their hand at the trade, but are deterred by the upfront costs. To address these concerns and needs, the NEA launched the Incubation Stall Programme, or ISP, in February 2018. The Programme provides eligible new hawkers with pre-fitted stalls located at existing hawker centres to run their business. They also benefit from subsidised rentals for a period of 15 months. We have received over 70 applications for the incubation stalls to date, and allocated 25. I am delighted to share that two of the stallholders have since become full-fledged hawkers. They are Mr Kwan Yee Liang, who is selling handmade noodles at Block 163 Bukit Merah Central, and Ms Michelle Yee who is selling Hakka Thunder Tea Rice and Yong Tau Foo at Chinatown Complex. Both offer delicious food – do visit them and try their dishes!
Hawkers’ Development Programme
7. As part of our ongoing efforts to engage industry in co-creating solutions with us, we set up a Workgroup on Sustaining the Hawker Trade in 2019 comprising stakeholders with diverse experiences such as hawkers and food advocates. Collectively, they emphasised the importance of tapping on experienced hawkers to share recipes and culinary practices, as well as to provide mentorship. Building on the Workgroup’s recommendation, NEA and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) worked together to launch the Hawkers’ Development Programme, or HDP.
8. The HDP will complement our existing efforts to support aspiring hawkers to enter the hawker trade. The HDP is also open to existing hawkers. This could, for instance, help our existing hawkers to upskill and upgrade their business, by leveraging social media platforms or utilising food delivery mobile apps to reach out to more customers. Based on feedback from the workgroup and our experience running the current programmes, we have included a two-month apprenticeship as well as three-month mentorship programme with experienced hawkers to better enable the aspiring hawkers to successfully become permanent hawkers.
9. Although today is the official launch of the HDP, 26 aspiring hawkers have already completed an abridged version of the programme, as part of MediaCorp’s upcoming reality TV show, “Hawker Academy”. I was glad to hear that the participants found the modules on the basics of food safety and hygiene, as well as business marketing, to be relevant and useful. They have also gained confidence to embark on their journey as budding hawkerpreneurs. Do look out for this programme on Channel 8 to follow the journey of these budding hawkers!
10. To create greater awareness of the HDP, the Federation of Merchants Associations of Singapore (or FMAS) will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Nanyang Polytechnic-Asian Culinary Institute (NYP-ACI) today. Under the MOU, FMAS will promote the programme to aspiring and existing hawkers, and encourage them to participate in it.
11. Let me conclude. Singapore’s hawker culture belongs to all of us. I am grateful to the hawker community, which has built our distinctive food heritage through generations of hard work, and I am heartened that many continue to go the extra mile to safeguard the hawker trade. To recognise their efforts, last September, we celebrated experienced hawkers who have made significant contributions to the trade at the inaugural Hawkers’ Seminar organised by FMAS.
12. The HDP is one of many good examples of how we can all work together to sustain our hawker culture which as Minister Ong has said is well and alive. We will continue to partner the community to ensure that our existing and new hawkers are well-supported.
13. With the Lunar New Year just around the corner, let me wish all of you a very happy and prosperous Year of the Rat! 祝大家鼠年行大运！