Finding Talents in A Tight Labour Market
Words by Julia Chan

Ever since the debut of Covid-19 at the end of 2019, many businesses had taken a hit due to stringent travel restrictions and measures to safeguard public health interest. Retailers faced tremendous pressure in maintaining a brick-and-mortar stall front during the pandemic, exacerbated by a shortage of manpower, increase in occupancy costs, and a rise in competition from global e-commerce players.

“The retail industry is a very tough industry,” said Mr Chee Choon Hian, the CEO and founder of Decks Pte Ltd, one of the leading apparel retailers in Singapore.

The company carried several popular brands such as Surfers Paradise, Island Shop, M)phosis, Isle & Isle, SP Max, Santa Barbara Polo & Racqurt Club, Hang Ten and Impression, with more than 100 counters and retail boutiques across South-East Asia. It was also the authorised manufacturer for Universal Studios Singapore and the appointed sourcing agent for department stores such as BHG.

Decks’ mission was to stay ahead of global trends by inspiring fashion and creativity while delivering products and services of the utmost quality to its customers. It had previously invested in RFID technology to retain workers and improve employees’ productivity while ensuring accurate stock-taking process. The company also embarked in an ERP and CRM systems overhaul to improve its overall productivity and business processes.

Its working culture emphasized on creativity and innovation, with company trips to bond the company and an internship program with polytechnics to offer positions to students willing to learn and be empowered to have high decision-making autonomy. However, in a tight labour market, the company still faced challenges in hiring talents.

Fortunately for Decks, Mr Chee learnt more about NTUC’s Employment & Employability Institute (e2i) during a trip to London where he was introduced to the Career Conversion Programme (CCP).

The CCP was targeted at mid-career switchers to undergo skills conversion and move into new occupations or sectors that have good prospects and opportunities for progression. Trainees would then undergo structured on-the-job training to transit into the new job role. e2i would support partners to develop CCPs to help address their manpower shortages and to tackle skills-gaps among job seekers interested in taking on the available jobs.

Mr Chee realised that the CCP scheme had great potential to attract employees from different industries to join the tough and demanding retail industry by giving a higher pay compared to their previous industries.

“We were impressed by CCP industry-recognised training and how structured it was. We saw the CCP’s potential in enhancing our employees’ current skillsets and diversifying their capabilities,” Mr Chee shared.

In order to integrate and ensure that the new employees were able to assimilate into their job roles quickly and seamlessly, Mr Chee further said that Decks had implemented several different workflow manuals for different departments containing essential information to facilitate their onboarding process. Additionally, a mentor was be assigned to each employee to teach and aid the latter.

“Through these programs we have managed to convert a number of employees from different industries to join the retail industry,” Mr Chee said.

“The CCP has made our hiring process easier as we are able to employ people with great attitudes from other industries and train them to perform tasks that are otherwise quite difficult without the CCP. Overall, we are very thankful for the CCP as it has improved our workplace efficiency and culture and we are very happy with the results,” he added.


To learn more about Decks Pte Ltd, visit

Address your manpower needs with e2i at

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