After three years in the oil and gas industry, Mr Derrick Lee signed up to be a hawker.
He had always been interested in the food and beverage (F&B) sector and thought the Entrepreneurship Programme run by Fei Siong Food Management was a good platform for him to learn the ropes.
Today, the 31-year-old business graduate is the proud owner of Ah Khoon Authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice, a stall at Ci Yuan Community Club's hawker centre in Hougang.
Mr Lee told The New Paper: "Though I was interested in F&B, I didn't have any recipe.
"I was totally clueless... But through the programme, I met my mentor, a veteran hawker, who shared with me tips accumulated over the years. His guidance was like a shortcut."
Such training programmes are what the Hawker Centres 3.0 Committee hopes to see more of to attract aspiring hawkers.
Yesterday, it submitted to the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources its recommendations to sustain Singapore's hawker culture.
The committee was set up last year to review and make recommendations to the Government on the management of hawker centres and the sustainability of the hawker trade.
This is in light of the 17 new hawker centres to be built by 2027, adding some 800 cooked food stalls. This means hawker centres will increasingly face challenges, such as manpower constraints.
The relatively high median age of incumbent hawkers - 59 years old - is also worrying.
The problem was flagged more than five years ago when first-generation stallholders started finding it difficult to find an immediate family member to pass the mantle to.
Over the course of the year, the committee engaged more than 800 stakeholders, including hawkers, the public and cleaning contractors.
Other than having training programmes to support new entrants, the committee suggested allocating a number of stalls in hawker centres as incubation stalls for aspiring hawkers to experience what it is like for a limited period.
A panel of mentors could be formed to provide guidance to these aspiring hawkers.
The committee also suggested improving productivity in hawker centres, enhancing the centres as social spaces to improve their vibrancy and promoting graciousness in hawker centres.
If successfully implemented, these recommendations will invigorate the trade and sustain hawker culture while ensuring a pleasant dining environment for everyone, said the committee.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli, thanked the committee and those who had contributed their feedback and ideas.
He added that his ministry will respond in due course.
Recommendations to sustain Singapore's hawker culture
Sustain the hawker trade and support new entrants through:
- Training opportunities and pathways for hawkers
- Incubation stall programmes for aspiring hawkers to experience the trade
- One-stop information and service centre for trade-related inquiries
- Enhancing the profile of the trade by sharing inspiring stories of hawkers
Improve productivity in hawker centres through:
- Centre-level initiatives, such as centralised dishwashing and bulk purchasing of ingredients
- Stall-level productive equipment for certain tasks, such as cutting chilli
Improve vibrancy of hawker centres and enhance them as social spaces through:
- Regular organised activities by community groups for patrons
- Improved amenities, such as Wi-Fi and child-friendly spaces
- Ensuring a variety of food
Promote graciousness through:
- Improving tray return facilities to foster a tray return culture
- Encouraging considerate behaviour, such as the sharing of tables