The Devan Nair Institute

The Revolutionary Fighter

Did you know, the founder of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) was none other than the late Devan Nair. He developed and revolutionised the labour movement with an innovative approach. His revolutionary zeal can be seen from the days when he fervently fought for workers’ rights.

When the Public Daily-Rated Unions’ Federation of the City Council went on strike in 1961, the Federation was only willing to negotiate a settlement if Nair was present. He commanded such trust and respect that by 1981, he managed to get the unions to change their militant methods.

Under his radical leadership, the unions fought by concentrating on delivering the goods i.e. bonuses, salary and other tangible employment benefits. His vision brought about a stable economy undisrupted by industrial strikes that contributed to Singapore’s survival.

Because fighting is only a short term fix, he also encouraged longer-term industrial peace by getting unions to focus on workers’ performance as well as productivity.

This piece of history laid the foundation of Singapore’s modern labour movement. The work has evolved, the issues are different, the approach is far more complex – but our values and direction remain fundamentally the same.

An ode to Continuing Education and Training Centre

Today, Jurong sees a new Continuing Education and Training Centre.

Enter the Devan Nair Institute – a 7-storey campus dedicated to Continuing Education and Training (CET) with top-notch facilities. Located just a short train ride away and a stone’s throw away from Jurong East MRT interchange, easily accessible from the expressways AYE and PIE.

This is no ordinary training centre, for its other name comes with great significance to the history of Singapore as well as in the heart of the labour movement.


Raising The Level Of CET Today

Today, a tripartite alliance consisting of NTUC, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) is taking it up a notch with the Devan Nair Institute. Slated to be ready by the end of this year, it clusters world class CET providers and is able to train up to 50,000 workers annually. Workers can enhance their skills in sectors like the Media, Healthcare, Human Resource and Workplace Safety & Health as well as in generic categories like Employability Skills, Service Excellence and Productivity.

It is also a one-stop marketplace where:

  • Employers can fulfill their manpower needs by working with Career Services Centre to identify relevant training and recruit job-ready applicants.
  • Training providers can synergise to deliver training.
  • The workforce can upgrade their skills in the categories of Professionals, Managers and Executives, Low Wage, Back to Work, Mature and Youths. Workers can have access to services in quality vocational training and career coaching. Thus boosting the employability of the workforce and developing the labour market.

A phrase aptly quoted by the late Devan Nair in one of his speeches: “… to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit.” In tandem with his zealousness, the institute will uphold the same spirit in helping workers, taking a giant leap forward in the path of continuing education and training in Singapore.

Jobs and skills are not a singular event in a person’s life. Jobs are always changing, skills always need upgrading. Those who do not will be the world’s “new illiterate”.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” – Alvin Toffle



Celine Lim and Tan May Ping, The Rebel with a Cause: Devan Nair (Singapore: SNP International Publishing and The New Paper, 2008)





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