C. DEVELOPING OUR PEOPLE
C.1. We have built a first-rate school system in Singapore. Compared to other countries, our students do better than their peers in learning.8 Importantly, we have achieved high average performance while avoiding the very large disparities in outcomes that many other education systems have.9
C.2. We have also built highly credible Institutes of Higher Learning. We are investing more in our ITE, Polytechnics and Universities to enhance quality and affordability, and to offer more diverse pathways for Singaporeans to choose to advance themselves.
C.3. We have also been developing a system of continuing education and training. Over the last seven years, the take-up of CET places has increased five-fold from 79,000 to 384,000, covering more than 30 industries.10
Lifelong Learning: Our Next Phase of Development
C.4. We will build on these foundations to create a new environment for lifelong learning. It is critical to our future. It will develop the skills and mastery needed to take our economy to the next level. More fundamentally, it aims to empower each Singaporean to chart their own journey in life, and gain fulfilment at work, and even in their senior years.
C.5. We have called this development effort ‘SkillsFuture’. It marks a major new phase of investment in our people, throughout life:
a. It starts in school, where all students will receive education and career guidance to help them make informed choices about the pathways available to them.
b. They will be able to engage in deeper and more structured internship programmes, particularly while enrolled at our Institutes of Higher Learning.
c. Once in the workforce, Singaporeans will be able to acquire deeper skills relevant to their jobs, as well as renew themselves by going back to education in the course of their careers.
d. We will support these continuous engagements in learning. We will provide enhanced subsidies for courses, as well as special support through SkillsFuture Study Awards, and SkillsFuture Fellowships for those pursuing mastery in their fields.
e. These specific initiatives will be underpinned by a lifelong SkillsFuture Credit which every Singaporean will receive. There will be top-ups at regular intervals with credits that they can use to help pay for courses of their choice. Every Singaporean can use the SkillsFuture Credit to take charge of their own learning over the course of their lives.
f. It will involve new modes of learning – such as short modular courses, weekend workshops, and learning online through Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). It will include executive and specialist development programmes, and on-the-job training both in individual firms and ‘industry campuses’.
g. It will also involve new types of educators and trainers, including industry practitioners, besides our academics. Developing this new landscape of learning will take time and resources, but we must put full effort into this. MOE and WDA will enhance existing accreditation frameworks for this purpose for courses within the education and training industry.
h. We must make it possible for every individual to decide on his or her own learning journey: when to go for fresh infusions of skills or knowledge, and whether it should be in specialised professional training, acquiring soft skills, or developing a new interest.
C.6. No one can honestly tell what they will be doing a decade or two after leaving school. We must each develop through life, adapting to changes in the job market and the new opportunities that will come up. But whichever the field we are in or the job that we do, we must, as Singaporeans, aim to gain expertise and achieve mastery.
C.7. Senthilnathan Manickam, 41, is an example. He graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Film Sound and Video course. After some years of working on corporate videos and TV programmes, he felt he needed to specialise, to differentiate himself from the field. He chose to specialise in high-speed cinematography, and is making a name for himself in the field in Singapore and abroad. As Senthil puts it: “There isn’t one path but many paths to achieve your dreams and be successful. Don’t give up. You always learn something new every day.”
C.8. With the implementation of the full package of measures under SkillsFuture, we estimate that spending on continuing education and training will increase from about $600 million per year over the last five years, to an average of over $1 billion per year from now to 2020.
C.9. I will also top up the National Productivity Fund by $1.5 billion this year to partly meet this increase in expenditure.
Starting in the Schooling Years
C.10. We will start from our secondary schools. SkillsFuture is not intended to tell young Singaporeans they have to zero in on a particular career at that stage. However, we have to help them discover their strengths and interests, so that they can choose an educational path not determined just by cut-off points, but by informed choices about courses and the career opportunities they lead to.
C.11. We will develop a professional core of Education and Career Counsellors, for our schools and Institutes of Higher Learning. We will also scale up career counselling services at WDA for our working individuals. These counsellors will be equipped with the industry experience and knowledge needed to provide informed guidance.
C.12. Next, we will improve internships in our Institutes of Higher Learning to make them more structured and meaningful. We will also help more of our students to do internships abroad.
C.13. We have to develop much better internship programmes compared to what we have today, to help our students as well as our SMEs. There are some good examples of how this can be done. Hope Technik is a young company in Advanced Manufacturing. It has 50 people and takes in about 10 interns a year. The interns get a chance to pick up new skills beyond their formal polytechnic and university curriculums. Hope Technik also hopes to retain some of them as future employees. Mohamad Jafry bin Samsudin is an example. During his internship at Hope Technik, he was involved in developing the latest generation of the SCDF’s Red Rhino fire vehicles. Since graduating from Republic Polytechnic, Jafry has joined Hope Technik, where he continues on his journey of development.
C.14. Many more of our SMEs can benefit in the same way. We will roll out enhanced internships in two-thirds of polytechnic courses and half of ITE courses over the next two years.
C.15. The Minister for Education will provide more details during the Committee of Supply.
Taking Learning into our Careers
C.16. The next stage concerns what happens after we graduate from school and tertiary education. We will invest continually in Singaporeans, throughout their careers.
C.17. We will create a SkillsFuture Credit for all Singaporeans. NTUC and several Members of Parliament have previously suggested a scheme of this nature.
C.18. Each Singaporean 25 years old and above will receive an initial credit of $500 from 2016. We will make further top-ups to their SkillsFuture Credit at regular intervals. These credits will not expire, but can only be used for education and training.
C.19. We have decided to spread out the top-ups over the course of a person’s life for two reasons.
a. First, there is no need for anyone to rush to use their credit. While some may use their initial $500 immediately for a short programme, others may want to accumulate credits to engage in more substantial training later in their career.
b. Second, we need time to develop quality offerings in our SkillsFuture landscape that are relevant to jobs and individuals’ future careers. We must go for quality training which will open up career possibilities for individuals, and that employers find relevant.
C.20. The SkillsFuture Credit can be used for a broad range of courses supported by government agencies. These will include courses offered by our Institutes of Higher Learning and accredited education and training providers, as well as a range of courses that are funded by the WDA.
C.21. To complement this, every Singaporean will be given an online Individual Learning Portfolio – a one-stop education, training, and career guidance resource to help them plan their learning starting from their time in secondary school.
SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme
C.22. To cater to fresh graduates from our Polytechnics and ITE, we will launch a SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme in 2015. It will give them a head start in their careers.
C.23. The graduates will be matched with suitable employers. They will start working and undergo structured on-the-job training and mentorship, while they study for an industry-recognised qualification.
C.24. Both trainees and employers who sign up for this programme will receive substantial support from the Government. This will be done in a phased way, eventually covering up to one in three polytechnic and ITE graduates.
Enhanced Subsidies for Mid-Career Singaporeans
C.25. We will enhance subsidies for mid-career Singaporeans.
C.26. First, education and training subsidies for all Singaporeans aged 40 and above will be enhanced to a minimum of 90% of training costs for courses funded by MOE and WDA.
C.27. This additional support from the Government recognises the opportunity costs that mid-career Singaporeans face when they go for education and training.
C.28. These subsidies are significant:
a. For a part-time undergraduate course such as a Bachelor of Engineering, which is already subsidised, the total fees payable by a student will be reduced by 60%, from about $17,000 to $6,800.
C.29. Second, Singaporeans will now be able to enjoy multiple subsidies from MOE for modular courses – at all levels, and regardless of age. This flexibility of modular, continuous learning will help individuals, who will often have to balance family and career together with their learning. Many individuals may prefer to go for several bites of short courses, rather than to go for a long course.
C.30. We will implement these enhanced subsidies later in the year.
Targeted Support for Career Progression
C.31. Beyond the SkillsFuture Credit and these broad-based subsidies, we will provide special support for Singaporeans seeking to develop deep skills in particular fields.
C.32. First, we will introduce SkillsFuture Study Awards. They will support individuals who wish to develop the specialist skills required for our future growth clusters. For example, they may include software developers, satellite engineers or master craftsmen. The awards can also support those who already have deep specialist skills and wish to develop other competencies such as business and cross-cultural skills. At this stage, we are not setting a cap on the number of awards, but it should eventually be about 2,000 study awards per year. We will introduce the SkillsFuture Study Awards in phases, starting this year.
C.33. Second, we will introduce SkillsFuture Fellowships, to develop Singaporeans to achieve mastery in their respective fields. We will award about 100 fellowships a year, which can be used for a range of education and training options, in both craft-based and knowledge-based areas. It will be funded from the SkillsFuture Jubilee Fund, which will be financed by voluntary contributions from employers, unions, the public and the Government. This broad-based involvement signifies everyone being a stakeholder. The SkillsFuture Fellowships will be introduced from 2016.
C.34. The SkillsFuture Study Awards and Fellowships will be mainly used to develop deep skills and mastery in the growth clusters of the future. But we will be open to those who want to develop themselves in fields that they are really passionate about, that may not be in these growth clusters. Take individuals like Edwin Neo, for example. He was trained in interior design, but developed a passion for making high quality European-style shoes. He went to train under a master shoemaker in Budapest and came back to found his own company. He is doing well, selling both ready-to-wear shoes and upmarket bespoke creations.
C.35. Finally, we will work with companies to grow Singaporean corporate leaders under the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative. This initiative will provide support for companies who commit to developing a pipeline of Singaporeans to take on corporate leadership roles and responsibilities in the future. This too is important.
A New Industry Collaboration
C.36. A key challenge in SkillsFuture is to help uplift a significant base of our SMEs, and involve them in this process of skills development. This will not happen naturally – many of our SMEs lack their own training capacity and are unable to plan for the future.
C.37. To uplift the broad base of companies, and to help Singaporeans develop their careers across our economy, we need new forms of industry collaboration.
C.38. We will strengthen collaboration between training institutions, unions, Trade Associations, and employers to chart out future skills needed, and plan systematically to develop these skills in our people. Training may take place in our educational institutions, in our lifelong learning institutes, at industry campuses, or on the job. We will work with all stakeholders to develop and implement these comprehensive Sectoral Manpower Plans (SMPs) in all key sectors by 2020.
C.39. We will also work with our industry partners to develop a shared pool of SkillsFuture Mentors. These will be people with specialised, industry-relevant skills, which SMEs can tap on. They will help SMEs overcome the constraints they face in training capabilities and capacity. We will start rolling out this scheme this year for industry mentors in sectors that are more ready, such as the Retail, Food, and Logistics sectors.
C.40. More details on these initiatives will be released later. (Refer to Annex A-2.)
Last updated on 23 Feb 2015