Singapore to build on SkillsFuture initiative in 2016

by Channel NewsAsia Published 18 Dec 2015, posted on Jan 10, 2016

SINGAPORE: 2015 marked the start of SkillsFuture, a long-term strategy to drive Singapore's next phase of development. It is a national movement to provide Singaporeans with the opportunities to develop their fullest potential throughout life, regardless of their starting points.

Eight Earn and Learn Programmes, where fresh ITE and polytechnic graduates get placed with employers and learn through structured on-the-job training, were launched during the year. Four more will be rolled out over the next four months.

Tertiary institutions are also enhancing their internship programmes as well as expanding resources to help students make more informed choices for their future.

"At our end, we will be employing up to six Education and Career Guidance (ECG) counsellors at each college," said Mr Bruce Poh, CEO of the Institute of Technical Education. "We have four right now and will be increasing this number to six to continually engage students about job opportunities, the careers out there so that there is a better match in terms of their expectations and what's out there in the market."

Industry partnership is key in the SkillsFuture strategy. The Sectoral Manpower Plans, for example, chart out the future skills needed among the local workforce to support growth industries. It is all about developing a strong Singaporean core, sustaining competitiveness and achieving manpower lean growth.

The hospitality industry was the first to get on board the Sectoral Manpower Plan in October. It brings together different elements under SkillsFuture, including the Earn and Learn Programme as well as Study Awards for individuals to upgrade themselves. There is also a Leadership Development initiative to groom Singaporean hotel general managers. It is a scheme welcomed by hotels like Pan Pacific. 

"We need to bring the sexiness of this industry back to the front," said its general manager Gino Tan. "And I think what we are doing with the Sectoral Manpower Plan is a good start, going straight to the root of the problem, which is telling the young cohorts, the poly graduates and tertiary graduates, that working in the hospitality profession is really not that bad. There is opportunity to grow and opportunity for career and advancement. There is no more perceived glass ceiling in today's context."

The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) will engage stakeholders across 25 different industries over the next five years to develop dedicated sectoral manpower strategies. In 2016, the Sectoral Manpower Plan for the Manufacturing sector, including Precision Engineering will be launched. Singaporeans aged 25 and above can also look forward to using their S$500 SkillsFuture Credit to take up WDA and Ministry of Education-certified courses.

"SkillsFuture Credit is certainly an integral part of our transformation to become an advanced economy and an inclusive society," said WDA chief executive Ng Cher Pong. "One that focuses really on skills mastery rather than academic qualifications. And one that focuses on lifelong learning.

"That's where all these different intiatives come in because the intent is that we want to make sure that we build this eco-system, this high-skills, high-productivity, high-wages eco-system."

That is the target for Singapore's next phase of development to build an advanced economy with a truly inclusive society.