Why is current employment a criterion for SkillsFuture study award?

I am currently pursuing a full-time graduate diploma in maritime law at the National University of Singapore.

Recently, the school sent an e-mail to all students in my course to inform us that our course is eligible for the SkillsFuture study award under the maritime sector.

However, one of the eligibility criteria is that the candidate must be currently employed in the sector.

A check on the SkillsFuture website reveals that three out of the eight sectors included in the study awards - maritime, international enterprise and social services - expressly specify current employment as an eligibility criterion.

The rest presumably do not have such a requirement, since it is not stated.

Why are mid-career professionals, like myself, who decide to enrol in a course full time penalised in this manner?

Is it to discourage mid-career professionals from leaving the workplace in pursuit of studies and making the manpower crunch worse?

The authorities should abolish the current employment criterion for two reasons.

First, if the aim of the study awards is to help defray the cost of study, then, surely, full-timers - especially mid-career professionals in their 30s or 40s who are likely to have substantial financial commitments - are equally deserving, and arguably more so, than part-timers who still draw an income.

Second, because of the high financial and opportunity costs involved for mid-career professionals to study full time, most would never contemplate such a path.

Yet, for those who do, there must be very compelling reasons for one to forsake a possibly stable and rewarding career just for the sake of gaining new knowledge.

The authorities and employers should exercise more empathy and recognise that, at the end of the day, these professionals will still want to be employed and contribute to the same industry once they complete their courses.

Otherwise, why would they make such a sacrifice and devote precious time and energy to sign up for such courses in the first place?

Sim Eng Cheong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2015, with the headline 'Why is current employment a criterion for SkillsFuture study award?'. Print Edition | Subscribe