Accredited NS skills 'not likely to sway recruiters'

NeXT Career Consulting Group’s managing director Paul Heng.
NeXT Career Consulting Group’s managing director Paul Heng.

Employers more interested in work experience, motivation, say experts

A move to officially accredit skills picked up by soldiers during their national service will help boost buy-in for conscription, but not necessarily their employability, said human resource and defence experts.

They were reacting to a move announced last week by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to certify skills learnt during NS.

"Servicemen sometimes feel that they are disadvantaged as they have to 'postpone' their education for NS, so it's good that we're giving them proper credentials for their training now," said Mr David Leong, managing director of recruitment firm PeopleWorldwide. "It also shows that the armed forces is an advocate for continuous learning."

Under the SCDF scheme, its full-time and operationally ready servicemen (NSmen) who attend certain SCDF courses will earn Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) that can be put on their resumes. Skills include firefighting, leadership and contingency planning.

Servicemen can also continue to attain higher certification in the working world, and during their reservist call-ups.

Besides the SCDF scheme, plans are also under way to accredit the skills of servicemen in the police force and armed forces.

A police spokesman said it has been working with the WDA to accredit its basic training and ground response courses.

Defence analyst Ho Shu Huang of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said the fact that such training is good enough to be certified by an external agency speaks well of the training standards of the Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team.

Based on national standards developed by the WDA with various industries, the WSQ is a national crediting system that trains, develops and assesses workers' skills.

Mr Ho, however, noted that there could also be "inequity" between servicemen who qualify for such certification, and those who do not, as not all vocations may allow for such certification.

NeXT Career Consulting Group's managing director Paul Heng said in turn that the move will not make "a major difference" for recruiters.

"What is important to recruiters are things like knowledge and skills, perceived ability to get along and work with others, and motivation level... these servicemen still come with limited working experience," he said.

A WDA spokesman said in response that the skills taught go beyond fighting fires.

They also encompass "industry or soft skills" such as leadership, communication or people management skills taught in courses like the Rota Commander Course offered by the SCDF.

NSman and banking associate Jerry Tan, 25, who served as an army medic, said he would probably not list the first aid skills he learnt on his resume. "It's not that relevant to my work, so I wouldn't consider it as a top priority."

Final-year undergraduate Ian Lim, 25, will soon start his job hunt.

He said he would include skills from his stint as a policeman, such as scenario-based training and interpersonal relations, if they are certified.

"It will show employers that I think fast on my feet, adapt well and am flexible."