While it is important to help polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates fulfil their ambitions to get higher qualifications, degrees alone cannot promise job security, Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah said yesterday.
She was updating the House on findings by a committee tasked with studying how best to help these students with their education and future careers.
She made it clear that it would not be for the best if every one of these students were to rush headlong into a degree upon graduation.
The Government wants to get around this conundrum by opening more paths for these graduates to embark upon, so they can choose what is best for them at any point in time.
"What we should aim for is a multiplicity of pathways that are viable options in and of themselves," Ms Indranee said in a speech focused on creating opportunities for Singaporeans.
She also updated the House on the findings of the Aspire committee which she chairs, including those from its survey of over 10,000 polytechnic students, 4,000 ITE students and 600 parents.
The survey found that almost six in 10 ITE students and four in 10 polytechnic students want to get their next qualification right after graduating even though they can be employed, said Ms Indranee. They are worried that if they do not do so straight away, they will lose their chance.
ITE students also feel they will not be successful without a diploma, and polytechnic students, without a degree.
But paper qualifications are not a magic ingredient.
Degree holders have been the most vulnerable to losing their jobs in the last two years, said Ms Indranee, citing an article in The Straits Times yesterday.
Moreover, what employers value are intangible qualities such as resilience, and communication skills, she added.
The Aspire committee is therefore looking at planning work study programmes and internships, so that what is taught in the classrooms will be what is required in the workplace.
"The world is changing so fast that in the next five to 10 years, new jobs will come into existence that have not been invented today. The people who will thrive in that future are the ones who have relevant skills and are continually able to learn new ones," she said.
Continuing education, industry certifications and short courses are one way to help ITE and polytechnic graduates stay on top of the game. Educators must also be at the forefront of their industry, said Ms Indranee.
During the reopening of Parliament on May 16, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said that keeping education pathways open is one of the Government's priorities. This is so that a person's future is not decided at any one point in his education journey.
To help people find careers best suited to different stages of their lives, the Aspire committee is looking to make career guidance available throughout working life.
"A qualification which imparts technical or professional skills, coupled with professional upgrading... will give good outcomes in the long run. The future for our polytechnic and ITE students is bright," said Ms Indranee.