SkillsFuture: Mid-career workers to pay only 10% or less for courses

ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Mid-career workers will get subsidies for courses up to postgrad level

Mid-career workers aged 40 and above can take courses from diploma to postgraduate level and pay as little as less than 10 per cent of course fees from July.

They can get government subsidies that cover at least 90 per cent of the cost of courses funded by the Ministry of Education (MOE) at universities, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education. The national training body, Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), will pay up to 90 per cent of skills upgrading course fees.

The subsidies start from July 1 for MOE-funded courses and Oct 1 for those supported by WDA.

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More details of government efforts to promote training were announced yesterday after the plans were unveiled during the Budget speech on Monday.

"This additional support from the Government recognises the opportunity costs that mid-career Singaporeans face when they go for education and training," said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Monday.

To encourage workers to develop the deep skills needed to take Singapore's economy to the next level, the Government has launched the SkillsFuture initiative, which encompasses subsidies, study awards and revamped training programmes.

Besides subsidised courses for mid-career workers, Singaporeans aged 25 and above will also get cash grants from next year to pay for training.

An initial $500 grant and future top-ups will go into their SkillsFuture Credit accounts, which can be used for a range of government-supported courses.

These include MOE-funded courses at the polytechnics and universities, and those offered by public agencies such as the Building and Construction Authority.

These credits will cost the Government over $1 billion next year.

Beyond financial incentives, the SkillsFuture secretariat also recognises that short, modular courses will appeal to busy working professionals.

More training programmes will be broken up into modules that can be conducted on weekday nights or weekends.

This means instead of taking up a part-time diploma course, usually conducted over 900 hours, a worker can now take up an individual module that can be completed in 30 to 60 hours.

To help workers make sense of the new training options and financial help schemes, the WDA and National Trades Union Congress will be roped in to provide career guidance and counselling.

A portal named the Individual Learning Portfolio, to help workers choose suitable training programmes, will be introduced in phases from 2017.                                                                                        Click to enlarge

Human resource experts and workers welcomed the measures to encourage workers to hone their skills.

"The credit and subsidies will give them more opportunities and resources to consider exploring new sectors and careers," said Mr Zainudin Nordin, chair of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower.

Workers said they are drawn to subsidised courses, as well as courses that lead to career progression or a new job.

Social worker Bernadette Lee, 50, said: "It is a leap of faith to take time off work and go for training, especially for those who want to switch jobs. So linking workers up with employers will help."

Ms Lee, a former credit control manager, enrolled in a social work diploma course at UniSIM two years ago.

She was later offered a job at the Thye Hua Kwan Family Service Centre in Boon Lay with the help of WDA and the National Council of Social Services.

Click here for more information on the learning & career choices available under SkillsFuture

ameltan@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Joanna Seow