Training providers expect higher demand for courses

Training providers are planning to ramp up capacity to cope with a likely rise in demand after a range of SkillsFuture initiatives were announced to help workers deepen their skills. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Training providers are planning to ramp up capacity to cope with a likely rise in demand after a range of SkillsFuture initiatives were announced to help workers deepen their skills. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Boost likely with SkillsFuture push, but experts warn quality could suffer

Training providers are planning to ramp up capacity to cope with a likely rise in demand after new moves were introduced to encourage lifelong learning.

New grants and higher subsidies have been introduced to encourage workers to take on training to sharpen their skills, and training firms expect to see more workers sign up for programmes.

"We are looking to expand our range of courses to include more workers, whether it's back-to- work women, or job-hunters young and old," said Mr Suhaimi Salleh, chief executive of SSA Consulting Group, which runs courses on workplace literacy.

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Infocomm technology trainer Lithan Hall Academy is planning to offer more courses in emerging areas such as big data analytics, said its chairman Leslie Loh.

The expected boost to the training industry comes after a range of SkillsFuture initiatives were announced earlier this week, to help workers deepen their skills.

Among other things, all Singaporeans aged 25 and older will receive $500 worth of credits to take government-supported courses on work-related skills. Regular top-ups will be made. The Government is expected to set aside over $1 billion for this next year, and this will boost the growing sector.

The credits can be used only for training that individuals wish to go for, and not for those planned by their companies.

As of last year, there were about 600 training providers supported by national training body, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), offering more than 8,000 courses from wine appreciation to medical technology manufacturing.

Last year, about 340,000 people were trained in these WDA- supported courses.

But human resource consultants warned that quality could suffer amid the expansion in supply, and said workers should be discerning about how they spend their money.

As the number of training places is ramped up, the quality of courses must also be maintained, said National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari.

"Some workers find that attending WSQ courses does not lead to better jobs or salary increments. Some also do not become more productive," he said, referring to Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications, the national training framework.

Mr David Ang, a director at training and consultancy provider Human Capital Singapore, said: "You should not be going for training just because there is more financial help to do so. Training must be focused."

The Employment and Employability Institute, which funded more than 50,000 workers for training last year, will work with job-seekers and workers to provide career coaching advice and help them understand industry needs, said its chief executive Gilbert Tan.

It may take a while for demand to heat up, cautioned Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan. "We still lack the culture of lifelong learning, that's one of the weak points of us as a workforce," he said.

joseow@sph.com.sg

ameltan@sph.com.sg