Higher course subsidies for mid-career workers

SkillsFuture fees subsidised by up to 90% for S'poreans

From next month, mid-career Singaporean workers aged 40 and above will get higher subsidies when they take courses to upgrade their job skills.

They will have fees subsidised by up to 90 per cent for more than 8,000 courses approved by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), under the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy.

For professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), this will mean an additional 20 to 40 per cent increase in subsidies for WDA-supported courses pitched at their level, capped at $50 an hour.

The enhanced subsidies, first announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in the Budget 2015 statement, are meant as incentives for mid-career workers to build on their existing skill sets or acquire new ones.

Employees aged 35 and above who earn $1,900 or less a month will also continue to receive a 95 per cent course fee subsidy under the current Workfare Training Support Scheme.

Mr Mohammad Adam Ibrahim, 42, a van driver in the cleaning industry, is among those who welcomed the enhanced subsidy.

He is keen on taking courses to improve his awareness of workplace health and safety.

He said: "If there was no subsidy, I would still want to go, but it would take me some time to save up first, so this really helps."

Others, however, questioned how much the courses could do for the employability of middle-aged PMEs.

Mr Kannan Chettiar, regional sales director for background screening firm First Advantage, said that he felt the leadership and people management courses offered under the subsidy were "very generic".

Said the 44-year-old: "Maybe one or two could be a refresher, make you do your job a little bit better, but none of them will prepare you for a mid-career switch.

"Tomorrow, if (my employers) ask me to get out, will these courses help me find a job?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2015, with the headline 'Higher course subsidies for mid-career workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe