The number of Singaporeans who have used their SkillsFuture Credit has more than doubled last year.
And the good take-up rate across the various SkillsFuture schemes is a "positive sign" that people are charting their own learning and career paths, said SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) chief executive Ng Cher Pong as he gave the media an update yesterday.
In all, 160,000 Singaporeans began using their SkillsFuture Credit last year, bringing the total number of users to more than 285,000 since the scheme was launched in January 2016.
In the first year, over 126,000 people used the scheme, or about 5 per cent of all eligible Singaporeans.
The $500 credit is given to all Singaporeans aged 25 and older to be used for training courses, as part of the Government's effort to get people thinking about lifelong learning.
The most popular course category last year was infocomm technology.
And the people who used the credit last year were spread across various ages, with slightly higher use by those in the 25 to 29 and 30 to 39 age groups.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
The progress is encouraging but there's still clearly quite a long way to go.
SKILLSFUTURE SINGAPORE CHIEF EXECUTIVE NG CHER PONG, noting that some programmes are new.
The SkillsFuture initiative has been hit by false claims scams. Last December, it was reported that SSG was cheated of nearly $40 million - the biggest case of a government agency being defrauded here.
Asked about the scams, Mr Ng said major internal changes are being made, and updates on a data analytics fraud detection system being installed will be provided later.
In changing the internal processes, he said, one focus is to ensure it does not make it harder for people to upgrade skills. "We should not make Singaporeans suffer because of a few black sheep," he added.
Many bosses recognise the need to upgrade their workers' skills as they transform their businesses but there is still some resistance, especially among smaller businesses.
The reason, he added, could be that they do not know the training opportunities available or lack the capabilities to draw up and implement training plans for workers.
The agency set up an enterprise engagement office last month to reach out to more employers, he said. It will work with other government agencies as well as trade associations and chambers of commerce.
Mr Ng also gave an update on various SkillsFuture schemes.
For example, more than 4,600 Singaporeans have used the SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace (SFDW) programme since it was introduced last October. It provides a basic understanding of emerging technologies and trends - like data analytics - and how they impact work.
More than 2,100 Singaporeans have also attended short courses in emerging skills areas under the SkillsFuture Series, which was also launched last October.
"The progress is encouraging but there's still clearly quite a long way to go," he said, noting that some of the programmes are still new.
Mr Ng also said the outcomes of individual programmes are tracked closely, but it is hard to find a single indicator to measure how well the SkillsFuture movement is building a culture of lifelong learning.
Rather, the agency looks at several indicators, including training participation rate, studies by international bodies on lifelong learning in different countries, and qualitative feedback from users, he said.
For Mr Au Hoong Chiu, who sells health supplements, attending an SFDW course by training consultancy Rohei last November opened his eyes to "what the digital world is like".
The 59-year-old previously used the Internet only for e-mail and did sales work mostly in person. Now, he uses his company's online portal to send information to potential customers abroad.
"I'm still taking baby steps. We have to continue to learn. Otherwise, we'll get left behind," he said.