New statutory boards to focus on skills, employment

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam (centre) at the launch of the SkillsFuture Marketplace, at Westgate mall on Jan 9, 2016.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam (centre) at the launch of the SkillsFuture Marketplace, at Westgate mall on Jan 9, 2016.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

One will coordinate drive for deeper skills, while other will focus on jobs and enterprises

Two new statutory boards, tentatively named SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG), were announced yesterday to promote the national focus on skills and employment.

SSG will coordinate the drive for deeper skills and comes under the Ministry of Education (MOE), while WSG, under the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), will focus on jobs and enterprises.

The boards are expected to be established by the end of this year as the reorganisation will require changes to existing laws and must be approved in Parliament, the ministries said yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam believes the reorganisation will help the new boards to focus on their key missions.

"SSG will foster a culture of lifelong learning, and help to integrate a whole system of education and training through life," said Mr Tharman, who is Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies.

CULTURE OF LIFELONG LEARNING

SSG will foster a culture of lifelong learning, and help to integrate a whole system of education and training through life.

MR THARMAN SHANMUGARATNAM, Deputy Prime Minister

"WSG will be MOM's agent in developing a strong Singaporean core in each sector of our economy, and help companies to be manpower-lean while remaining competitive."

Statutory boards are autonomous government agencies set up through legislation to perform specific functions. There are more than 50 in Singapore.

Some functions of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), such as the training of adult workers, will be absorbed under the new SSG. The MOM did not give details about the number of staff who will move over.

The SSG will improve the links between vocational, academic and adult training qualification systems so that credentials can be recognised consistently.

It will also take in the Council for Private Education, a statutory board under the MOE which regulates private school operators.

The ministries said this will allow for "a more coordinated approach towards audits and quality assurance for the private education institutions and adult training centres".

Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung will lead SkillsFuture initiatives following the restructuring. He was the WDA's chief executive from 2005 to 2008.

"What WDA has done is laid the foundation for SkillsFuture, which is a broader national priority and the next phase of lifelong learning," he said.

The WSG will aim to match manpower supply with industry demand, and take on WDA's other operations like employment help and career services.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said the board "will help Singaporeans at all job levels to have better employment outcomes, and companies to better address their manpower needs".

Mr Patrick Tay, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Manpower, said that with economic uncertainties and labour market changes, there is greater impetus to ensure Singaporeans are gainfully employed and as many as possible are working.

Education GPC chairman Denise Phua said the move to bring adult education under the MOE will promote the mindset of lifelong learning.

"The way that education is delivered in the earlier years within the schools has an impact on whether students are interested in learning or will continue to learn after the formal school years," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2016, with the headline 'New statutory boards to focus on skills, employment'. Print Edition | Subscribe