Over 52,000 mid-career workers have tapped on SkillsFuture subsidy over past year

Mr Zulkifli Baba, 48, is one of 52,000 Singaporeans who have tapped on the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy to upgrade their skills at a lower cost.
Mr Zulkifli Baba, 48, is one of 52,000 Singaporeans who have tapped on the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy to upgrade their skills at a lower cost. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Mr Zulkifli Baba, 48, has been a senior technician for more than 15 years, but at the back of his mind was always the worry that the rapidly-changing economy would render him no longer relevant.

"Technology keeps changing, skills keep getting higher," he said. "I knew I needed to remain an asset to my company to keep my job."

When the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy was rolled out in October last year, he leapt at the chance to upgrade himself for a lower cost.

The scheme gives mid-career Singaporean workers aged 40 and above 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 government agency SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG).

More than 52,000 Singaporeans have used the subsidy since it was rolled out a year ago, said SSG chief executive Ng Cher Pong.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday (Oct 8) at a SkillsFuture roadshow at Waterway Point mall in Punggol, he said the scheme has become ever more relevant during this period because of the labour market slowdown.

He said: "As the economy restructures and businesses face uncertain times, it is even more pressing for individuals to be equipped with the right skills - not just for their current jobs, but for jobs in the future."

The recent labour market report for the second quarter shows the overall unemployment rate rose from 1.9 per cent in March to 2.1 per cent in June.

There is also a lower rate of re-entry into employment, while jobseekers exceeded vacancies for the first time since June 2012.

Mr Zulkifli spent about $300 on a leadership and people management skills course by Mendaki Sense, the training arm of self-help group Mendaki. Without subsidies from SSG and Mendaki, he would have paid $4032.

"If there was no subsidy, I would have to think twice," said the father of four. "I'm the only person working in my family and money would be tight."

Another person who used the mid-career subsidy was Ms Gloria Loh, 44, a senior supervisor at a baby product retail store. Ms Loh, who took a specialist diploma in retail management with the support of her employer, said the course made her more confident in her job.

"Nowadays in the news, we are always hearing of retrenchments here, retrenchments there," she said. "I told myself, I should get better skills. Nobody can help me but myself."