Over 52,000 get help to upgrade skills

Mr Zulkifli took advantage of the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy to take a leadership and people management skills course, while Ms Loh took a specialist diploma in retail management.
Mr Zulkifli (above) took advantage of the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy to take a leadership and people management skills course, while Ms Loh took a specialist diploma in retail management.PHOTOS: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
Mr Zulkifli took advantage of the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy to take a leadership and people management skills course, while Ms Loh took a specialist diploma in retail management.
Mr Zulkifli took advantage of the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy to take a leadership and people management skills course, while Ms Loh (above) took a specialist diploma in retail management.PHOTOS: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

SkillsFuture subsidy aids those aged 40 and above to improve skills in mid-career

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 over 8,000 courses approved by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), the agency overseeing the national movement to promote lifelong learning.

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 yesterday 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 that 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 the number of job seekers have exceeded the number of 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 had to pay $4,032.

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

Another worker 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. I told myself, I should get better skills. Nobody can help me but myself."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 09, 2016, with the headline 'Over 52,000 get help to upgrade skills'. Print Edition | Subscribe