Retail sector gets new SkillsFuture fast-track internship scheme

Mr Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) at Singapore Perspectives 2016.
Mr Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) at Singapore Perspectives 2016.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The retail sector will be the first to get a new SkillsFuture initiative that integrates internships and on-the-job training, Acting Education Minister Ong Ye Kung announced at an MOU signing on Tuesday (Jan 26).

Five retailers, including Charles & Keith, Cold Storage and Isetan, signed the MOU with polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education to offer the integrated programme, which combines the existing Enhanced Internships and Earn and Learn programme.

The internships offer students industry attachments while they are still studying, while the on-the-job-training allows graduates to pursue further studies while getting trained at companies.

The retail sector is the first for which the two programmes will be integrated. There are no plans as yet to combine the two for other sectors.

Under the new fast-track route, students who successfully complete at least 20 weeks of the Enhanced Internship will be offered employment with an industry partner under Earn and Learn, the duration of which will be then reduced to 12 months instead of the usual 18 for other sectors.

Nanyang Polytechnic deputy principal Henry Heng said he expects at least 80 to 100 students in the first cohort of the new initiative.

He said: "With this enhanced, longer internship, retailers will get the chance to rotate students around at least two departments or areas of operation, giving the student much more exposure and a more realistic and positive impression of what retail holds for them as a career."

Wing Tai Retail executive director Helen Khoo said their integrated programme would allow students to be rotated through a range of areas, from store supervision to visual merchandising to even human resources.

"We want to build a pipeline of talent to join retail, not necessarily to stay with us forever, but to raise the professionalism of the industry," she said.

Nanyang Polytechnic retail management student Josephine Ng said she hopes the fast-track route will allow her to rise to the position of shop manager faster than her peers.

"I think it'll be a seamless experience that will benefit me, through which I can learn about areas such as omni-channel marketing," said the 22-year-old.

At the event, 11 other companies also signed an MOU to offer retail students the Enhanced Internships.

oliviaho@sph.com.sg