Singapore Budget 2015: SkillsFuture courses to include aerospace, IT, languages, culinary skills

SINGAPORE - A diverse range of courses will be offered under the SkillsFuture Credit scheme, said Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin on Monday.

They will be in areas like aerospace, Information Technology (IT), and early childhood education, and also include courses in languages and culinary skills, which "some may have a strong interest for and wish to explore career opportunities in", he said in Parliament.

The SkillsFuture scheme will give more than 2 million Singaporeans aged 25 and above an initial $500 credit to use on approved courses. This is part of the drive to help Singaporeans keep mastering new skills for the workplace.

The full range of courses will be released closer to the scheme's implementation in 2016.

"We must ensure that the course offerings are of high quality, a wide variety, and delivered through multiple modes of learning," said Mr Tan during the debate on the Ministry of Manpower's annual budget.

The point of SkillsFuture is that as businesses restructure and move up the value chain, jobs will evolve too, he told the House.

Singaporeans need to move towards higher-value skills, so that they can stay relevant and take advantage of opportunities in the new economy, he said.

He also responded to various MPs' questions on how the SkillsFuture Credit programme will be implemented.

Weighing in on the competing demands to have a flexible scheme and to assure a high quality in courses, he said a middle ground would have to be found: "We need to pay attention to the quality of outcomes, to ensure that courses are useful for both individuals and also for the companies. This will have to be balanced with flexibility in utilising the credits, which many people have called for. "

The SkillsFuture scheme wants to help both those interested in deepening their existing skills, and those who want to broaden their horizons outside of their current fields, he said.

MPs like Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) had expressed concerns that employers cutting costs may, instead of bearing the full costs themselves, ask their workers to co-fund the cost of training with their SkillsFuture Credit.

"Let me be very clear: the credits are meant to support training initiated by the individuals, not to fund training which employers send them for," said Mr Tan.

In any case, employers who send their workers will continue to get government support in the form of substantial course fee subsidies, he added.

Small and medium-sized enterprises will also get additional support to send their local workers for training, he promised.