SkillsFuture under MOE to integrate education, training: Ong Ye Kung

Taking a wefie with "Xuan" the robot, a student project, yesterday were (from left) Mr Ong Ye Kung, Ngee Ann Polytechnic principal Clarence Ti, Energy Market Authority chief executive Ng Wai Choong and group director of WDA training partners group Go
Taking a wefie with "Xuan" the robot, a student project, yesterday were (from left) Mr Ong Ye Kung, Ngee Ann Polytechnic principal Clarence Ti, Energy Market Authority chief executive Ng Wai Choong and group director of WDA training partners group Gog Soon Joo.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

More holistic approach with scheme under one ministry, says Ong Ye Kung

Bringing all things SkillsFuture under the Ministry of Education (MOE) will change mindsets towards training and lifelong learning, said Acting Education Minister Ong Ye Kung yesterday.

The new head of SkillsFuture said the change will allow the Government to pursue skills development in a "more holistic and coherent fashion", gradually erasing the lines between learning in school and training during employment.

"Education and lifelong learning will be integrated as one. This will make us look at education differently - that it is no longer just confined to schools and institutes of higher learning, but is a lifelong pursuit of mastery and excellence."

He was speaking at a Ngee Ann Polytechnic event where a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed to enhance student internships and postgraduate diplomas.

The formation of two statutory boards, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG), was announced on Tuesday. SSG will coordinate the drive for deeper skills and is under MOE, while WSG, under the Ministry of Manpower, will focus on jobs and enterprises. SkillsFuture previously straddled the two ministries, and was run by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA).

Mr Ong said the change will entail getting different qualification systems recognised across the academic and work skills domains, as well as a more holistic auditing and regulation system for both the private education and training sectors.

He said WDA's major achievement in the last decade was to make training "second nature" to workers, where previously they had just gone into the labour market looking for the next job with better pay.

Moving forward, the new boards' first concern is human resource issues and to allay staff concerns, he said, adding that the headcount will remain the same after the change.

He also announced more SkillsFuture initiatives for the power engineering sector, such as enhanced internships and Earn and Learn programmes.

At the event, 17 companies - including Singapore Power, Sembcorp Design and Construction and SBS Transit - signed an MOU with three polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education. Under the MOU, over 800 students will embark on six-month enhanced internships in the sector from March.

Two Earn and Learn diplomas in electrical design and operation and power engineering will be launched by Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic in October and April respectively.

Under the diplomas, polytechnic graduates will be hired by a participating company, where they will receive on-the-job training while furthering their studies. Singaporean fresh graduates will also receive an incentive of $5,000 for signing on.

Dr Ong Pock Keong, chairman of electrical engineering specialist Terasaki, said his firm came on board the Earn and Learn scheme to strengthen its local hiring.

"There is a serious shortage of young electrical engineers, and often our only choice is to employ foreign graduates. We hope that through this programme, we can attract some good local candidates."

For Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduate Boey Sin Yee, who had found engineering too dry, a stint at the Energy Market Authority (EMA) in 2013 inspired her to stay in the field.

"Having a mentor who guided me and showed me how power systems work was very enriching," said the 21-year-old, who went on to rejoin EMA as a technical executive. "I think the enhanced internships will benefit current students."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2016, with the headline 'SkillsFuture under MOE to 'integrate education, training''. Print Edition | Subscribe