New centre to help firms improve training skills

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung (third from left) speaking with Charles & Keith employees undergoing training at the company's headquarters, at the launch of a new centre to develop companies' in-house trainers.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung (third from left) speaking with Charles & Keith employees undergoing training at the company's headquarters, at the launch of a new centre to develop companies' in-house trainers.ST PHOTO: SEOW BEIYI

SINGAPORE -A new national centre has been established to help companies that want to do their own training of their workers but do not know where to start. It will draw up a customised plan that can help them to set up an on-the-job training structure, among other programmes.

Called the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning, it aims to help more than 1,000 companies - particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) - build their workplace learning capabilities in the next five years.

Singapore has about 200,000 SMEs which employ around 2.2 million workers, who make up about 70 per cent of the workforce.

The creation of the centre is part of the national effort to advance lifelong learning.

Employers training their workers is the most important aspect of lifelong learning, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Monday (July 30) when he announced the launch of the centre at shoe retailer Charles and Keith's headquarters. The home-grown brand is among the first companies to work with the new centre.

Mr Ong added: "After our formal education system, learning on the job takes over as the most important avenue for skills and knowledge upgrading."

But many companies lack the ability or bandwidth to train their own workers because "day to day, they are preoccupied with operations and unable to find time and resources to train them", he said.

Hence, the need for the new national centre. Housed in Nanyang Polytechnic, it was started in collaboration with Swiss and German organisations known for their workplace learning systems.

Companies can apply for grants from SkillsFuture Singapore to pay for the cost of training in-house trainers. SMEs can get up to 90 per cent of such costs paid for, and non-SMEs, up to 70 per cent. They will be certified as businesses that have the systems to train their own employees when they implement the centre's recommended plans, said Mr Ong.

The centre will also help each company train a core group of certified trainers to hone workers' skills.

Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) principal Jeanne Liew stressed the need to address the job-skills mismatch at a time of evolving technologies and business demands: "With this approach, we can... tailor an approach that is structured and documented, yet has relevant and specific content to the company."

Mr Albert Tan, manager of NYP's Academy of Lifelong Learning and Skills, said the centre can provide flexibility for SMEs as training can be done on their premises to minimise the time workers are away.

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Kurt Wee said the centre can help businesses identify blind spots.

It is also helpful that it can draw on best practices from global partners such as the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, as well as the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

But he added: "The challenge is whether the centre can cater to SMEs' broad range of needs, given the varying industries they come from and the different skills they will require."