Have you been affected by job cuts and furloughs due to Covid-19? If you are and want to use your career downtime to upskill or reskill yourself, why not consider one of the SGUnited Skills (SGUS) programmes offered by Singapore Polytechnic (SP)?
Designed in partnership with the industry, it consists of full-time programmes aimed at helping unemployed mid-career Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) pick up industry-relevant skills and domain knowledge to improve their employability - while receiving a monthly allowance of $1,200 at the same time.
Comprising certifiable courses delivered by SP, trainees have the opportunities to apply the skills learnt during the programme, through workplace immersions and industrial projects. Particularly suitable for those who have been impacted by Covid-19, trainees will also benefit from employment facilitation efforts offered by Singapore Polytechnic Professional & Adult Continuing Education (PACE) Academy.
Ms Catherine Chong, 43, belongs to an inaugural batch of 16 trainees under the polytechnic's SGUS Blockchain Talent Programme. She got to know of the SGUS programme through a Facebook advertisement. She was a cluster financial controller in a global organisation, but left the company as it was adversely impacted by the pandemic.
Seeing how new technologies have disrupted the traditional economy, Ms Chong took a leap of faith to upskill herself to prepare for new opportunities.
She picked the blockchain programme offered by SP PACE Academy, which is focused on developing knowledge and skills required for the blockchain and fintech industry.
With 20 years of experience in finance, she has had a ringside view of the disruption financial technology has wrought on the sector. Going back to school to learn more about the latest trends and technologies would allow her to seize new opportunities in the fast-growing fintech industry.
She paid only $1,000 (inclusive of GST) for the whole course after heavy subsidies from the government. There is the option of defraying part of this $1,000 course fee with SkillsFuture Credit. Unfortunately, Ms Chong had already utilised her existing SkillsFuture Credit so she paid in cash.
Apart from blockchain application development, programming languages such as solidity and cybersecurity, Ms Chong is also exposed to machine learning and artificial intelligence, critical technologies that cut across many sectors in an increasingly digitalised world.
Well-paced programme and industry insights
In the four months since she started the programme, she has picked up many useful and practical skills.
Ms Chong and three classmates, who were from different industries, leveraged their experiences and strengths to work on a mobile application project that involves design thinking, coming up with a fintech/blockchain idea, seeing through the production of a prototype mobile app, and marketing the final product to potential investors. Such a hands-on approach makes it easy for newcomers to grasp the concepts taught in class.
In the area of customer service automation, she recently completed a project to build a chatbot from scratch. She also learnt how to deploy it on Facebook, as well as on websites. Through the process, she picked up coding skills and learnt how to apply knowledge gleaned from textbooks and tutorials to real-life situations.
Being able to see through the entire process flow from inception to the end is also very satisfying and allows her to view things from other stakeholders' perspectives, she says.
Ms Chong also finds the course, which is conducted in a modular format, well-paced for someone who has no background in the technology field. Less than well-versed in technology and programming, she is thankful for the dedicated lecturers and class facilitators and strong unity spirit among classmates who are very willing to share and encourage one another, based on the tagline "we leave no man (and no woman) behind".
"My knowledge in fintech and blockchain has grown by leaps and bounds from the basics to a competent level that I could never have been able to achieve in my previous profession as a cluster financial controller in a global organisation. The skills and knowledge that I acquired from the past few months has certainly geared me towards a new professional career in the up and rising blockchain and fintech industry," she says.
As her lecturers and facilitators cite real-life examples and place emphasis on practical hands-on or lab sessions, she is able to understand abstract concepts and better appreciate the intersection between emerging technologies and the real world.
During the programme, Ms Chong got to learn from experienced SP lecturers as well as industry leaders and practitioners. One of them is Mr Chia Hock Lai, Co-Chairman of Blockchain Association Singapore and programme lecturer.
Mr Chia says: "SP's model is unique as this blockchain programme involves close partnerships with industry associations in a sector that is rapidly emerging around the world, with most of the trainers being existing industry practitioners."
The programme, he adds, provides interdisciplinary training in both fintech and blockchain, with a specialisation in blockchain coding. Some of the lessons are held on campus, while others are held online.
SP PACE Academy also offers workplace immersions and industrial attachments for trainees of the SGUS programme. Besides a three-month attachment to a company during the programme, SP PACE Academy will also assist trainees with job placement to hiring companies upon completion of the programme.
One venue, many choices
SP offers the SGUS programmes in these seven fields: Built Environment; InfoComm Media (ICM); Sea Transport; Manufacturing; Social Service; Finance and Cross-sectoral Emerging Skills.
While all of these are fast-emerging sectors, SP is the only Institute of Higher Learning to offer courses on Sea Transport and Food Manufacturing.
Looking back, Ms Chong is glad to have grabbed the opportunity to return to school. Although she has yet to know the company she will be placed in, Ms Chong is excited at the prospect of the three-month industrial attachment.
She says: "It is a wonderful opportunity to reskill and upskill during the economic slowdown. The course has equipped me with the ability to innovate and appreciate the use of blockchain and fintech solutions to transform business models to compete more effectively in the new norm."
The SGUS programmes offered by SP include: