Rein in unscrupulous course providers

Recently, my mother-in-law was accosted by a course provider at Toa Payoh Hub.

The sales staff were trying to entice her to sign up for an IT course - it was advertised as a basic course to learn Facebook and how to use smartphones, but was really a course on how to create websites.

It was all too apparent that the sales staff were very desperate to promote their SkillsFuture credit courses.

They had no compunction about deliberately targeting the vulnerable elderly and embarking on very aggressive sales tactics.

They were very adept in cajoling the elderly by saying that the courses were "free", since they were fully subsidised by the State.

They did not perform due diligence or assessment before requesting the elderly sign up for these IT courses.

I am sure many of the courses were unsuitable for them.

Even if the lessons are conducted in Mandarin or other mother tongue languages, there is a high chance that the elderly will still encounter tremendous difficulties.

Most of the elderly are not IT savvy and do not even possess rudimentary IT knowledge.

Courses such as creating websites and computer programming are simply too complicated for many of them.

I am sure many elderly folk enrolled without being fully aware of what they were doing, and would emerge none the wiser at the end of the course.

The original intention of the SkillsFuture credit is noble. But problems abound in its implementation.

There is no dearth of unscrupulous course vendors who seize the opportunity to make plenty of money by exploiting the elderly in our society.

It is incumbent upon SkillsFuture SG and Workforce Singapore to promptly address and put a stop to this very unhealthy situation.

Course providers who continue to engage in high-handed hardball sales techniques should be rooted out and penalised as soon as practicable.

We need to ensure that any courses our elderly sign up for are appropriate, beneficial and serve their interests. There is also a need to ensure that unscrupulous vendors do not take advantage of the system.

Joe Teo Kok Seah

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2017, with the headline 'Rein in unscrupulous course providers'. Print Edition | Subscribe