Budget debate: MPs urge for $500 SkillsFuture credit to be given earlier

Many workers, especially the freelance and self-employed, have asked if the SkillsFuture top-up can be rolled out earlier so they can use the current lull to undertake training programmes. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Several MPs have asked the Government to bring forward the $500 SkillsFuture Credit top-up scheduled to be rolled out in October, saying Singaporeans want to use the current lull to undertake training programmes.

They were responding in Parliament on Wednesday (Feb 26) to the one-off SkillsFuture Credit top-up of $500 that will be given to every Singaporean aged 25 years and above, and an additional $500 that will go to those aged 40 to 60, to help them move to new jobs or new roles.

Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC), who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Manpower, noted that the top-up announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat during his Budget statement on Feb 18 will give people an added push to continue with lifelong learning.

But he added that many workers, especially the freelance and self-employed, have asked if the SkillsFuture top-up can be rolled-out earlier, "so that they can make use of this period of downtime to embark on the relevant training".

"I also suggest for the Government's support to lengthen and stretch the validity of these schemes should the situation worsen or become prolonged," he added.

Mr Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC) said that by releasing the top-up earlier, workers can use the near-term economic lull, caused by the coronavirus outbreak, to attend training and be prepared with the necessary skills for the eventual recovery.

But he also called for more people and programmes to be included.

"With our ageing workforce and the corresponding rise in our retirement and re-employment ages, I hope that the Government can extend the Special SkillsFuture Credit top-up to those beyond 60 years of age.

"Just as we should support those who wish to continue working beyond 60, we should also support them in their pursuit of lifelong learning," he added.

Mr Yong added that the Special SkillsFuture Credit is limited to only 200 selected career transition programmes.

"I hope that the Government can expand this to include all Workforce Skills Qualification courses, as well as programmes that help professionals, managers, executives and technicians to deep-skill themselves," he said.

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, noted that the Government should also work more with tripartite partners and human resource practitioners to help workers make sense of the training they need.

"Some companies and workers have expressed difficulties navigating the huge number of courses available for skills training and are unsure of how to select the courses appropriate for their needs," he said.

"They found it difficult to map the type of training to the specific skills framework promulgated by SkillsFuture Singapore and hope that the training they received could be better recognised by employers and the industry towards career progression."

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