$50,000 carrot for WorldSkills contestants

Singapore's team for the WorldSkills contest include (from far left) Muhammad Mahmoud Abdullah Ng, Farisha Dhamiera Bohari and Muhammad Miqdad Mazlan.
Singapore's team for the WorldSkills contest include (from far left) Muhammad Mahmoud Abdullah Ng, Farisha Dhamiera Bohari and Muhammad Miqdad Mazlan.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

A potential $50,000 in cash prizes is being offered to 22 polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students who will fly to Sao Paulo in Brazil for a world "skills Olympics" next month.

The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) is sponsoring record prizes for those who win medals at the biennial WorldSkills event. The Singapore students are among those from more than 60 countries who will be putting their vocational abilities to the test in the competition.

In previous years, the cash incentives were mainly funded by the polytechnics and ITE's WorldSkills Singapore Fund.

Contestants or pairs who win gold medals will receive $20,000, up from $7,000 in previous years.

Also, if a Singaporean wins the Albert Vidal Award - the gold medallist with the best score across all countries and categories - he or she will receive $30,000, 10 times the previous amount.

GREAT BONUS

For many of us, the motivation is to display our skills internationally. The prize money is a very good benefit along with that.

MR CHEW RONG KANG, a Nanyang Polytechnic IT graduate. He will compete in the IT software solutions for business category

Two Singaporeans have won this previously, in 2005 and 2009.

Silver medallists will win $10,000, double the previous sum of $5,000, and bronze medallists will get $5,000, up from $3,000.

Those who receive medallions for excellence will get $1,000. Previously they did not win any cash.

Medallists will also have a new award sponsored by the WDA to encourage them to work in the same industry as the skill area they are competing in. They will each be given a maximum of $5,000 over five years if they go on to work in the same field after graduation.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat revealed the initiatives yesterday at a send-off ceremony at the ITE's Ang Mo Kio headquarters.

Last year a national programme called SkillsFuture was started to encourage Singaporeans to develop specialised industry skills and adopt the habit of lifelong learning.

"Our future lies in developing very deep skills in a specific domain," Mr Heng said. "The more students do this... the more the economy will be able to create many opportunities for our young people, to fulfil their aspirations."

WDA chief executive Ng Cher Pong said the better prizes are "to encourage these talented young competitors who have already demonstrated their high level of proficiency in skills to continue to deepen their skills after graduation".

And ITE chief executive Bruce Poh said: "It goes a long way to show Singaporeans that skills actually are very valuable."

Mr Chew Rong Kang, 20, graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic's IT course this year and will compete in the IT software solutions for business category. "There's greater motivation for us to perform well since WDA is recognising our efforts," he said.

He is aiming for gold, and, if he wins, he hopes to use the cash prize to fund his university studies.

"For many of us, the motivation is to display our skills internationally. The prize money is a very good benefit along with that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline '$50,000 carrot for WorldSkills contestants'. Print Edition | Subscribe