660,000 tapped SkillsFuture schemes last year, up from 540,000 in 2020

Courses related to skills in the IT, healthcare and professional services sectors saw the highest demand and good employment outcomes. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - About 660,000 people took part in initiatives supported by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) last year, including some 247,000 people who spent their SkillsFuture Credit.

This is a jump from the 540,000 in 2020, including some 188,000 people who claimed from SkillsFuture Credit on eligible courses.

Courses related to skills in the IT, healthcare and professional services sectors saw the highest demand and good employment outcomes, said SSG. 

About 24,000 enterprises also took part in SSG programmes last year, up from 14,000 the year before, SSG said in a statement on Tuesday (Feb 8).

SSG chief executive Tan Kok Yam said the marked increase in participation could be attributed to changing work patterns in Singapore due to work-from-home arrangements, and the Covid-19 pandemic acting as a catalyst, among other factors.

Mr Tan, who took over as chief executive of SSG on Nov 1 last year, said: "Covid-19 and the changes it brought about showed Singaporeans that workplace requirements can and do change, and continue to change very quickly. This spurred Singaporeans to look for ways to upgrade themselves."

He added that the jump may be a sign that the SkillsFuture movement, which started in Singapore in 2015 and aims to build a culture of skills development and lifelong learning, is gaining momentum here.

SSG runs several programmes to help Singaporeans learn new skills to adapt to changes in the economy and job requirements, including programmes meant to help Singaporeans through the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

These include the SGUnited Skills Programme and the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme, where people are attached to companies for a period of six months to learn new skills. Their salaries are partially supported by the Government.

Participation in these programmes jumped to 12,000 last year, from 9,800 in 2020.

Professor Lee Wing On, executive director at the Institute for Adult Learning, told The Straits Times that the pandemic has set the stage for upskilling and reskilling among Singaporeans.

He said: “As Singaporeans embrace the norm of resilience and the economy shows signs of growth, more companies recognise the need for upskilling to seize new growth opportunities. While Covid-19 served as a catalyst for the rise in numbers, what further pushed more companies to embrace upskilling is the greater drive to thrive – and not just survive – in the future.”

He also credited SSG for pivoting quickly during the pandemic to meet the needs of Singaporeans over the past two years, resulting in the spike in its enrolment figures. 

He said: “For one, the SG United Skills Programme has helped the workforce upskill and reskill in response to the impact on jobs and industries caused by the pandemic. Various factors, such as training allowances and modular formats, spur interest in training across many sectors.”

Businesses also appear to be warming up to SSG programmes.

SSG said participation in its SkillsFuture Queen Bee programme doubled from about 250 companies in 2020 to about 500 in 2021.

In this programme, participating companies can tap the skills and knowledge of "Queen Bee" companies such as insurance firm Prudential to develop their own workers.

Participating companies may receive support in the form of guidance from a skills manager who can help introduce relevant training programmes.

Looking ahead, Mr Tan said SSG hopes to focus on improving the processes that help users understand the quality of the courses offered on its portal, while also incorporating feedback from learners to measure the quality of the courses.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.