Budget 2022: More support for mid-career workers with scheme to train them for new jobs

A new scheme called the SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme will begin from April 1. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Mid-career workers will be able to tap a new scheme that will provide highly subsidised, industry-oriented training courses to help them secure jobs in sectors with good hiring opportunities.

Delivered by SkillsFuture Singapore-appointed continuing education and training centres and other partners, the courses will span three to 12 months and contain elements of actual industry experience, such as work attachments or industry projects.

The new scheme is called the SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme and will begin from April 1. It will replace two national schemes introduced in 2020: the SGUnited Skills Programme and the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme - Company Training, which will expire on March 31.

In 2021, some 12,000 training places were taken up under the two schemes.

In his Budget speech on Friday (Feb 18), Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said special attention has been paid to mid-career workers, especially those in their 40s and 50s, as they are more vulnerable to churn and disruption, but have valuable experience. With some help, many can learn, adapt, and do well in new jobs, he added.

The minister noted that there are already a range of support measures to help mid-career workers. Under the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme launched in 2020, for instance, mid-career workers have been able to undergo skills upgrading through company attachments that come with a training allowance.

These company attachments typically last for four to six months and trainees can get up to $3,800 in monthly allowances that are co-funded by the Government.

Such attachments may be more appropriate if companies are not ready to commit to hiring more staff upfront, Mr Wong said.

Hence, the programme will be made a permanent feature. It will also be scoped more towards mature, mid-career workers.

Another way to support mid-career workers is via the train-and-place route, where individuals first attend training before searching for a new employer, Mr Wong said.

Such training opportunities have been significantly expanded in recent years, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, and this will be enhanced in the new SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme, he said.

Job seekers taking courses under the scheme will get enhanced pre-training and post-training support, such as advice on the courses to select and career coaching.

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Up to 95 per cent of total course fees will be subsidised for Singaporeans who are recipients of short- to medium-term support under ComCare and those who receive income supplements under Workfare. ComCare is a social assistance programme for low-income individuals and families, while Workfare provides additional support for older, low-wage workers.

Citizens who are disabled and registered with disability agency SG Enable, and the long-term unemployed, will also qualify for the subsidies.

Mr Wong said on Friday that Singapore's enterprises play a critical role in fostering a culture of lifelong learning at the workplace.

To support this, the Government has been providing a one-off SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit of up to $10,000 to help companies cover up to 90 per cent of out-of-pocket expenses for transformation efforts, such as job redesign and training.

Currently, employers need to have contributed at least $750 worth of levies over a qualifying period to be eligible for the credit, among other requirements.

Mr Wong said on Friday that this levy requirement will be waived for the qualifying period between January and December 2021, in a move that will allow smaller companies and micro enterprises to get better support.

This will double the number of eligible employers from 40,000 to 80,000.

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Newly eligible employers will be notified by Enterprise Singapore in April.

To give employers more time to use the credit, the deadline to claim it will also be extended by a year to June 30, 2024, Mr Wong said.

Meanwhile, the Government is also reviewing the programming at institutes of higher learning here, including the six autonomous universities, to enhance their ability to provide quality education and training for lifelong learning.

This will help to transform these institutes into places for continual learning, Mr Wong said. More details will be shared during the debate on the Ministry of Education's spending plans.

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