It is a disruptive age and the lines between academic and skills-based training are already being blurred.
Hopefully, this will help to "shift society's perceptions and recognition of people with (talents in skills)", said the Institute of Technical Education's (ITE) chief executive Low Khah Gek.
Madam Low said in countries such as Germany, Finland and Switzerland, people with a strong set of skills have "good opportunities" and do not face a "dead end" when it comes to options for further development.
She expects more tweaks to ITE's education and training system to recognise students with talents in applied learning and technology in the years ahead.
Schools are already providing more electives in applied learning for secondary school students, noted Madam Low, who became ITE's first female CEO when she took over from Mr Bruce Poh in February this year. Prior to that, she was deputy director-general of education (schools) and director of schools at the Ministry of Education.
In an e-mail interview, Madam Low said she was aware even then of ITE "doing good work" with students to prepare them for employment and further education. But she was struck by the attitudes of ITE students when she came on board.
MORE THAN JUST SKILLED TALENTS
In 10 to 20 years' time, ITE students should be more than just skilled talents. They would be adaptable to change, entrepreneurial (and able to) seize opportunities, and poised to take on leadership roles in the community and industry.
MADAM LOW KHAH GEK, ITE chief executive.
"I was impressed by how the new ITE students, fresh from secondary schools, mature so quickly and become independent, purposeful and aspiring. The change is already evident in the first two weeks. The students blossom in the ITE environment of belief, autonomy, support, opportunities and camaraderie."
In the future, the ITE has to equip students with "deeper skills" and " broader competencies" in order to keep up with change. ITE's programmes can be expanded "to give our students a longer runway to acquire new technology and deep skills as well as to progress in their career and take on larger job roles".
As was announced by Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung this year, students will be offered more opportunities for progression. This includes the option of taking up the new Work-Learn Technical Diploma programme which will allow ITE graduates to work and study at the same time from next year.
More flexibility has also been built into the curriculum, Madam Low noted, with a new Career Cluster-based Curriculum Framework introduced in 2013. It trains students for a cluster of related occupations in industries instead of a single occupation.
"In 10 to 20 years' time, ITE students should be more than just skilled talents. They would be adaptable to change, entrepreneurial (and able to) seize opportunities, and poised to take on leadership roles in the community and industry."