Institutes of higher learning should offer training for workers: Ong Ye Kung

Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung made the comments after his visit at the WorldSkills international competition in Abu Dhabi.
Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung made the comments after his visit at the WorldSkills international competition in Abu Dhabi.PHOTO: INSTITUTE OF TECHNICAL EDUCATION

SINGAPORE - Thanks to employers and private education providers, the SkillsFuture movement has achieved a substantial number of training programmes for individual workers to empower themselves.

But a third pillar is needed to supplement these "two strong pillars", said Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung.

He called on the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), polytechnics and universities to play a bigger role in offering training for workers in the years ahead.

"(These institutions) are in a tremendously strong position to deliver courses that are industry relevant, high quality, very well valued by workers and employers, and which can comprise all the new and emerging sectors," said Mr Ong.

He made these remarks in an interview after his visit to the Worldskills competition in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Thursday (Oct 19).

Mr Ong said the drive to promote lifelong learning has been in place for more than a decade before the SkillsFuture movement was launched in late 2014.

As a result, the average worker today understands the need for constant upgrading, and is also aware of the rate of technological advancement.

But institutes of higher learning, he said, should offer vocational training as well.

The move could help narrow the pay gap between degree-holders and those who are skilled in their trades, but do not have paper qualifications.

Mr Ong said new schemes to address this training gap will be provided soon.

Besides getting the third pillar involved in vocational training, Mr Ong said mindsets will also have to shift among employers. Human resource (HR) practices will also need to evolve.

He said the Government can do more to lead the way by reviewing HR schemes and develop specialised tracks for different pathways, if there is a need.

Ultimately, workers can take learning in their own hands if they discover their own "aspiration and passion, or at at least a strong interest in something he or she wants to do."

"If you are interested in something, you would know what you should upgrade yourself to...it becomes an internal GPS that points you to that direction (of your passion)," said Mr Ong.

At the global skills competition for youth in Abu Dhabi, a Singapore contingent of 21 students from the polytechnics and the ITE bagged two gold and three bronze medals. The contest aims to raise the profile of technical and vocational education and training worldwide.