ITE, polys and unis 'can be third pillar' in training workers

Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said that besides getting the "third pillar" involved in vocational training, employers' mindsets have to shift and HR practices have to evolve.
Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said that besides getting the "third pillar" involved in vocational training, employers' mindsets have to shift and HR practices have to evolve.

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," he said.

Mr Ong made these remarks in an interview after his visit to the WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates last Thursday.

He 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 should offer vocational training as well, said Mr Ong.

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, the minister said, mindsets will have to shift among employers. Human resource practices will also need to evolve.

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

Ultimately, workers can take charge of their own learning if they discover their "aspiration and passion, or at least a strong interest in something (they want) 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 (in) that direction (of your passion)," said Mr Ong.

At the global skills competition for young people in Abu Dhabi, a Singapore contingent of 21 students from the polytechnics and ITE bagged two gold medals and three bronze medals.

The competition is aimed at raising the profile of technical and vocational education and training worldwide.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 22, 2017, with the headline 'ITE, polys and unis 'can be third pillar' in training workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe