Why It Matters

Pay attention to lifelong learning

Graduands at the Temasek Polytechnic graduation ceremony on May 3, 2017. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Say goodbye to graduation, and hello to lifelong learning. At polytechnic graduation ceremonies over the past week, the term "lifelong learning" was mentioned in many speeches. One of the beloved buzzwords when talking about Singapore's future, it involves picking up new skills and adapting to a fast-changing world.

And it is not hard to see why the term is in vogue in the next phase of the Republic's development.

If Singaporeans do not adapt, the mismatch between jobs and skills will widen, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said at Republic Polytechnic. He added unemployment could then rise, not because of a shortage of jobs, but because of a shortage of skills.

Mr Lim said that to remain relevant, graduation marks the beginning, not the end, of one's lifelong learning journey, a point reiterated by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Low Yen Ling at Nanyang Polytechnic.

Technological advancements have changed the nature of the economy and the jobs created. Some jobs today may not exist in 10 years' time. Similarly, many jobs available now, such as social media specialists, were unheard of a decade ago.

These jobs require a new set of proficiencies and a willingness by the workforce to acquire them, said Mr S. Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), at Singapore Polytechnic.

This is where national movements, such as the SkillsFuture drive, come in, to get Singaporeans to learn deep skills and embrace new job roles.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Faishal Ibrahim said at Ngee Ann Polytechnic that many options are available. Some may further their learning in a university, while others may "learn by doing in the workplace", he noted.

Even as new pathways and job opportunities open up, graduates must be realistic. As Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said at Temasek Polytechnic, they can think about how to do justice to their jobs instead of constantly "searching for the something that will give us perfection".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2017, with the headline Pay attention to lifelong learning. Subscribe