A new programme offered a glimpse into the future that awaits many Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnic graduates. They can not only undergo on-the-job training while studying to further their qualifications, but also receive a $5,000 bonus when they sign up for the programme.
The first batch of students - expected to be in the several hundreds - will start on the Earn and Learn programme, modelled after Swiss and German apprenticeship schemes, in April.
By 2025, the aim is for one in three ITE and polytechnic graduates to be on the scheme, which could give them a head start in their careers.
The Earn and Learn scheme is part of a basket of new moves by the Government to boost the skills of workers here under the SkillsFuture programme, announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Monday.
Details of other programmes aimed at helping mid-career workers hone their skills were also announced yesterday by the SkillsFuture Secretariat. These include a minimum 90 per cent subsidy for training and educational courses as well as various study awards.
For polytechnic and ITE graduates, the help to kick-start their careers will come almost as soon as they graduate.
They will be matched with companies in four sectors - logistics, food manufacturing, food and beverage, and retail. Other sectors will be brought into the scheme at a later date.
Participants will be employed by the companies and paid salaries while they go through the 12- to 18-month programme.
At the end of the stint, an ITE graduate would have gained industry experience and a diploma, while a polytechnic graduate would have obtained an advanced or specialist diploma.
Companies that take in employees under the scheme will get grants of up to $15,000 per trainee to offset their costs.
"Employers gain because they can recruit local fresh talent and prepare them to take up suitable job roles within the organisation," said the SkillsFuture Secretariat. The graduates get to build on their skills and knowledge.
Republic Polytechnic principal Yeo Li Pheow said the $5,000 bonus would not change the mind of a polytechnic graduate set on going to university. "But it will be an added incentive for those leaning towards the work-study scheme," he said.
He stressed that, at the end of the day, what will count will be the salary and career progression pathways provided by employers.
"ITE and poly grads must feel that by going on the scheme, they can develop their careers and it will pay off."
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Food and beverage group BreadTalk welcomed the grants of up to $15,000, saying it will use the money for drawing up the programme blueprint and for mentorship training costs.
Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said the scheme will give students an opportunity to gain an understanding of the industry and the jobs in it.
He said: "Right now, there are students who just go chasing a degree without really thinking about the jobs it will lead to. They are better off going into a scheme like this, where they get to understand the industry, hone their skills and gain a qualification at the same time."