Government funded nearly 1m training places: SkillsFuture chief

Mr Ng said SKillsFuture will be tweaked. For example, a one-stop online portal will be launched to help people plan for their education and training needs.
Mr Ng said SKillsFuture will be tweaked. For example, a one-stop online portal will be launched to help people plan for their education and training needs.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

380,000 people went for courses in 2016; SkillsFuture chief says mindset change remains priority

In an effort to get Singaporeans up to speed in a world with constant disruptions, the Government funded nearly one million - 920,000 - training places last year.

This is up from 830,000 in 2015.

Some 380,000 people went for government-funded training in courses as varied as computer coding and pastry-making, up from 350,000 in 2015.

But even as more Singaporeans heeded the call to undergo skills mastery and lifelong learning, mindset change does not come easily, observed SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) chief executive Ng Cher Pong.

Have Singaporeans' attitudes towards the perennial need to master new skills really changed, he wondered in an interview with the media last Friday, where he shared an update on the progress of the national SkillsFuture movement.

"Mindset change is not easy to measure, and it certainly won't change overnight," he said. Thus, the priority going forward would be to continue finding ways to drive a mindset change among Singaporeans. "We don't want to be blindly chasing numbers... we don't want to just see numbers going up but (where) at the back of it, the mindsets haven't really changed."

Mr Ng said more details on engaging companies and individuals will be revealed in a few months' time.

SkillsFuture was launched more than two years ago, as part of a nationwide drive to encourage Singaporeans to continue upgrading their skills, regardless of where they started from. Mr Ng says he gives it a decent B grade, if numbers alone told of its progress.

Last year was a busy one for the national drive. There was the roll-out of the SkillsFuture Credit scheme, which gives every Singaporean aged 25 and older $500 credit to pay for skills courses. It was introduced last January for about 2.5 million people.

More than 126,000 people, or about 5 per cent of those eligible, used it in the scheme's first year.

Mr Ng said "there is really no rush to use it", explaining that the scheme was designed such that the credit does not expire and will be topped up at intervals. He urged Singaporeans to think carefully and not spend the credits on any course that comes to mind.

Over 500 modular courses have been introduced at polytechnics and universities. These bite-sized courses, aimed at working adults, may even be "stackable" towards qualifications such as degrees, he said.

All Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnic courses are also on track to have their internship programmes enhanced by 2020. These longer and more structured internships have clear learning outcomes and better mentorship, and are part of full-time diploma courses, Nitec, or Higher Nitec courses. At the end of last year, two-thirds of about 290 polytechnic and ITE courses have enhanced their internship programmes.

Going forward, some initiatives under SkillsFuture will be tweaked, said Mr Ng.

In the second quarter of this year, a one-stop online portal will be launched to help people plan for their education and training needs.

More modular courses will be rolled out, and there will be a greater push for more workplace and online learning opportunities.

SSG will also step up advisory services to help Singaporeans navigate the myriad pathways to reach their potential. Besides these, Mr Ng said more will be done to engage individuals and firms, particularly the small and medium-sized enterprises.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2017, with the headline 'Govt funded nearly 1m training places'. Print Edition | Subscribe