The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will have a key role in the SkillsFuture movement as it revamps its adult learning courses and makes them more accessible through online components.
But Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam also urged employers to do their part in encouraging lifelong learning. "We need more of the enterprise culture that we see in some of the Northern European countries, where employers take real ownership and pride in training their employees, and collaborating with each other to train people for industry," he said.
Speaking at the ITE's 25th anniversary celebrations at its headquarters in Ang Mo Kio yesterday, DPM Tharman lauded its "remarkable success" - one that many did not expect when the vocational training institute was set up in 1992.
Dismissed by some in the past as a last resort for academically weak students, many ITE students today go on to further their studies in polytechnic or university.
As of this year, the ITE, with three colleges that have their own niche areas, has 110 active memorandums of understanding with local industry partners and 18 MOUs with overseas partners. It also has 1,700 pacts with industries to offer almost 10,000 internship places.
DPM Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, also highlighted ITE's role in innovation by collaborating with industry on applied research in areas like health and biomedical sciences. He said the ITE will continue to infuse more work experience into its curriculum, and train students for a cluster of related occupations and industries instead of just a single occupation.
•April 1992: The Ministry of Education (MOE) establishes the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) as a post-secondary institution, replacing the Vocational and Industrial Training Board.
•1998: ITE launches a series of branding campaigns to challenge views that its students are low achievers.
•2002: ITE introduces a new certification system to replace the National Technical Certificate system in place since the 1970s.
•2005: The "One ITE System, Three Colleges" model is introduced to consolidate the 10 ITE campuses into three regional ones. The ITE headquarters oversees curriculum development and standards, while each campus is free to develop areas of specialisation. The $240 million ITE College East in Simei is opened.
•2007: ITE gets its first global award for excellence - the Global Harvard-IBM Innovations Award in Transforming Government - from Harvard University's Ash Centre for Democratic Governance and Innovation.
•2010: The $260 million ITE College West in Choa Chu Kang opens.
•2011: An ITE student becomes the first from the institute to win a gold medal at the biennial International WorldSkills Competition.
•2013: The $380 million ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio opens.
•2015: A scheme to provide enhanced internships for ITE students is launched.
•2017: MOE announces a new technical diploma to help ITE graduates in technical trades upgrade their skills.
ITE will be a "key anchor" for the SkillsFuture movement, he said.
"We know that technology will keep disrupting industries and jobs. It will very likely happen more frequently, and in every field. Learning must hence take place throughout each of our careers so that we stay employed, and more than that, keep improving and doing better in life."
He highlighted how about 10 per cent of adult learners at ITE today hold a diploma or degree.
Moving forward, ITE will design "bite-sized" modules with shorter durations of 20 to 60 hours. For continuing education courses, it will also offer 20 per cent of theory components online. The focus will be on "learning a skill" rather than "getting a certification".
"ITE is a gem in our education system that will glow in new ways. Ways that all Singaporeans can take pride (in) as we look to the future."
The anniversary event was attended by Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, former education minister Lee Yock Suan, former ITE leaders as well as ITE's international partners.
ITE chief executive officer Low Khah Gek said: "Our students have benefited from work attachment opportunities from local industries, as well as exchange programmes through our international partners."