ITE to be key anchor for SkillsFuture: DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam

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The Institute of Technical Education will have a key role in the SkillsFuture movement as it expands its adult learning courses, and makes them more accessible through online components. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will be a key anchor for the SkillsFuture movement as it steps into its next 25 years, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Speaking at the ITE's 25th anniversary celebrations at ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio on Friday (May 26), he said the institute can better support lifelong learning by restructuring its courses for adult learners.

This includes designing "bite-sized" modules with shorter durations of 20 to 60 hours, and offering 20 per cent of theory components in continuing education and training courses online. Lessons should also have a focus on the learning of skills, rather than merely getting a certification.

Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, said that the ITE has been "a remarkable success" and 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.

Normal-stream secondary students sit for the N levels after four years, and if they do not qualify to take the O levels in their fifth year, they can choose to either enter the ITE or start working. Those who take the O levels can also apply for a place in the ITE.

As of this year (2017), the ITE has 110 active memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with local industry partners and 18 MOUs with overseas partners. It also has 1,700 internship agreements with industries to offer almost 10,000 internship places.

"Our students have benefited from work attachment opportunities from local industries, as well as exchange programmes through our international partners," said chief executive officer Low Khah Gek, who became the ITE's first female CEO in February.

With technology set to continue disrupting industries and jobs in every field, learning has to take place more frequently, said DPM Tharman.

He urged employers and companies to take on a greater role to support the ITE's transformation in the years ahead. "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," said DPM Tharman.

He added that the ITE will continue to infuse more work experience into its curriculum, train adult learners from all walks of life - including those with diplomas and degrees - and train students for a cluster of related occupations and industries instead of just a single occupation.

DPM Tharman also noted that that ITE is playing a direct role in innovation by collaborating with industry on applied research in areas like health and biomedical sciences.

"It 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."

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