If anything, the Covid-19 outbreak has taught us important lessons. Retail giants we once thought were unshakeable closed their doors for good. One example is Robinsons, which shuttered after a whopping 162 years in the market. Some say the store was not able to adapt quickly to changing consumer tastes.
Likewise, as an employee, business owner or self-employed person, if you're unable to adapt swiftly to changes - be it industry needs or external factors such as the ongoing pandemic - there is always a risk that your skills and talents, no matter how stellar they may be, might become irrelevant in the future.
Many experts have pointed out that adaptability could be the key to survival in a rapidly changing world.
On the career front, this is where Continuing Education and Training (CET) comes into play. Individuals who regularly upgrade themselves can ensure that their skills stay relevant and aligned with industry needs, especially in a recovering yet still uncertain labour market.
SP PACE Academy will journey with you
Rather than upskill blindly to amass certifications just to impress future employers - we should be selective about our lifelong learning efforts in order to reap the maximum benefits for the time invested. The benefits are further magnified when what is taught not only aligns with industry trends, but also addresses skill gaps - potential and existing - in the field.
At Singapore Polytechnic (SP), its Professional and Adult Continuing Education (PACE) Academy offers a plethora of opportunities for adult learners to upskill and train. Although PACE was officially launched in 2010, SP - Singapore's first polytechnic - has been training and developing talent since the 1950s to support Singapore's economic growth.
Over the years, SP has established strategic partnerships with industry players to ensure the currency and relevance of its courses and training programmes. The educational institute has also expanded and enhanced its CET offerings to improve employment outcomes through collaborations with industry partners.
From April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, SP PACE Academy saw over 62,000 participants across nearly 500 continuing education programmes. These programmes include formalised certifiable courses such as Work-Study Programmes and Professional Conversion Programmes in collaboration with government agencies SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG), as well as short but targeted skills-training courses for both individuals and organisations keen to upskill or prepare their staff for new job functions or roles.
Collaboration is key
Among the industry practitioners SP PACE Academy taps for their expertise in training and pedagogical methodologies include PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Bosch Rexroth Regional Training Centre (BRRTC), the Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association (SSIA), and the Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC) Institute.
SP began its partnership with PwC, a training collaboration partner, in 2018. Currently, both organisations are working to develop a suite of courses related to analytics, data visualisation and analytics, digital trust, artificial intelligence, cloud strategy and governance. These courses are created based on market research conducted by PwC, with efforts to align them with the skills framework.
A spokesman from SP notes: "The courses in the collaboration are unique when compared to other short courses, as their stackable nature allows participants to choose their preferred combination of courses that would lead to the 'Certified Data Analyst', a certification co-awarded by Singapore Polytechnic and PwC."
Three years ago, SP, together with Bosch, spearheaded an intensive one-week, best-in-class advanced manufacturing programme (AMLead) to Germany for senior leaders of local companies. The success of AMLead led to the set-up of BRRTC in Singapore - a strategic partnership to support enterprise and workforce transformation for advanced manufacturing.
"SP provides qualified trainers for BRRTC to train industry players in the fundamentals of Industry 4.0, co-develop local training content in areas such as industrial artificial intelligence, industrial automation, robotics, and mobility and urban solutions," says SP's spokesman.
In 2019, SP PACE Academy kick-started a curriculum and training collaboration programme for professionals in the lifestyle industry to upgrade themselves. This was formalised in December that same year.
"As industry training needs are identified and validated by the SFIC, the training courses are demand-driven, rather than supply-driven. And in light of the current Covid-19 situation, industry training gaps that were further identified are in the areas of e-commerce and logistics," says the SP spokesman.
In March last year, SP also began a partnership with trade association SSIA to develop and promote skills upgrading courses for the semiconductor industry. Being in tune with the latest industry trends, practices and training needs, SSIA is able to provide experts and industry practitioners who can contribute to the curriculum.
On the horizon, is a soft skills training series for engineers, to develop their communication and learning agility, as well as a job attachment and placement arrangement in the semiconductor industry.
Realising their potential
Ms Patricia Pek, 53, is attending a Certified Data Analyst Course at PACE. Conducted in conjunction with PwC, the modular structure of the programme gives her flexibility, and government subsidies kept the course fee affordable.
She adds: "The PwC instructors were helpful and willing to share their industry experience. I gleaned key insights, especially in areas that can improve my communication with external consultants engaged by my organisation."
Chief consultant at S S Consulting & Services BP Somaiah had a similar experience when taking a water efficiency manager course jointly conducted by SP and PUB, Singapore's Water Agency. "The course covered the best practice guidelines of cooling tower water consumption, which helped me in my area of work," he notes.
Other adult learners who took up longer courses with on-the-job training were immediately able to put what they learnt into practice.
Says Attach-and-Train programme participant Shermeen Lim: "I was able to put the data analysis skills I learnt to good use during consumer study trials at food manufacturer Chop Hup Chong. This helped me in my work as a food production specialist trainee, allowing me to contribute towards new food product development and quality improvement. I was able to help roll out creative and innovative soup bases for our customers."
Ms Florence Fok, who was on PACE's Local Biologics Skills Training Programme, notes: "The theoretical course at SP prepared and reinforced what I learnt during my 18-month on-the-job training at Swiss healthcare company Roche. Beyond the useful experience and knowledge gained, I was able to widen my network - I'm even able to earn more than what I used to, after completing the course."
Self-employed persons who may have lost their main source of income due to Covid-19 could consider short training courses to help them stay relevant during this uncertain period.
For example, freelance designers could take courses in digital painting, web design or video production to offer a full suite of services to their clients. Those seeking full-time employment could also embark on a professional conversion programme in an industry with potential, such as healthcare.
Keep moving forward, at the right PACE
To help adult learners on their lifelong learning journey, PACE course fees are kept affordable as it facilitates funding support through partner agencies like SSG, the Employability and Employment Institute and other industry players. There are also other subsidies through government schemes like the Self-Employed Persons Training Support Scheme's NTUC Training Fund.
Courses available through SP PACE Academy cover a wide range of topics across varied sectors such as cyber security, finance, data analytics, advanced manufacturing, digital media, urban solutions, tech-enabled services, and more.
Visit here to find out more about SP PACE Academy and the numerous opportunities available to individuals and organisations.