SIT pilots pathway for adults to learn skills at work, get rewarded with credits for degree

The alternative route offered by the Singapore Institute of Technology will allow adult learners to gain credits towards fulfilling degree requirements.
The alternative route offered by the Singapore Institute of Technology will allow adult learners to gain credits towards fulfilling degree requirements.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Workers here can soon pick up new knowledge and skills on their jobs and get a university degree for their efforts.

This alternative route offered by the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) will allow adult learners to gain credits towards fulfilling degree requirements, based on the competencies they have acquired through prior work experience.

For a start, the university will pilot the competency-based workplace learning pathway in the cybersecurity and transportation sectors, which are expected to grow significantly. This is scheduled to start next month.

On Wednesday (Aug 4), SIT signed two memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with partners in these sectors. Under the MOUs, SIT will work with them to upskill their workforce.

The first MOU, with Ensign InfoSecurity, will establish a pathway for the firm's employees to enrol in the university's information and communications technology (information security) degree programme.

The other MOU was jointly signed by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), SBS Transit and SMRT Corporation with SIT. It will provide a route for SBS Transit and SMRT staff to get a bachelor's or master's degree in sustainable infrastructure engineering (land).

It will also see the development of a postgraduate certificate in urban railway technology, as Singapore looks to build a strong pipeline of local talent to maintain its rail systems.

Under the pathway, significant portions of the degree programmes will be delivered through workplace learning. Learners will be assessed based on their skills acquired in the workplace.

SIT deputy president (academic) and provost Chua Kee Chaing said the new pathway requires a systematic way of assessing one’s competencies against the learning outcomes needed to award a degree.

“Any gaps in learning outcomes will then need to be bridged through regular courses that can be delivered on-campus or via online means. On the other hand, prior competencies gained can be recognised to allow quicker completion of the degree programme,” Prof Chua added.

Such an arrangement allows in-employment learners to work and learn at the same time, he said. “They also do not need to rush off from work to attend classes on campus as a part-time learner would, or put their careers on hold to pursue full-time studies.”

Ensign InfoSecurity group chief executive Tammie Tham said the pathway would allow its workers to “stay on top of the game” while being employed.

At the hybrid event, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing stressed that the biggest challenge faced by many economies today is to produce enough graduates with the right skills needed by fast-evolving industries.

He highlighted three approaches institutes of higher learning are taking to strengthen Singapore’s lifelong learning ecosystem.

One of them is to work closely with firms to shorten the time for new practices and skills to be incorporated into the curriculum, said Mr Chan. This comes as the skills a graduate has when he enters the workforce may be outdated in a fast-paced environment.

The method of delivery also has to be tailored to adult learners, said Mr Chan, noting that the teaching faculty too has to be in touch with new developments.

“We will need to look at how to institutionalise regular industry attachments, rotations and sabbaticals for our teaching staff, so that they can gain new perspectives and develop new connections with the frontier industries,” he added. “Alternatively, our faculty must be regularly involved in projects with the frontier companies.”

In addition, the lifelong learning habit must be cultivated, said Mr Chan, noting that working adults have competing family and financial commitments. He said SkillsFuture Singapore will publish its first annual skills report in November to analyse job trends and identify in-demand and emerging skills.

SIT president Tan Thiam Soon said students have to continually learn, unlearn and relearn to keep up with changes. "Education can no longer be front-loaded, but needs to be continual and lifelong," he added.