SkillsFuture funding framework to focus on courses relevant to industry

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing announced his roadmap for Singapore's adult education sector at the SkillsFuture Forum. PHOTO: THE BUSINESS TIMES

SINGAPORE - SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) will refine its funding framework for training to achieve better manpower outcomes, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (July 5).

From 2024, workers will no longer get subsidies from SSG for most non-certifiable courses.

SkillsFuture credits will also no longer fund these courses, which currently comprise about 7 per cent of the courses the national body for skills development funds, SSG said on Tuesday.

Mr Chan said the refinements to SSG’s funding framework are part of efforts to better support training with manpower outcomes.

They are also meant to ensure that training is refreshed to meet the objectives of job placement, skills deepening and career advancement for individuals, as well as job redesign and business transformation for enterprises, he added. 

Mr Chan, who spoke at the launch of the SkillsFuture Forum 2022 on Tuesday, also announced his road map for Singapore's adult education sector to reach his goal of retraining at least half a million working adults a year.

He had announced this goal at The Straits Times Education Forum in February.

Tuesday's event was held at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar and kicked off the SkillsFuture Festival, which runs from Tuesday until Aug 14.

Mr Chan identified four key challenges that must be met for Singapore to upskill its workforce at scale.

First, the country must overcome an asymmetry of information to spark the interest of working adults in reskilling and upskilling, he said.

He noted that they have to juggle work, financial, family and social commitments and responsibilities.

"Many tend to apply a high discount rate towards training due to the tyranny of the 'urgent', and the 'here and now'. Bread-and-butter issues understandably occupy their minds."

He said efforts such as personalised skills advisory services have been set up. There are also plans to improve outreach to help people navigate the training ecosystem, but these are not enough on their own, the minister added.

These must be complemented by three other strategies, he said, namely, articulating companies' demand for future skills, aggregating such demand in different sectors and activating a supply of such skills through quality training.

SPH Brightcove Video
Education Minister Chan Chun Sing spoke at the launch of the SkillsFuture Forum 2022 on July 5. The event, held at the Lifelong Learning Institute, was followed by a panel discussion moderated by The Business Times Digital Editor, Christopher Lim.

On the need to articulate demand for future skills, Mr Chan said individual companies may not know what future skills they need.

He added: "This is where the Government, SSG, trade associations and chambers and our unions must come in and take the lead."

He gave the example of SSG's Skills Demand for the Future Economy report published in December. It drew on data from the global, regional and local jobs skills trends to show which skills are in demand from three sectors important for Singapore's growth: the green, care and digital economies.

Mr Chan added that human resource teams must then translate the demand for specific skills into their hiring and job design processes.

He said: "This will allow companies to focus more on skills and competencies, rather than relying on only qualifications such as degrees or diplomas as a proxy of the candidate's suitability."

Beyond articulating the skills demand of its companies, Singapore needs each industry to aggregate or collate the demand for skills across its different sectors, Mr Chan added.

This is where trade associations and chambers, being an important bridge between the Government and employers, must step up as intermediaries, he said.

They will play a leading role to support and engage small and medium-sized enterprises in identifying the skills the SMEs need, help disseminate jobs and skills insights, and put in place structures to accredit skills acquired at the workplace.

Mr Chan said: "For a start, SSG is working with the Infocomm Media Development Authority to partner SGTech and the Singapore Computer Society as skills development partners in the information and communications technology sector."

With the support of such intermediate bodies, Singapore will improve its agility and market responsiveness to accelerate the SkillsFuture movement, Mr Chan added.

Only when these conditions are met can the supply of future skills be optimised, he said.

Mr Chan said: "First, we must place more focus on how adult education is delivered.

"Our training providers and institutes of higher learning must step up to the role, to combine the currency of frontier industry knowledge with best adult education practices."

To this end, he announced that the Institute for Adult Learning will sign two separate agreements with the five polytechnics and NTUC LearningHub to enhance capability development in Singapore's training and adult education sector.

He said: "It is a worthwhile journey because if we do this well, workers and enterprises across all sectors of our economy will benefit from these investments."

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