Why It Matters

Move to value skills timely

The global WorldSkills contest, which takes place in different countries biannually, is a chance for young people at the top of their trades to be judged on their vocational abilities.

It may not sound like a big deal, but to the young men and women representing Singapore on the world stage in areas such as mechatronics, beauty therapy and aircraft maintenance, it tells them that their skills are valued and are of national relevance.

It is good news that the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) has stepped in this year to fully sponsor prizes because it reaffirms the growing importance of deep specialised skills in an economy that depends on them.

The cash incentives have grown significantly this year, with the agency setting aside over $100,000 in funds for the delegation. In the past, the cash incentives were mainly funded by the polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

As a result of WDA's participation, those who win gold medals this year will get $20,000, up from $7,000 previously. If a Singaporean wins the Albert Vidal Award - for the gold medallist with the best score across all countries and categories - he or she will get $30,000. This is 10 times the previous sum.

Silver medallists will win $10,000, double the $5,000 previously, and bronze medallists will get $5,000, up from $3,000.

The added incentives are timely, given the range of measures rolled out since the national SkillsFuture movement to encourage Singaporeans to develop relevant job skills began last year.

The boost by WDA goes some way to support the contingent of young people who, like many of their polytechnic and ITE peers, are in the process of mastering their skills and thinking of making these their careers. Most feel the overwhelming need to pursue undergraduate studies in order to be recognised like their university counterparts.

Giving them a chance to show off what they are good at in front of an international audience, and rewarding them well for it, helps them to see that society does value their craft.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'Move to value skills timely'. Subscribe