New national certification scheme to help local firms close workplace learning gaps

These practices and capabilities will in turn enhance workforce performance and improve worker retention rates. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - A new certification scheme aimed at helping local firms identify and close gaps in their workplace learning systems was launched on Thursday (May 6), with rail operator SMRT among its first applicants.

The National Workplace Learning Certification, which was developed by the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning (Nace), will recognise Singapore-based companies that put in place progressive workplace learning practices and capabilities.

These practices and capabilities will in turn enhance workforce performance and improve worker retention rates, Nace, which is led by Nanyang Polytechnic and supported by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), said in a statement.

Launching the certification scheme at SMRT's Mandai Depot, Education Minister Lawrence Wong said it is no longer sufficient for firms to rely only on formal training.

"Instead, we need to maximise the workplace as a significant place of learning, where workers continue to learn on the job, day in, day out," he said.

Mr Wong, who is also Second Minister for Finance, added that such workplace learning takes a longer, more strategic view towards employee upskilling.

"It's not just about ad hoc learning on the job. It is systematic. It is comprehensive. It is done deliberately. A successful workplace learning culture will not only help companies and employees keep up with changes, it will also position them, and Singapore as a whole, to thrive in a new post-Covid work environment, which is likely to be more unpredictable, turbulent and volatile," he said.

The new certification scheme can help firms foster a more learning-friendly culture.

Said Mr Wong: "It's not just about getting a piece of paper... It's going through a process that will systematically raise your capabilities and put in place improvements to strengthen your core competencies."

The certification will also help to distinguish the companies that have made this effort.

Mr Wong added: "I believe workers on their part, (and) unions, will be able to tell the difference, and will over time gravitate towards such preferred employers."

Companies that apply for the new certification will be assessed on six components - strategy, leadership, planning, training needs analysis, environment, and implementation and processes.

This is based on a framework that was developed in January last year and takes reference from German and Swiss models for workplace learning.

Interested firms will first be given free consultation to help them improve their workplace learning systems and work towards certification after an initial self-evaluation.

After a firm successfully applies for the certification, Nace, in partnership with the Singaporean-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce, will conduct site visits to assess the firm's workplace learning culture, capabilities and efforts.

The assessment will be reviewed and approved by a committee comprising industry leaders. If the firm passes, it will receive one of four certification levels.

Companies can apply for a higher certification level after two years.

SSG is exploring the use of the new certification as validation of quality workplace learning capabilities. This could become another criterion that SSG can use to assess the in-house training providers that it funds.

The certification cost, which is payable to Nace, will range between $2,800 and $7,100 depending on the size of the company.

SSG chief executive and Nace steering committee chairman, Mr Ong Tze-Ch'in, said the National Workplace Learning Certification serves to nudge companies to aim for a higher level of workplace learning capability.

SMRT CEO Neo Kian Hong said his firm works hard to ensure that its staff are well-trained and continually upgraded so that they can provide a safe and reliable public transport service. The rail operator has been working with Nace to implement structures, programmes and certifications to support its workplace learning efforts.

In 2019, it started a comprehensive review of its staff training system. The firm also engaged Nace to strengthen its in-house training.

Since then, SMRT has created digital learning platforms to encourage self-directed learning, and invested in immersive learning technologies such as virtual reality to simulate high-risk scenarios.

Said Mr Neo: "We are very happy to work with Nace for the certification. We hope to ensure that our people are employed and employable and are proud to serve with industry-relevant skills."

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