ST Education Forum: Employers should look beyond candidates' qualifications, says Lawrence Wong

There are more options for Singaporeans to return to university to upgrade and upskill at different points of their career.
There are more options for Singaporeans to return to university to upgrade and upskill at different points of their career.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Higher education does not necessarily have to be front-loaded - meaning people may choose to start their working life first before circling back to complete their undergraduate degrees or higher degrees.

Increasingly, there are more options for Singaporeans to return to university several times to upgrade and upskill at different points of their career.

Employers should not see this as a disruption. Instead, they should look at students and graduates for who they are, their experiences and the value proposition that they bring to the workplace, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong on Friday (Feb 5).

Speaking at The Straits Times Education Forum 2021 on Reimagining Universities, Post-Covid, he said: "That will be the ultimate test - (hiring) not based on the qualifications or credentials or whether you had this experience or that experience, which somehow feels different from what I had gone through.

"Of course, it will be different, but look at the value that the student or the graduate brings to the workplace - the skills, the competencies and the contributions.

"We hope, with all that we are doing and all that the universities are doing, each batch of graduates will be able to bring more value and more contributions to the workplace and to employers."

Mr Wong, who obtained his bachelor's and master's degrees in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, said he was reminded of how the Public Service Commission had questioned him upon his return on why he chose to take music classes at university.

"But I think mindsets have changed, and it will continue to change," he said.

The forum, which was held online this year, examined the ripple effects of the coronavirus pandemic on higher education and the changes that it will forge.

Professor Lily Kong, president of the Singapore Management University (SMU) that co-organised the forum, said that "every generation will look at the next generation and see how they're different".

She said she has heard senior leaders in companies and firms say that they have learnt new things from the new graduates.

"Each generation brings something different and something positive. The younger generation is going to bring a whole lot of technological skills that the older generation doesn't have, for example."

She added: "Of course, the senior employers and employees have the experience that younger ones don't have. So it's really about learning from one another and optimising the skill sets within a company."