SINGAPORE - More SkillsFuture courses will be made available for national servicemen to boost their employability, who also no longer need to notify the authorities for overseas travel of less than six months, up from the previous 14 days.
National servicemen can also look to a new initiative that allows them to access and share photos of themselves and buddies, in a move to foster stronger bonds.
Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How revealed these changes during a debate on Friday (March 1) on the Ministry of Defence's annual Budget.
He said national servicemen will soon be able to subscribe to some 3,000 courses with the $350 credits given to each of them.
He said Mindef is also working with institutes of higher learning to grant credit exemptions for relevant diploma or degree programmes if they complete some of these courses, as part of efforts to help servicemen transit to higher education or to the workplace.
He said that currently, full-time national servicemen (NSFs) can use their credits to subscribe to about 200 online courses offered by local universities and polytechnics.
The wider selection of courses, planned to be introduced by mid-2019, will include SkillsFuture courses that focus on "emerging domains" such as data analytics and cyber security.
These e-Prep (Electronic Pre-Release Employment Programme) credits are valid up to one year after NSFs complete full-time service. NSFs can apply for e-Prep courses on the NS portal website.
In terms of exposure to future careers, customised SkillsFuture advice workshops, held four times a year for NSFs, are also on the cards.
Aimed at preparing NSFs for the workplace transition, these workshops will be conducted at the Enhanced Career and Education Fair (ECEF), in partnership with SkillsFuture Singapore, the People's Association and Employment and Employability Institute.
Trial sessions have been conducted with the Basic Military Training Centre and 30th Battalion, Singapore Combat Engineers, in January this year. A pilot with NSFs attending the ECEF will be conducted in March.
Mr Heng also revealed that starting from March 1, operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) will no longer need to notify Mindef or the Home Team of their overseas travel and contact information before leaving Singapore for less than six months.
The change in travel notification requirements was a result of a regular review of Mindef and the Ministry of Home Affairs' exit control policies.
Currently, NSmen need to give notification for trips longer than 14 days but less than six months.
Mr Heng said that removing this notification requirement will not compromise operational readiness as there are other exit control measures in place, and such measures could be tightened if the need arises.
These measures include how servicemen are still required to apply for an exit permit before travelling overseas for six months or longer.
NSmen on operational and mobilisation manning are still required to seek permission from the units before travelling overseas.
They are also still required to update changes to their contact number on the NS Portal, including temporary changes to contact information during overseas travel, which will allow them to be contacted by their unit.
This requirement was last changed in July 2014. Before that, NSmen who travelled overseas for more than 24 hours and less than six months were required to notify the Mindef Notification Centre or Home Team Overseas Notification Centre.
"Securing Singapore's freedom is a sacred duty shouldered by our national servicemen. It is only right that we continually think of ways to support them," Mr Heng said.
He also said that a new initiative called NS Memories is being trialled for three months as part of efforts to promote a stronger sense of community.
This initiative will allow national servicemen to access individually tagged photos of themselves with fellow servicemen throughout their national service cycle, doing activities such as training and cohesion.
"Over time, the repository will catalogue the experiences throughout the NS journey," he said.
These photos can be downloaded and shared on their personal social media accounts.
The trial is expected to begin in the middle of this year with an active infantry unit, said Mr Heng.
Mindef said it was looking at suitable online platforms to host NS Memories, and will assess the development of features and functions based on feedback from the trial participants.