To be competitive, equip adult Singaporeans with tools to learn on the go, says Chan Chun Sing

The Government is working to ensure Singaporeans remain competitive throughout their working life while attracting foreign talent. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Every adult Singaporean should be equipped with the tools to learn anytime and anywhere, such as on their smartphones, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.

This is among the ways the Government is working to ensure Singaporeans remain competitive throughout their working life while attracting foreign talent to strengthen the economy, he said in an interview with The Straits Times that aired on Wednesday.

"So long as (adult learners) put in the effort, we will make sure that the resources are available to them," he said, adding that it is difficult for them to go back to school because of financial or family responsibilities.

"And we're going to do more and we're going to make more announcements in the course of the year, up to the next Budget, on how we intend to step up efforts to make sure that our people stay competitive," he said.

Mr Chan's remarks came after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech earlier this month that more needs to be done to attract and retain top overseas talent in a post-Covid-19 world.

Among the initiatives is a new work pass - announced by the Ministry of Manpower on Monday - meant to attract those who earn a fixed monthly salary of at least $30,000.

While Singaporeans understand the need to bring in strong foreign talent to strengthen the economy, there are some who might be concerned with the competition, said Mr Chan, when asked about the new work pass scheme.

To ensure Singaporeans remain competitive, the Government's strategy is to groom students in the first 15 years of their lives, as well as help them grow in the next 50 years beyond the school system.

While efforts are being made to train Singaporeans throughout their working lives, there will still be people around the world with unique talents that Singapore might not have, said Mr Chan.

"If possible, we would like to attract them to join Team Singapore to complement what we don't have. Otherwise, they would be competing against Singapore with some other teams," he said.

The benchmark of success is how many good jobs are created for Singaporeans not just here, but also overseas, he said.

Many companies here serve the global market and, to compete in this arena, people must have the experience to lead global teams, especially for higher-level positions.

This is why the Ministry of Education has an objective for 70 per cent of students in institutes of higher learning to have some form of overseas exposure.

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Singaporeans must also seek opportunities to work overseas so that they gain the experience required to compete for the top jobs, said Mr Chan.

He cited the examples of Ms Goh Swee Chen, who was Shell Singapore chairman before she stepped down in 2019, and Mr Gan Seow Kee, who was managing director at ExxonMobil Asia Pacific until he retired last year.

Mr Chan noted that they joined these multinational companies and were posted overseas to the United States and Europe - experiences that allowed them to command the respect of their peers.

"So that is the kind of example of how having that regional and global exposure helps our people to become more competitive over and beyond the technical competencies that they have," he said.

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