A better match between a serviceman's abilities and his vocation has been a longstanding suggestion to improve the national service (NS) experience.
The new short-term contract scheme by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) to train elite cyber defenders will do that for servicemen with an aptitude for cyber security, and also allow the practical experience picked up to support the pursuit of higher-education qualifications post-NS.
Personnel selected for the scheme will serve three or four years in uniform. They will earn regular service pay after first completing the minimum period as full-time national servicemen (NSFs).
Recipients of the new Cyber Specialist Award will be deployed in advanced cyber-security roles. Not only will they contribute to beefing up an area that has come under increased attack, these cyber specialists will also gain expertise by taking classes offered for the Singapore Institute of Technology's cyber-security degree once a week.
The credits they earn will count towards a degree offered by the university.
There have been other moves in recent years to recognise the skills picked up by servicemen over the course of NS, with, for instance, selected Singapore Armed Forces courses receiving accreditation under the Workforce Skills Qualification scheme. But when this Cyber NSF Scheme starts from the second half of the year, it will be the first time NSFs can attend academic courses while deployed in an operational role.
What these cyber specialists do in NS can have a direct bearing on what they want to do afterwards.
While such a mutually beneficial arrangement might not be possible for NSFs in all vocations, the scheme goes some way towards countering the argument that NS adds little in terms of economically viable skills.
While the main aim of NS is to train young men in the defence of their country, support for what they do will be boosted even more if more such matches between operational requirements and servicemen's aspirations can be made.