Enlightened companies crucial to success of expanded work-study pathway: Ong Ye Kung

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung accompanying President Halimah Yacob (both centre), during a visit to German automotive manufacturing company Continental AG in Frankfurt on Dec 12, 2019. With them are the President's husband Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee (left) and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry Tan Wu Meng (in red tie). PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

FRANKFURT - Education Minister Ong Ye Kung called for more "enlightened self-interest" from Singapore companies on Friday (Dec 13), as the Ministry of Education (MOE) ramps up company-driven workplace learning for students.

A day after Mr Ong announced that 12 per cent of each student cohort will go through MOE's work-study pathway by 2030 - up from 3 per cent currently - he said much will depend on companies being willing to take in and train students knowing that they may eventually work elsewhere in the industry.

"You need very enlightened companies to do this. Companies that are prepared to take in students and train them knowing that I may hire them or I may not," said Mr Ong, who was speaking in Germany. He accompanied President Halimah Yacob on her five-day state visit to the country which ended on Friday.

He added: "And if I don't, I must have the enlightened self-interest to think that training these students and letting them go out to the industry is better on the whole, because then more people will know about my products and the quality of my production."

MOE's work-study pathway is a relatively new initiative, with the Institute of Technical Education launching its work-study diplomas last April.

Companies work in tandem with ITE to train the students over a period of between 2½ and three years, with 70 per cent of curriculum time conducted at the workplace.

Around 600 trainees are expected to begin training under ITE's 24 work-study diplomas next year, with 268 companies working with ITE for the 2020 intake.

There are also a number of work-study programmes in local universities that allow adult learners to earn a degree while working.

Asked why MOE wanted to quadruple the number of students undergoing work-study programmes by 2030, Mr Ong pointed to the technological advancement that is drastically altering the jobs landscape today.

"In times of change and uncertainty, you have to go back to basics, which are the core competencies... The best people to teach that sometimes is the industry, the people undergoing all these changes," he said.

"For us in (educational) institutions, although the system is strong and rigorous, you can't keep up with all the changes happening."

"So it is imperative at this stage, and I think all education systems in the world recognise this, to now invite industries into our campus and vice versa."

Education and the workforce were a key focus of President Halimah's state visit to Germany. Of the 14 memorandums of understanding and agreements signed over the course of the visit, seven were in education.

Of these, six were between ITE and German partners for a series of industrial attachments.

Germany's dual education system, where companies and educational institutions work in tandem to train students, is held in high regard around the world.

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