Skills are the only future

Have you seen Michelle Chong’s post about her mother graduating?

You read that right – her mother! :D
As the Chinese saying goes, ‘活到老,学到老’ (live long, learn long); the spirit of learning and upgrading ourselves should be carried with us even as we age. This spirit of lifelong learning is displayed by local celebrity Michelle Chong’s 65-year-old mother who just graduated with a Diploma in Early Childhood Education.

How cool is that!

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Learning in one’s silver years takes determination, an open-mind and of course, support from the society. Minister of Education Mr Heng Swee Keat urged Singaporeans to ‘learn for skills and life, not just grades’. He also encouraged teachers to be lifelong learners so that they can bring out the best in their students.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was quoted saying, “It is never too early or too late in life to pick up a new skill, and Singaporeans must adopt a culture of learning throughout their lives.”

When the SkillsFuture development effort was introduced in Budget 2015, Tharman spoke of a national initiative to equip Singaporeans with skills of the future to meet the changing economic realities. SkillsFuture believes that everyone should be given the same opportunity to develop their fullest potential throughout life, regardless of their starting points.

Indeed skills are the the very things that employers would pay and pay more for a person.

Too many people rely on fluffy things like “experience”, hoping that a company would pay more for a person. Given that theory, the older you are that means the more you should be paid? Not so. Experience for experience’s sakes is hard to quantify when adding to a company’s bottomline. It is hard to measure in cold numbers like profit and productivity.

SkillsFuture tries to change that. One of its four key thrusts is to foster a culture that supports and celebrates lifelong learning, which is so important in the corporate world these days. The more you understand and do, the better your position in a company.

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The Government can’t force people to study and learn, but they can make things cheaper. Amongst the programmes and initiatives are measures to resolve issues that hinder people from lifelong learning: mostly about money.

The funds in our Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA) can be used for fees and charges in approved institutions. However, the account closes once we hit 30. We need greater financial incentive to invest on education and training in our working life. Some of the features of SkillsFuture include:

• Training Subsidies

For that, training subsidies for Singaporeans aged 40 and up will be raised this year, to at least 90 per cent for diploma to postgraduate courses funded by the Education Ministry (MOE), and up to 90 percent for courses supported by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency. Multiple subsidies from MOE for modular courses can be enjoyed by citizens at all levels, regardless of age.

• SkillsFuture Study Awards

You can also apply for study awards if you are in the middle of your career or earlier. The awards are given for individuals to enhance their skills in growth sectors such as financial services and healthcare. The study awards of up to $5,000 are bond-free and can be used to offset fees for courses approved by public sector agencies, including overseas courses in certain sectors. Awards will be distributed in phases this year and about 2,000 recipients will benefit per year eventually.

• SkillsFuture Fellowships

Those who are more senior and have helped to train others can apply for fellowship support of $10,000 to master skills in their respective fields. About 100 fellowships will be awarded per year from 2016.

 

• SkillsFuture Credit

The SkillsFuture Credit can be used to offset remaining fees after subsidies. An initial credit of $500 will be given to more than 2 million Singapore Citizens by early 2016. The credit is eligible only to those who are 25 and above (the PSEA will thus close once an individual turns 25, instead of 30).

• Modular Courses

A wider range of short course options from diploma to undergraduate level introduced by MOE can be chosen from. You can now apply for standalone modules for particular skills, or modules that stack up to attain a certification. The first group of new modular courses will be for skills relevant to the key priority and growth sectors identified by the government, such as advanced manufacturing, social services and early childhood education.

• Sectoral Manpower Plan (SMP)

Under the SMP, there will be tighter efforts with industry and unions to encourage employers to proactively develop every worker, provide career pathways and value master of skills as employees advance in careers.
As a start, the SMP will focus on lead sectors (e.g. healthcare, early childhood care and education, and social services), new growth sectors with exciting job opportunities (e.g. biopharmaceuticals sector) and sectors facing significant manpower challenges (e.g. retail, and food services).

The plans are all laid out, it seems… so will you also ‘活到老,学到老’ (live long, learn long)?

 

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About the author

Mendi Ang

Mendi Ang is a young (patriotic) Singaporean student. Her musings can be gathered from her travel observations, chats with adorable old ice cream uncles and even your conversations on the train. Inspiration is all around.

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