In about a week’s time, all Singaporeans above the age of 25 will be receiving $500 from the government! *throws confetti and pops cheap champagne*
Now now, hold on to your horses. It’s not a cash gift like the GST voucher (if you even consider that a ‘cash gift’ hur hur) but rather, the $500 is given to you to take ANY course you want. It is all part of the SkillsFuture initiative set out by the government. According to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) website, SkillsFuture is a ‘national movement to provide Singaporeans with the opportunities to develop their fullest potential throughout life, regardless of their starting points.’ Basically, it’s a more large scale initiative to get Singaporeans to engage in lifelong learning.
I can already hear dying moans, grunts, snorts and every other animalistic sounds humans are capable of making when they are sian. I know right, going back to school (kinda) again?
Nah, you don’t need any cocktails to drown your sorrows and stress (but of course feel free to have one, or two, or three just for pleasure) because this initiative has no frills and you are not obligated to quickly use up the credits. You are literally given $500 from the government to spend on ANY skills-based course out of the 10 000 courses supported by the government whenever you are ready. Tantalising isn’t it?
The government is letting you take charge of your own future by opening up opportunities for you to upgrade yourself and continue to be ever-relevant in this dynamic modern economy. However, with an entire bunch of courses available, you are more than spoiled for choice! It seems more like a migraine-inducing, pain in the back chore. Assuming that you had studied marketing for 3 to 4 years in college and you have about 5 years of work experience in the field, with SkillsFuture allowing you to take any course you want, what the heck should you do? It’s almost like being given $100 as a child to spend on anything you want!
Actually, it is.
Don’t you worry child. This short article will help you get a better idea of the initiative so that you can wisely use up your credits. There are two primary things that you can do with that $500 credit (or more, since the government will top-up periodically). They are: deepening and widening
If you are a marketing executive, you would have had quite a few years of experience in doing market research, identifying gaps in the market, and promoting your company’s products and services. All of a sudden, social media enters the game and literally EVERY business is going ballistic with it; even the lone bakery at your neighbourhood has a Facebook page to promote their huat kueh and char siew buns. Social media sounds like child’s play eh?
You need to do analytics, measure customer engagement, convert sales leads and a slew of other technical tech things (look, ma, alliteration!) Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is another ball game altogether. Just because you have a Facebook and Instagram account does not make you a social media specialist. This is where you can spend your SkillsFuture credit on. There are courses online that can help you learn the little nuances of social media that can help you greatly in your marketing efforts.
Having said that though, going deeper into your specialisation or scope of work might not be the wisest thing to do if you are in an industry which has a possibility of becoming irrelevant. A quick look at Singapore’s economic transition shows that industries can simmer down and be phased out to make way for other burgeoning industries. For example, workers in the manufacturing sector are in a precarious position as Singapore starts to focus on other areas such as service and retail (even this sector is quickly becoming obsolete as machines become substitutes for waiters and cashiers. The horror!)
In this case, you might want to consider widening your skill set.
As our Labour MP has astutely put, there is a need for workers to develop a pi-shape skill set. In its essence, workers should not just have a deep knowledge in his or her specialisation but they need to develop a second skill in order to support themselves in a highly competitive workforce and economy.
Again, if you are a marketing executive, perhaps you might want to take courses on accountancy or finance. A sales executive might want to look into taking design courses. There is an array of courses that are supported by the government and out of the 10 000 courses available, there is definitely a couple that would be a good fit. There are also soft skills that can be highly relevant and that give you that extra factor in your resume. Say, you know how to speak French! Never underestimate linguistic skills!
Widening your skill set is always a pragmatic thing to do. It would do us good to always remember that our career is not indispensable. We can easily be replaced by another person; if not by a human, a machine. This is why the Singapore government places so much emphasis on education and lifelong learning. The SkillsFuture initiative serves as an incentive for us to keep burning that desire to improve ourselves and stay relevant in a cut-throat, dog-eat-dog world. For those whose fire has died out, hopefully the initiative has sparked something in you to pursue an interest that you have been dying to take up but hasn’t had the opportunity to.