It’s the first work day of 2016 for most of us! First off, let me say this,
Congratulations! You’ve survived 2015!
If you’ve been following the news and all the rather depressing economic and market updates, you would know that we should be bracing ourselves for a not-so-bright year ahead. I looked into my crystal ball last night, and it didn’t look too promising, so I won’t be surprised if the new year sees retrenchment, cost-cutting measures and markets slowing down.
It looks like a good time to take a cold, hard look at our career and where it’s heading, and in particular, whether we’re ready to ride the stormy waters ahead. Are we confident we’ll be the amongst those that our organisations want to keep? If not, then we have two choices now. One, to start brushing up on domain skills so that we are better than our peers. Two, to revisit our dreams and see if we want to pick up new skills towards realizing those forgotten dreams in case we find ourselves out of jobs.
Q1: What is SkillsFuture Credit?
A: All Singaporeans aged 25 and above will each get a SkillsFuture Credit of S$500 from 2016. This was first announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam during his Budget speech in February 2015.
This is an initial amount and the government will make further top-ups at regular intervals. The credits can only be used for education and training.
Q2: Why did the government launch the SkillsFuture Credit?
A: During the Budget Speech in 2015, DPM Tharman had emphasised the need to foster and continually renew deep skills that are critical for the next stage of Singapore’s economy.
“We must become a meritocracy of skills, not a hierarchy of grades earned early in life.”
This is also part of the government’s push towards a vision of Singaporeans taking charge of their own upgrading. SkillsFuture Credit aims to encourage individual ownership of skills development and lifelong learning.
You can read DPM Tharman’s speech here.
Q3: Do I have to apply for the SkillsFuture Credit?
A: Through the month of January 2016, eligible Singaporeans will receive their SkillsFuture Credit account activation letters. They will then be able to access their account to use their credit for courses that commence on or after 1 January 2016.
So there is no need to apply; just wait for your activation letter.
Q4: What courses can I use the SkillsFuture Credit for?
A: For a start, the SkillsFuture Credit can be used for about 10,000 approved courses, across 57 functional areas covering all key industries. The list of approved courses include:
- Courses subsidised or approved by WDA
- Courses offered by NTUC’s e2i
- Selected courses offered by the Ministry of
Education (MOE)-funded institutions
- Courses supported by public agencies
- [email protected] courses offered by the People’s Association
- Courses offered by the Infocomm Development Authority’s participating Silver Infocomm Junctions
You can check out the courses here.
Q5: Will my SkillsFuture Credit expire?
A: The SkillsFuture Credit will not expire. The Government will make periodic top-ups to the accounts. There is hence no need to rush to use your SkillsFuture Credit.
Q6: Can my employer ask me to use SkillsFuture Credit for training programmes that the company is supposed to send me for?
A: No, the SkillsFuture Credit is your own use; it is meant to empower you to take charge of your own lifelong learning. It is not meant for your companies to use it to save on their training costs. More details here.
Q7: How many times in a year can I use my SkillsFuture Credit if there is a balance after I use it for the first training course?
A: There is no restriction or limit on the number of times you can tap on the $500 credit, as long as the course start dates differ, and that you still have balance in your SkillsFuture Credit account.
Q8: How often will the $500 be topped up?
A: My crystal ball wouldn’t say, and I didn’t find any answers on Google either. So, I guess we just have to assume the government has not decided on the timing and quantum of the next top-up.
Q9: If the $500 SkillsFuture Credit is insufficient for the course I want to take, what can I do to get more help?
A: Many of the eligible courses are already highly subsidised by the government. Your $500 SkillsFuture Credit can be used on top of all these existing subsidies provided by the government.
If you are an NTUC union member, you can also tap on the Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP). This is an individual upgrading account for union members.
Q10: Can you tell me more about UTAP?
A: UTAP is a personal skills upgrading account that lets NTUC union members enjoy 50%, or up to $250 in funding per calendar year to help defray their course fees. Click here to check out the courses.
In 2010, the fund was renamed UTAP and administered by NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute).
Source: NTUC This Week, 3 Jan 2016 issue)
While researching on UTAP, I learnt that Desmond Choo, NTUC’s Director (Progressive Wage Model), Industrial Relations Department, wants to use his own SkillsFuture Credit for either coding or stage management!
Anyway, he’s right to say that the SkillsFuture Credit is a step to survive the ongoing economic transition as Singapore’s economy and jobs will change quickly in ways workers might not expect. I totally agree with him that “we should use SkillsFuture Credit to both deepen our domain skills and also explore skills useful to exploit new opportunities.”
Disclosure: I am a union member, and I’m so going to use both my SkillsFuture Credit and UTAP to pick up something new!