With human resource being a key driver of Singapore's economy, the government is looking to foster a culture of lifelong learning in its citizens.
This was one of the key topics highlighted by the republic's Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam during the annual Budget statement on Monday (23 February 2015).
According to him, Singapore needs to become a "society that value meritocracy of skills, where people keep learning and pushing their potential, and are valued for their contributions at each stage of life." To aid this vision, the Singapore government will invest in its people via the SkillsFuture initiative. It will develop an integrated system of education, training and career progression for all Singaporeans, and promote industry support for individuals to advance based on skills.
A breakdown of how the SkillsFuture initiative will help the different groups of Singaporeans in their career journeys is as follows:
For young Singaporeans: They will be given access to a professional core of Education and Career Counsellors to help them discover their strengths and interests as well as match them to their desired jobs.
Besides that, students in Institutes of Higher Learnings will be offered "enhanced internships that are more structured and meaningful." Shanmugaratnam said that these internships will be offered in two-thirds of polytechnic courses and half of ITE courses over the next two years.
For post-graduates: They will be given a SkillsFuture Credit — with an initial credit of S$500 from 2016 — that can be used only for education and training purposes. The credits will not expire and will be topped up at regular intervals throughout a person's life, said Shanmugaratnam.
Every Singaporean will receive an online Individual Learning Portfolio — a one-stop education, training and career guidance resource — to help them plan their learning too, the Minister added. Commenting on this, Lee Chew Chiat, public sector leader of Deloitte Southeast Asia, said that the portfolio should enable collaboration, especially for those with experience. "Learning is no longer the same; learning from others and collaborating with others are critical to survive in future," he explained.
The Minister also introduced a SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme during the Budget statement. Under the programme, fresh graduates from polytechnics and ITE will be matched to suitable employers, and undergo structured on-the-job training and mentorship to gain an industry-recognised qualification. Shanmugaratnam said that both graduates and employers who sign up for the programme will receive "substantial support" from the government. However, it will be done in a phased way, and eventually cover up to one in three polytechnic and ITE graduates.
For those in mid-career years: Singaporeans aged 40 and above will be eligible to receive up to 90 percent of training subsidies for courses funded by the Ministry of Education and Workforce Development Agency.
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