With youngsters increasingly looking to pursue degrees, it was feared there would be little interest in a new scheme allowing polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education graduates to further their qualifications while they work.
However, initial signs are promising for the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn scheme which starts this year in four sectors: logistics, food manufacturing, food and beverage, and retail.
The Straits Times understands that there are already 42 applications for the logistics programme - enough to fill more than half the 80 places on the course, though more can be added.
Figures for the other three sectors are not yet available.
The one-year logistics programme is only for recent poly graduates. They will receive on-the-job training four days a week, with the fifth spent at Republic Polytechnic studying for a specialist diploma in supply chain management.
They will be hired for positions in areas such as air freight operations, customer service and supply chain planning, and be paid between $1,800 and $2,000 a month - similar to the starting salaries for polytechnic graduates entering the workforce.
As an incentive, the Government is offering a $5,000 bonus for those who sign up for Earn and Learn.
The programme is modelled on German and Swiss apprenticeship schemes and, by 2025, the aim is to have one in three ITE and polytechnic graduates on board.
Other sectors will be included in the next few years.
Students will be supervised closely both at work and by their lecturers so that they will be able to integrate theory and practice to develop deep specialist skills.
They will also undertake a project related to their company operations so that they get to apply what they learn to solve real-life problems.
So far 13 companies - both multinational corporations and medium-sized companies - have signed up to the logistics programme.
Dr Wang Jianguo, who heads Republic Polytechnic's school of engineering, said the $5,000 may have helped to nudge students in the right direction, but they are also attracted by the opportunity to land good jobs and further their qualifications at the same time.
He said it helps that most logistics students in the polytechnics have "sampled" working life through internships which are a compulsory part of the three-year diploma course.
"Many of them come back from the internships with good experiences and want to go back to work for the companies they interned with. The fact that they can take one day off a week to study while they work is an attractive option for graduates."
He added that the polytechnic is talking to institutions such as SIM University to see how the Earn and Learn participants can go on to study for a degree in the future.
Republic Polytechnic student Nerine Chua, 20, who is keen on the programme, said it will give her more time to figure out if the industry suits her. "I need to understand the industry better and the kind of jobs available, and the Earn and Learn Programme is a good way of doing that."
An Earn and Learn roadshow will be held at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Eunos on Saturday for polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education students and parents. It will feature employers from various sectors. There will also be personality profiling and assessment, career advisory services and talks.
This article was first published on March 26, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.