With only about 5 per cent of those eligible signing up in the first year, the response to the SkillsFuture Credit scheme may seem lukewarm, but observers say the numbers show promise.
The Government programme, rolled out in January last year for about 2.5 million people, is meant to spur individuals to pick up skills and gives every Singaporean aged 25 and older $500 credit to pay for courses.
More than 126,000 Singaporeans used it in its first year.
National University of Singapore economics lecturer Kelvin Seah said: "...I actually think the take-up rate is encouraging.
"It shows that Singaporeans are not rushing to use the credits in an imprudent manner, but are looking to use them when the need for skills acquisition arises."
Courses eligible for the scheme rose steadily from more than 10,000 at the start to over 18,000 today.
Attending courses also takes up precious time, Dr Seah said.
"...This might mean forgoing income from work if they are self-employed or applying for leave if they are employed workers."
Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said the numbers may not tell the whole story.
He said there are professionals in fast-changing industries, such as infocomm technology, who may not attend courses, but "crowdsource new skills on demand" - via YouTube, self-teaching or reading books.
SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) chief executive Ng Cher Pong said this month that the scheme was designed such that the credits do not expire and will be topped up at regular intervals.
In an update last month, SSG said about 63 per cent of those who tapped on the credits last year were aged 40 and older. Information and communications technology was the most popular training area across age groups.
Besides the SkillsFuture Credit, there is a plethora of initiatives under the SkillsFuture umbrella.
Mr Ng said a priority is to continue finding ways to drive a mindset change in Singapore.
Dr Seah noted Singaporeans are "quite receptive" to upgrading: "There is a recognition that we have to constantly evolve our skills, because Singapore is such a small and open economy and economic conditions here sway with what happens globally."
This article was first published on February 17, 2017.
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