More places for ITE advanced courses

Singapore Polytechnic marine engineering student Mong Jun Hao says he learnt a lot during his six-week internship with MTU Asia.

SINGAPORE - The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will add more places to its more advanced Higher Nitec courses, starting with 100 spots from next year.

Most of these extra places will go to the engineering and info-communications technology programmes.

The five polytechnics here will also review their internship programmes, including possibly extending their duration.

These measures are aimed at equipping students with stronger skills, said Ms Indranee Rajah, chairman of the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (Aspire) committee making the recommendations.

"There is a need for real skills. The employers tell us this, OECD reports point this out and our study trips abroad confirm this," said the Senior Minister of State for Law and Education at a press conference yesterday.

The increased number of Higher Nitec places will allow more Nitec graduates to deepen their skills before they begin work, the committee said in its report.

It added that some industry sectors have said having longer training at the ITE would better prepare students for work.

Now, about one-third of Nitec students progress to Higher Nitec. The authorities hope to raise the figure to half.

The committee also said in its report that the internships at the polytechnics and the ITE are "generally good".

But the experience "can differ significantly from student to student, depending on how the internship is carried out by the host employers".

An internship should have a clearly defined outcome, and the student's job scope should contribute to that goal.

These enhancements may lead to students going on longer work attachments.

For instance, students in Ngee Ann Polytechnic's marine and offshore technology programme take part in a three-month internship in their third year. But by 2016, the internship will be six months long.

Students agreed that completing a longer internship would allow them to learn more and may make companies more willing to hire them.

Third-year marine engineering student Mong Jun Hao, 18, completed a six-week internship at engine manufacturer MTU Asia.

The Singapore Polytechnic student spent his time last year in an engine servicing workshop where he learnt how to disassemble, inspect, clean and re-assemble engines and their parts.

"I learnt a lot. You could see what was inside the engines when you opened them, and when you clean them, you really learn about the different parts," he said.

"If the internship was longer, say, six months, I imagine I would learn a lot more."

At a glance

The 10 recommendations by the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review committee:

1. Secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to have trained education and career guidance officers to advise students on career and education choices.

2. Polys and ITE to review internships and possibly lengthen them to ensure they have clearly defined outcomes and that students' tasks contribute to the goals.

3 ITE to raise the number of places in its Higher Nitec programmes to allow students to upgrade skills.

4. Each poly and ITE college to be designated as a lead institution in a particular sector, to coordinate work with partners.

5. Polys and ITE to expand online learning to make it easier to learn on the go.

6. Polys and ITE to offer more support to students to develop soft skills such as resilience and leadership.

7. Employers to integrate study and work, allowing fresh graduates to work and draw a salary while getting a recognised skill certification that will lead to larger job scopes and a higher pay.

8. Polys to provide more post-diploma refresher courses to give graduates more opportunities to continue their education and training.

9. Polys and ITE to work with the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Home Affairs to support their graduates being posted to national service vocations that match what they have learnt in school.

10. The Government to collaborate with industry partners to develop sector-specific benchmarks that will state clearly the skills needed to advance in a career.

This article was first published on August 26, 2014.
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