New statutory boards to oversee skills, jobs

TWO new statutory boards, tentatively named SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG), were announced yesterday to promote the national focus on skills and employment.

SSG will coordinate the drive for deeper skills and comes under the Education Ministry (MOE) while WSG, under the Manpower Ministry (MOM), will focus on jobs and enterprises.

The boards are expected to be established by the end of this year, as the reorganisation will require changes to existing laws and must be approved in Parliament, the ministries said yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam believes the reorganisation will help the new boards to focus on their key missions.

"SSG will foster a culture of lifelong learning and help to integrate a whole system of education and training through life," said Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies.

"WSG will be MOM's agent in developing a strong Singaporean core in each sector of our economy and help companies to be manpower-lean while remaining competitive."

Statutory boards are autonomous government agencies set up through legislation to perform specific functions.

There are more than 50 in Singapore.

Some functions of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), such as the training of adult workers, will be absorbed under the new SSG. MOM did not give details about the number of staff members who will move over.

SSG will improve the links between vocational, academic and adult training qualification systems so that credentials can be recognised consistently.

It will also take in the Council for Private Education, a statutory board under MOE which regulates private school operators.

The ministries said this will allow for "a more coordinated approach towards audits and quality assurance for the private education institutions and adult training centres".

Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung will lead SkillsFuture initiatives following the restructuring. He was WDA's chief executive from 2005 to 2008.

"What WDA has done is laid the foundation for SkillsFuture, which is a broader national priority and the next phase of lifelong learning," he said.

Meanwhile, WSG will aim to match manpower supply with industry demand and take on WDA operations like employment help and career services.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said the board "will help Singaporeans at all job levels to have better employment outcomes and companies to better address their manpower needs".

Patrick Tay, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Manpower, said that with economic uncertainties and labour market changes, there is greater impetus to ensure Singaporeans are gainfully employed and as many as possible are working.

Education GPC chairman Denise Phua said the move to bring adult education under MOE is to promote the mindset that lifelong learning is important.

"The way that education is delivered in the earlier years within the schools has an impact on whether students are interested in learning or will continue to learn after the formal school years," she said.

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