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More opportunities to upgrade through shorter courses for working adults

More opportunities to upgrade through shorter courses for working adults
Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said higher learning institutions will provide more information on the bite-sized courses that they offer.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Working adults looking to upgrade their skills will find it easier to identify shorter courses offered by higher learning institutions that are relevant to their needs.

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said on July 9 that institutions will provide more information on these bite-sized courses, known as micro-credentials, which allow people to learn specific skills over a shorter period of time.

This is “so that learners can make more informed decisions on what formal qualifications they can stack towards”, he said, speaking on efforts to make learning more accessible for adult learners.

Such courses, which have gained momentum as individuals seek more flexible and job-focused qualifications, can be accumulated and stacked towards full degrees.

The number of such courses being taken up by learners has increased from 34,000 in 2019 to 42,000 in 2022, said Mr Chan, who was speaking at the SkillsFuture Forum 2024 held at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar. The event kicked off the annual SkillsFuture Festival, which is being held from July 9 to Aug 21.

The autonomous universities will standardise the naming of the micro-credentials they offer, and look at how to make it easier for learners to compare similar courses and to identify those that suit their needs, he said.

More of such courses will be developed with industry leaders to cater to those looking for “just-in-time” skills upgrading, especially in emerging areas, said Mr Chan, adding that the institutes of higher learning are considering how to recognise each other’s qualifications so that learners can possibly bundle courses across institutions.

“In future, we will look at bringing high-quality and industry-relevant micro-credentials offered by private training providers into the fold,” he said.

The event was organised by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and supported by The Business Times and SPH Media.

“Finding new ways to design and deliver programmes to make learning more accessible to adult learners is also key,” Mr Chan said.

“We know many adult workers are keen to upgrade to a full qualification... But we also know that this is not just about the financial cost. Adult learners may worry that they cannot commit to the full programme, as many of them have family and work commitments.”


Such concerns are being addressed through micro-credentials, he said.

For instance, an Institute of Technical Education graduate can upgrade to a part-time polytechnic diploma while working by completing five modular certificates in a span of 2½ years. Each modular certificate is delivered over a six-month semester.

“But because each micro-credential is a discrete packet of learning that can be taken separately, he can also choose to space out his learning and complete the programme over, say three years, or more,” Mr Chan said.

Employers and industries also need to communicate the skills needed for certain job roles and help employees develop these skills, he added.

This, he said, will motivate employees to upskill and in turn raise productivity.

To this end, SSG has appointed professional bodies and trade associations as skills development partners, which support employers by looking at skills development needs in different sectors.

For example, one such partner, the Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES), has rolled out the IES Chartered Engineer (Singapore) – a certification in the sustainability sector – which identifies micro-credentials from institutes of higher learning that are relevant to sustainable engineering.

Learners who complete the required courses and pass an assessment interview can be certified as a chartered engineer in Singapore’s sustainability sector.

Mr Chan said Singtel intends to use this new certification pathway to grow a core group of employees with expertise in areas such as sustainability reporting and sustainable design.

“If our industries can define the skill sets required, our institutions will find ways to meet those requirements. Otherwise, it becomes difficult for our training institutions to package programmes for our workforce.”

Ms Aileen Tan, group chief people and sustainability officer at Singtel, said the organisation needs to arm its workforce with the expertise to create more sustainable products that can further contribute to decarbonisation as it works towards its net-zero goal.

Ms Tan said doing so will also improve its operational performance by exploring alternative low carbon technology.

She said: “With this new certification pathway, we can upskill existing employees and equip them with green technology know-how and international sustainability practices and standards, to contribute to a more sustainable future for our stakeholders and communities.”

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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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