Subsidies, bite-size courses for workers

Singaporeans aged 40 and above will receive government subsidies that cover at least 90 per cent of the cost of courses funded by the Education Ministry at universities, polytechnics and the ITE.

By the second half of this year, Singaporeans can choose from a range of 200 bite-size, modular courses offered by the universities and another 100 run by the five polytechnics.

Among the courses are one on digital forensics by Singapore Polytechnic and another on counselling and coaching by Republic Polytechnic. Nanyang Technological University will run a course on naval architecture and marine engineering, while SIM University will offer one on functional genomics, which is the study of genes and how they affect the working of the body.

The courses will be taught using a blended learning approach, in which students will learn online as well as attend classes at the universities and polytechnics.

They can take standalone modules to gain particular skills, or take several and "stack" them to attain a diploma or degree.

Participants who are aged 40 and above will receive government subsidies that cover at least 90 per cent of the cost of courses funded by the Ministry of Education (MOE) at universities, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education.

The national training body, Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), will pay up to 90 per cent of skills upgrading course fees.

Participants can use their SkillsFuture Credits - the cash grants that all Singaporeans aged 25 and above will receive from next year - to offset the remaining fees.

The revamped training programmes, along with the higher subsidies and study awards, are part of the Government's SkillsFuture initiatives to encourage workers to develop the deep skills needed to take Singapore's economy to the next level.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who gave details on the upgrading opportunities for adults yesterday during the debate on his ministry's budget in Parliament, said with this array of courses, the system is even more open and flexible. He said it allows workers to create their own learning pathways and build a portfolio of skills, tailored to their needs and at their pace.

He said: "It empowers each of us to take charge, direct our own learning, and build our own unique skills map."

Responding to MPs' concern on whether the increased subsidies from the Government would result in the courses becoming another form of qualification for Singaporeans to chase, Mr Heng said that workers should not do so.

Instead, they should focus on mastering and, more importantly, using deep skills to gain higher wages, he said.

He also urged companies to make the best use of workers' higher skills as it will lead to higher productivity and higher profit margins.

The companies can then raise workers' pay.

"Higher skills, higher productivity, higher wages. This is the virtuous cycle that we must seek to create," he said.


This article was first published on Mar 7, 2015.
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