Thursday 28 August 2014

Civil service to boost career paths for non-grads

Changes to allow them to progress based on performance and potential
By Charissa Yong And Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2014

THE gap in career prospects between graduates and non-graduates in the civil service is set to close, with the Government yesterday announcing changes to speed up diploma holders' promotions and raise their pay.

First, non-graduate teachers who perform well at their jobs can, from the fourth quarter of this year, be placed on the graduate salary scale. The change will take place at the classroom-teacher level, without requiring them to rise to leadership or senior teaching positions.

Second, non-graduates who join the civil service under the management support scheme and perform well can get their first promotion after two to four years, down from the current three to six years, from October. If they continue to do well, subsequent promotions will also be faster.

And the Education Ministry and Public Service Division (PSD) are studying ways to merge their graduate and non-graduate schemes to give officers a chance to progress on the same career track.

These moves follow Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's announcement in his recent National Day Rally speech that more would be done to support the aspirations of non-graduates, with the public sector to take the lead. They also come a day after the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (ASPIRE) committee report which called on bosses to go beyond qualifications in developing workers.

Right now, non-graduates are on a lower pay scale. Teachers with degrees, for example, start on salaries of $3,010 to $3,310, while those without start at $1,480 if they have A-level qualifications, and $1,870 to $1,920 if they have polytechnic diplomas.

And before the latest changes, non-graduate teachers could not cross over to the graduate salary scale without a degree, although they could take on leadership or senior teaching positions.

As for management support officers, their starting pay is between $1,230 and $1,850 a month, whereas those who join the management executive scheme for graduates can get up to $3,260 monthly.

There are three agencies with single-track schemes for graduates and non-graduates: the People's Association, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and the Home Team. National water agency PUB is also developing a single engineering career path.

In its statement yesterday, the PSD quoted its deputy secretary of policy James Wong, who said that "graduates and non-graduates can now progress at similar rates, based on their level of performance and potential".

The service would also develop good officers by letting them manage projects and lead teams, providing them with opportunities for further education and training, and helping them to take on bigger jobs when they are ready.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said the aim of the review is to show that teachers are recognised "based on their performance and contribution, regardless of their qualifications". He added that regardless of their starting points, teachers will continue to have opportunities to grow and learn on the job, through mentoring, courses or part-time study.

Welcoming yesterday's announcements, Amalgamated Union of Public Employees general secretary Ma Cheng Wei said: "Now the true test of whether a person is promoted rests more on his consistent good performance and potential to do a higher-grade job, and not so much the paper qualification."

Improved prospects for non-graduates in Public Service
They will get promotions sooner, while outstanding teachers will get higher pay
By Joy Fang, TODAY, 27 Aug 2014

Non-graduate teachers with outstanding performance or deep experience will be placed on the graduate salary scale, without the need to obtain a degree, as part of a wider movement across the Public Service to improve career prospects for those who do not have a degree.

Other improvements announced yesterday include faster career progression for non-graduate public servants. From October, those who performed well can look forward to their first promotion in two to four years, compared with the current three to six years. And if they continue to do well, their subsequent promotions will also be faster.

The Public Service Division (PSD) is also studying the possibility of merging the different schemes that non-graduates and degree holders are hired on when they join the service.

The announcements come after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech on Aug 17 that the Public Service would be looking at ways to offer non-graduates more fulfilling careers.

Speaking at the Singapore-Industry Scholarship award ceremony last night, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat noted that, currently, an experienced non-graduate teacher who has made outstanding contributions in school cannot cross over to the graduate salary scale without a degree. A new performance-based placement framework will change this, he said.

He added that the move will honour some of the best teachers, who have been recognised by their peers and school leaders for their teaching excellence and relentless effort to develop themselves to become better teachers.

Teachers will not be required to rise to leadership or senior teaching positions to benefit from the change. Mr Heng said the ministry aims to have the first batch of deserving non-graduate teachers put on the graduate salary scale by the fourth quarter.

He said the Ministry of Education (MOE) will continue to provide opportunities for all teachers to grow and learn on the job, be it through on-the-job mentoring, professional network communities, specialised courses or part-time study at the polytechnics, National Institute of Education or the universities.

“It is not about one qualification versus another, and not about whether you get a head start. It is about how ... You must want to excel and find opportunities to learn and be better.”

Wither all-graduate teaching force?

In 2008, then-Education Minister Ng Eng Hen said the MOE would aim to recruit all teachers with a degree for primary schools, as the ministry requires teachers to also have a stronger mastery of content and pedagogy on top of the aptitude for teaching and a heart for nurturing young people.

Responding to TODAY’s queries on whether it will continue with the approach, the MOE said it selects teachers taking into consideration their personal qualities, experience and content knowledge required to deliver the curriculum.

It added: “We will continue to hire graduates and non-graduates who best meet the learning needs of our students.”

The ministry said that currently, non-graduates — who generally have good diploma and A-Level qualifications — make up about 15 per cent of its teaching force. “Once in service, the MOE provides professional development opportunities for both graduate and non-graduate teachers to build up their effectiveness as teachers.”

Mountbatten Member of Parliament (MP) Lim Biow Chuan, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Education, said that while it is for the MOE to consider whether there will be a conscious policy change, there should still be some differentiation between teachers who are degree holders and those who are non-graduates, at least at the starting point of their career.

Adding that graduates have spent a longer time studying, he said: “I think there is still merit in wanting your teachers to be reasonably qualified, because you are talking about a very important task to educate students. Also you’ve got to be mindful that teachers nowadays don’t just deal with students but also with very well-qualified parents as well ... Having a degree does help.”

But once teachers get into the workforce, other factors should also be considered for their career progression such as competency, experience and hard work, he said.

MP for Tampines Baey Yam Keng, who also sits on the GPC, said the previous focus on hiring graduate teachers would have to be adjusted to reflect what he described as a new direction. “If you have teachers who have displayed a good performance, good record, (and) they are able to motivate students, then they should be considered as good teachers and their career prospects should be as good as anyone with a higher qualification.”

Change under way

Under the wider changes to the Public Service, PSD deputy secretary (Policy) James Wong said: “While fresh graduate and non-graduate officers are appointed at different starting salaries, it is their job performance and relevant skills that determine their career progression. As long as an officer does his work well and shows the potential to take on larger responsibilities, he will move up the ranks whether or not he is a graduate.”

Currently, most non-graduates are hired under the Management Support Scheme (MSS), while graduates are placed on the Management Executive Scheme (MXS).

In some public agencies such as the People’s Association, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and the Home Team, graduates and non-graduates could be hired on a single scheme. National water agency PUB is developing a single engineering career path for diploma holders and Institute of Technical Education graduates to rise through the ranks and take on wider engineering or managerial responsibilities.

Currently, 56 per cent of the 139,000 officers in the Public Service have a degree, while 44 per cent have other qualifications including diploma, National ITE Certificate (Nitec) or Higher Nitec.

Starting salaries for diploma holders under the MSS scheme typically begin at S$1,800 per month. For a graduate under the MXS scheme, the starting monthly salaries may be as high as S$3,200, depending on the honours classification and whether the hire has gone through National Service.

Civil servants welcome move to improve pay, prospects for non-graduates
The teaching profession and national water agency PUB will be among the first to see changes made.
By Imelda Saad, Channel NewsAsia, 27 Aug 2014

Public service officers welcomed initiatives to improve the career prospects for non-graduates, saying these are long overdue and will help to motivate as well as retain staff.

On Tuesday (Aug 26), the Public Service Division announced that civil servants who are non-degree-holders can look forward to faster career progression. It is also studying how to merge more graduate and non-graduate schemes, so all officers can progress at similar rates based on their performance and potential.

A stark example of the difference in pay scale and career progression in the public service, is that of teachers. A degree-holder coming in as a General Education Officer 1 commands a gross starting pay of about S$3,000 a month, while a diploma-holder gets about a third less, with a salary of around S$1,900 a month.

Once in service, the differences remain. A teacher who has been in the sector for 17 years (and who wishes to remain anonymous) tells Channel NewsAsia that the salary ceiling for a classroom teacher with a degree (who does not hold any leadership position) is S$7,400. A diploma graduate in the same position faces a salary ceiling of about S$5,900 a month, she says.

"Teachers at the non-graduate level take a longer time to move up compared to a graduate,” she said. For example, at the base level, a graduate teacher may be promoted as early as after a year. But a non-graduate will take about three years on average to get promoted to the next sub-grade, according to her. “Even for teachers who are in the service for 20 to 30 years, they are more or less stuck at that highest level because they don't hold leadership position or they don't hold any senior teaching positions. So they are not eligible for the higher scale."

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat had said that experienced non-graduate teachers cannot cross over to the graduate salary scale without a degree. If appointed to leadership positions, such as Head of Department or Subject Head, they could be placed on the Senior Education Officer scale. Graduate and non-graduate teachers are only on the same scheme on this scale. As of 2013, there are only nine non-graduates who have risen to be school principals.

Said Ms Jasmine Tan, a teacher at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Primary): "We are not given the same pay scale and maybe that could be frustrating in a way, if you were to compare yourself with, say, a teacher who is a degree-holder and they are given the same job scope."

To address this, the Education Ministry will place classroom teachers to the graduate salary scale, if they perform well - even if they don't have a degree. The ministry is also studying the possibility of merging the graduate and non-graduate schemes for teachers.

Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, an Education Ministry spokesperson said: "Promotion in the Education Service is dependent on both performance and potential to take on a higher-level job, rather than academic qualifications. Both graduates and non-graduates are able to be placed on the Senior Education Officer (SEO) grades, where they are put on the same salary scale, when they take on leadership or senior teaching positions."

The spokesperson added that "with the introduction of a performance-based emplacement framework, non-graduate teachers with outstanding performance, or who have deep experience and good performance, could be emplaced to the graduate salary scale at a significantly earlier stage of their career. That is, at the classroom teacher level rather than SEO level, without a degree."


One public sector agency that has committed to merging its graduate and non-graduate schemes is national water agency PUB. It will have a single career track - called the One Engineer Scheme - so its diploma-holders and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates can move up the ranks to take on bigger engineering and managerial responsibilities.

Mr Lim Ser Puang an Assistant Manager of PUB’s Water Reclamation division who has been with the organisation for 37 years, is looking forward to the new scheme. "As a non-degree holder, there is always this false ceiling there. With the merging of this scheme actually I can become a Senior Engineer, so that means to say my authority and responsibilities will definitely be different from what I am doing now. It will be a challenge for me. I think it's good that we take up some of these challenges and see how we can perform."

PUB is targeting the roll-out of this scheme by next year. Once in place, it will benefit about 2,000 of its staff who are non-degree holders. The agency says it's all about meeting aspirations. Said Lawrence Tan, PUB’s Director of Human Resource: "We recognise from our dealings with the workforce that those entering the workforce today have a sense of wanting to fulfil their potential. If we do this well, we can actually create opportunities for career progression and development, for them to grow in their careers with PUB. It's important, too, because such a workforce also wants to see that they are able to fulfil their aspirations in the organisation.”

“In the earlier years we tend to have certain assumptions of what a graduate officer could do and what a non-graduate officer could do,” Mr Tan acknowledged. But looking forward, “we realise that for many of our officers, even though they do not have certain qualifications, a lot of them can undertake roles if given the opportunity. For us as an engineering-based organisation, it is important to keep our good technical officers in the organisation so they can hone their knowledge and skill set. For us, engineering competency can only be achieved, if they stay in the organisation longer."

To help non-graduates move up, PUB has training programmes in place. It will also support those who will eventually need to acquire a degree, to take on specialised engineering positions.

Grads’ starting pay up to 46% higher than diploma holders’
Difference in salaries between the two groups is about S$1,000 across various sectors: Survey
TODAY, 27 Aug 2014

Changes may be afoot in the public sector in the way it assesses and rewards employees but, when it comes to starting salaries, graduates still command a significant premium over diploma holders across the public and private sectors.

A survey conducted by management consultancy Hay Group of 95 organisations here found that employers are likely to pay up to 46 per cent more in starting salaries for degree holders than for diploma holders. The respondents comprised largely multinational corporations and local companies, as well as about a dozen government organisations.

The findings of the annual survey, which were released yesterday, showed among other things that the starting pay for those who graduated with Honours (Second Lower) could be 4 per cent higher than employees who graduated without honours, while those with Honours (Second Upper) could get about 7 per cent more.

The average monthly starting salary for degree holders without honours is S$2,741, about 2 per cent higher than the S$2,683 last year. Diploma holders can expect an increase of a similar proportion, with average monthly starting salary going up to S$1,878 from S$1,840 last year.

The difference in starting salaries between the two groups was about S$1,000 across various industries.

The survey also found that 20 per cent of respondents would pay those who graduated from public universities here higher starting salaries — about S$214 more a month on average —than those who got degrees from overseas universities.

About a third would give higher starting pay — about S$195 more a month on average — to men who had served National Service.

Asked why employers continued to place a premium on degrees, Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan said employers might feel degree holders are easier to train. The private sector is business driven and, where “timing is cost”, some employers may be willing to pay more, he said.

CKE Manufacturing’s Enterprise Development Manager Kwan Li Feng said the company pays degree holders about 10 to 15 per cent more than diploma holders, noting that in his experience, degree holders usually could work more independently.

However, Mr Kwan was open to raising salaries at a faster pace for diploma holders. “In areas such as business, polytechnic lecturers are starting to be very competitive and producing students (of) very high standards,” he said.

Mr Allan Lim, Chief Executive of Alpha Biofuels, said he does not “exercise preferential payment” if the job scope is the same. Asked whether he felt the private sector would follow in the footsteps of the Public Service, he said: “Market forces will drive this. Jobs are getting more complex and the focus now is on skills set ... having just a degree will not make the cut.”


O-level holders now senior police officers
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2014

DEPUTY Superintendents of Police (DSP) Roy Lim and Khamisah Talip never dreamt they would become senior police officers with just their O-level qualifications to their names.

But after more than a dozen years on the force, DSP Lim made history through his investigation of three murders involving the discovery of body parts, while DSP Khamisah tackled the case of a white tiger at the Singapore Zoo which mauled a cleaner to death.

They spoke of their careers yesterday after the Public Service Division announced that graduate and non-graduate civil servants would see the gap between salaries and careers paths narrowed.

Both said they were grateful for the opportunities given to them in recognition of their work, regardless of their qualifications.

Said DSP Lim, 42: "Honestly, if you compare a degree holder and a non-degree holder, there has to be a difference. But it never hampered us. The police force gave us a chance to be up here leading a group of men, where usually graduates are in charge."

He investigated high-profile crimes where bodies were found dismembered: one in Syed Alwi Road this year, another in the Whampoa River last year, and another in the Kallang River in 2005.

DSP Lim believes he has come a long way for someone who joined the force in 1990, aged 18. He was given his breaks by bosses who noticed his flair in handling cases, he said.

"I'm pretty happy with what I am today, given that I started off with O levels. I would never have dreamt that I would be a senior officer," he said, a sentiment echoed by DSP Khamisah.

She, too, joined as a constable at the age of 21 after trying her hand at several jobs, including being a receptionist and cleaner.

Her most unusual case was a complex one, she said. In 2008, Malaysian cleaner Nordin Montong was killed by a tiger when he entered the animal's enclosure at the Singapore Zoo.

Besides its unusual nature, the case involved tracing tourist witnesses, who had to be interviewed at the airport before they left the country. "And, should I arrest the tiger?" DSP Khamisah, 43, said with a laugh.

It was opportunities to work on such cases that they are grateful for, said DSP Lim.

And despite encouragement from their bosses to upgrade and go for higher qualifications, neither chose that route.

"It's not my calling - to further my studies. I know I would have to be forced to study in order to excel. So why take that chance away from somebody else? Let the person who really wants to study, go and study. I'll just be myself," said DSP Lim.

As for the difference between graduates and non-graduates in the force today, he said some have experience and others have qualifications.

But each has to be assessed for what he can bring to the job, especially in areas such as investigating a case. "If you put a non-graduate there, his experience will be very important in how an investigation progresses. But I've seen many graduates pick up this skill, given time and guidance," said DSP Lim.

Poly grad on career track for degree holders
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2014

POLYTECHNIC graduate Ganesh Rengasamy, 32, never felt he needed a degree to move up in the civil service.

Said the manager in the Manpower Ministry: "A former supervisor of mine did not have a degree and that gave me the idea I could be a manager without one.''

He switched to the career track for degree holders this year, and now oversees a team of up to 20 staff in the ministry's housing enforcement branch.

Mr Ganesh joined the civil service in 2007 as a deputy team leader in the unit, under the Management Support Scheme.

Armed with a diploma in electronics, computer and communications engineering, he started his career by inspecting foreign worker dormitories and helping to do follow-up investigations. In doing so, he saw how his managers worked hard to plan the investigations so he and his teammates could be effective in their work.

"That enticed me to become a manager," he said. "At the level I was at, I could contribute, no doubt, but I wanted to contribute more."

Meanwhile, his supervisors noticed his earnestness in doing his job. They let him manage bigger and bigger teams, and guided him on certain tasks, such as writing reports.

Mr Ganesh was first promoted in 2010, and again last year.

Asked what career advice he would give his three-month-old child in the future, Mr Ganesh said he would still want his son to get a degree as he may regret not having one later.

"But if he doesn't want a degree, that's okay, it's not a must. As long as he knows what he wants to do," he added.

No degree, but she rose to become principal
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2014

MRS Elaine Quek, 41, almost became an engineer more than 20 years ago after obtaining an electronic and computer engineering diploma.

But she changed her mind after a two-week relief teaching stint at Outram Primary.

Today, she is the principal of Maha Bodhi School.

"When I joined teaching, I wanted to teach and I never thought about being promoted or whether I would be a principal," said the Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduate.

Her career choice has paid off.

After completing a diploma in education at the National Institute of Education (NIE), she started working in Bukit View Primary in 1995. She was promoted to become the subject head for science at River Valley Primary in 1999, and became head of department for science in the following year.

In 2005, she became vice-principal of Woodlands Ring Primary and four years later, principal of Chongzheng Primary. She was appointed principal of Maha Bodhi School in December last year.

Mrs Quek makes up for her lack of a degree by learning more from teaching courses at the NIE and overseas attachments.

Asked if she had considered pursuing a degree, she replied: "A degree must serve a purpose. It must be relevant to my work."

She added: "Having a degree is not the be-all and end-all, and it's not the only way to learn.

"It's important that we continue to learn in whatever way possible, especially on the job, and I've honed my skills through my experiences in different schools."

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