Wednesday 28 January 2015

NTUC calls for new training account to help Singaporean workers upgrade their skills

NTUC plan: Accounts for training grants
By Miranda Yeo

SINGAPOREANS may soon get their own "training accounts" in which they can receive government funding to upgrade their skills - if the Skillsave scheme by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is approved.

The initiative would raise productivity and encourage individuals to pick up new skills in light of economic uncertainty, NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said during a visit to the NTUC LearningHub yesterday.

This could help younger Singaporeans, who do not have access to the Workfare Training Support (WTS) scheme, as this funds only workers aged 35 and above. Other than paying for unfunded programme fees, the scheme would also ease the financial burden of Singaporeans who want to undertake self-sourced programmes without support from their employers.

"In the current labour market, things are changing so rapidly that skills and jobs become obsolete very quickly," said Mr Tay. "It is important that we continue to create an environment which promotes skills upgrading and second-skilling."

While funding could come from both the government and employers, Mr Tay said that there is no framework in place yet as to how the funds could be retrieved for use. He stressed, however, that the account would allow workers to use these funds even as they move from one job to another.

In line with NTUC's push to encourage lifelong learning, Skillsave will be available to all Singaporeans, regardless of age.

NTUC piloted a five-year training initiative in 2004 with its cooperatives - Income, First Campus and FairPrice. It involved workers depositing a fixed sum of money into a personal account, with their employers topping it up at the same time.

The total contributions ranged between $95 and $200 a year, and allowed 2,000 workers to embark on training courses of their choice.

The success of the programme prompted NTUC to push for Skillsave to be made available to all.

Retiree Lim Ah Hua, 60, who has been funding her own training course in oil management, said: "This scheme could help even retirees to become employable, and I can pursue other interests in my golden years."

Trainee teacher Nurul Filzah, 23, said that with Skillsave, she could enrol in design software courses such as Adobe Photoshop. "These skills can help me integrate technology into my teaching."

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