Thursday 19 February 2015

ITE aims to ensure students are career-ready

It will ramp up internships, work mentors will help assess students
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 17 Feb 2015

ALL Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students must go through 40 hours of training on career readiness from this year.

The hours will be spread across two years, with students learning resume writing and interview skills as well as making visits to workplaces.

Students will also receive career counselling from six full- time career guidance staff at each of its three colleges.

"Right now, students may just want to pursue a qualification instead of a career," ITE's deputy chief executive Sabrina Loi said yesterday, when laying out the institute's five-year plan.

"We want to ensure that students know their strengths, weaknesses and interests so that they can choose the right career and develop along the pathway throughout their working lives."

Internships will also be ramped up. By 2020, all ITE courses will have a structured work component. Students will be co-assessed by their lecturers and workplace mentors.

Currently, six out of 10 ITE courses have a work component, but they are more loosely managed and interns tend to do work on an ad-hoc basis.

ITE chief executive Bruce Poh said: "With the new strategic plan, we are putting more emphasis on students to be career- ready."

The institute has been moving to be more career-centric. Since 2013, students have been taking a cluster of related courses such as accounting, finance and retail, before specialising later on.

The aim is to ensure students can move with industry trends, rather than rely on a single skill.

The changes are in line with the Government's new SkillsFuture initiative, which aims to integrate education, training and career progression.

ITE will add more places to courses with high industry demand, such as in the marine and precision engineering sectors. For a start, 100 places will be offered on the more advanced Higher Nitec courses this year, with 200 more to come by 2017.

Ms Loi also took stock of ITE's achievements in the past five years. About one in four graduates goes on to a polytechnic, up from one in 10 in 1995.

They are also earning more. In 2009, their first gross mean salary was about $1,391. This rose to $1,782 last year.

But even as ITE graduates are aiming to enter polytechnic, Mr Poh said he hopes the new initiatives will allow students to see that having skills is also a viable career pathway.

"We are trying to tell our students that there's more than one way to achieve success," he said.

"Going to a polytechnic is one possibility, but deepening your skills in a particular career is a very viable possibility too."

However, the institute may still have some way to go in shifting students' mindsets.

Sixteen-year-old Varun Ram Dowlani, who is doing a Nitec course in business services, said an apprenticeship scheme will appeal only if he is unable to progress to a polytechnic.

"If my results can make it, I will surely want to go on to a poly. If you have better qualifications, your salary will be higher in future too," said the ITE College East student.

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