Friday 27 February 2015

SkillsFuture scheme: How it can help you

Credits or cash grants for training courses last a lifetime
The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2015

- What are SkillsFuture Credits?
Cash grants from the Government for professional development courses.

- Who is eligible for them?
Singaporeans who are 25 and above from next year.

The credits last a lifetime, so even retirees who are not working can use them.

- When can the credits be used?
The Government will introduce them next year.

- How will the system work?
Eligible Singaporeans will be informed by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) when and how their SkillsFuture Credit accounts can be used.

- How often will the credits be topped up?
More than two million Singaporeans aged 25 and above will get an initial $500 credit next year.

Regular top-ups will be made in the future.

- What courses can the credits be used for?
Government-supported training courses. These include Ministry of Education-funded courses at polytechnics and universities and those offered at public agencies such as the WDA.

The credits can be used for courses related to a person's job or to pick up another work skill - for example, one could learn wine appreciation in order to become a sommelier. The credits cannot be used by individuals to pursue hobbies such as fishing, gardening or sports.

- Can your employer ask you to use the credits?
The credits can be used only for training which individuals wish to go for. Employers should not get their staff to use the credits to pay for company training courses.

- What if you do not use the credits?
The credits will not expire and can be used throughout an individual's lifetime. They will expire upon death or annulment of Singapore citizenship.

ITE, poly grads get a chance to learn, earn and work
New initiative to match them with companies also offers a $5,000 bonus
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 26 Feb 2015

A NEW programme offered a glimpse into the future that awaits many Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnic graduates. They can not only undergo on-the-job training while studying to further their qualifications, but also receive a $5,000 bonus when they sign up for the programme.

The first batch of students - expected to be in the several hundreds - will start on the Earn and Learn programme, modelled after Swiss and German apprenticeship schemes, in April.

By 2025, the aim is for one in three ITE and polytechnic graduates to be on the scheme, which could give them a head start in their careers.

The Earn and Learn scheme is part of a basket of new moves by the Government to boost the skills of workers here under the SkillsFuture programme, announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Monday.

Details of other programmes aimed at helping mid-career workers hone their skills were also announced yesterday by the SkillsFuture Secretariat. These include a minimum 90 per cent subsidy for training and educational courses as well as various study awards.

For polytechnic and ITE graduates, the help to kick-start their careers will come almost as soon as they graduate.

They will be matched with companies in four sectors - logistics, food manufacturing, food and beverage, and retail. Other sectors will be brought into the scheme at a later date.

Participants will be employed by the companies and paid salaries while they go through the 12- to 18-month programme.

At the end of the stint, an ITE graduate would have gained industry experience and a diploma, while a polytechnic graduate would have obtained an advanced or specialist diploma.

Companies that take in employees under the scheme will get grants of up to $15,000 per trainee to offset their costs.

"Employers gain because they can recruit local fresh talent and prepare them to take up suitable job roles within the organisation," said the SkillsFuture Secretariat. The graduates get to build on their skills and knowledge.

Republic Polytechnic principal Yeo Li Pheow said the $5,000 bonus would not change the mind of a polytechnic graduate set on going to university. "But it will be an added incentive for those leaning towards the work-study scheme," he said.

He stressed that, at the end of the day, what will count will be the salary and career progression pathways provided by employers.

"ITE and poly grads must feel that by going on the scheme, they can develop their careers and it will pay off."

Food and beverage group BreadTalk welcomed the grants of up to $15,000, saying it will use the money for drawing up the programme blueprint and for mentorship training costs.

Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said the scheme will give students an opportunity to gain an understanding of the industry and the jobs in it.

He said: "Right now, there are students who just go chasing a degree without really thinking about the jobs it will lead to. They are better off going into a scheme like this, where they get to understand the industry, hone their skills and gain a qualification at the same time."

S$5,000 carrot for potential apprentices in F&B, other fields
Poly, ITE grads to get sign-on incentive under Earn and Learn scheme announced in Budget
By Ng Jing Yng, TODAY, 26 Feb 2015

From April, polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates keen on undergoing apprenticeships under the new Earn and Learn programme will get S$5,000 as a sign-on incentive, while employers will receive up to S$15,000 from the Government for each trainee.

The programme — part of the SkillsFuture initiatives announced in the Budget on Monday — will first be rolled out in the food manufacturing, retail, food and beverage, and logistics sectors, said the SkillsFuture secretariat yesterday as it released the details.

Training will last between 12 and 18 months, and the incentive for trainees will be paid over two tranches: At the beginning and the halfway mark of the apprenticeship.

Some of these sectors face high attrition; for example, F&B and retail firms told TODAY that they are struggling to retain new hires, several of whom quit within six months because of the irregular hours.

A secretariat spokesperson said in response to queries that participants who drop out will have to pay back the cash incentive. “Participants are strongly encouraged to complete the programme, so they can realise its benefits,” the spokesperson said. Employers who wish to terminate trainees during the programme have to justify their request and might be asked to return reimbursements paid out to them if the termination is invalid.

In general, there will be no bond imposed on the trainee. “However, employers may need or wish to institute a bond for participants in selected sectors when the cost of training is high. Any bond required will be stated clearly in the programme factsheet or highlighted in the application form,” the spokesperson said. More information on the Earn and Learn programme will be released next month, including how to apply for the programme and details of the training contract.

At the end of the apprenticeship, trainees will receive industry-recognised certificates, including qualifications issued by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), ITE or the polytechnics.

The Earn and Learn programme is expected to benefit one in three polytechnic and ITE graduates by 2025, or more than 10,000 each year.

Applicants will be evaluated based on a sector’s minimum entry requirements before interviews are arranged with the prospective employers.

The secretariat said the selection process will be similar to the usual process where employers hire candidates deemed suitable after a job interview. Nevertheless, to help students make a more informed choice, the polytechnics and ITE will be intensifying their efforts to provide applicants with career counselling and industry knowledge.

The secretariat is in the process of identifying companies to join the programme. To date, firms such as BreadTalk and the Robinsons & RSH Group of Companies have come on board. The final list will include a mix of big and small organisations, it said.

As part of the SkillsFuture initiatives, 200 industry experts are being groomed as mentors to help smaller firms. Their role includes helping these firms identify key job roles for business growth and improve workers’ skills. The mentors will also develop supervisors’ coaching competencies, among other things. SPRING Singapore will appoint industry partners to recruit these mentors in the third quarter of this year and mentors will be matched to interested firms.

The wide-ranging SkillsFuture initiatives, which will cost S$1 billion yearly from now to 2020, will mark a new phase of investment in Singaporeans, beginning from their time in school. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Monday that the initiatives are critical moves that will take Singapore’s economy to the next level.

Take courses and pay only 10% of fees or less
Mid-career workers will get subsidies for courses up to postgrad level
By Amelia Tan and Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 26 Feb 2015

MID-CAREER workers aged 40 and above can take courses from diploma to postgraduate level and pay as little as less than 10 per cent of course fees from July.

They can get 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.

The subsidies start from July 1 for MOE-funded courses and Oct 1 for those supported by WDA.

More details of government efforts to promote training were announced yesterday after the plans were unveiled during the Budget speech on Monday.

"This additional support from the Government recognises the opportunity costs that mid-career Singaporeans face when they go for education and training," said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Monday.

To encourage workers to develop the deep skills needed to take Singapore's economy to the next level, the Government has launched the SkillsFuture initiative, which encompasses subsidies, study awards and revamped training programmes.

Besides subsidised courses for mid-career workers, Singaporeans aged 25 and above will also get cash grants from next year to pay for training.

An initial $500 grant and future top-ups will go into their SkillsFuture Credit accounts, which can be used for a range of government-supported courses.

These include MOE-funded courses at the polytechnics and universities, and those offered by public agencies such as the Building and Construction Authority.

These credits will cost the Government over $1 billion next year.

Beyond financial incentives, the SkillsFuture secretariat also recognises that short, modular courses will appeal to busy working professionals.

More training programmes will be broken up into modules that can be conducted on weekday nights or weekends.

This means instead of taking up a part-time diploma course, usually conducted over 900 hours, a worker can now take up an individual module that can be completed in 30 to 60 hours.

To help workers make sense of the new training options and financial help schemes, the WDA and National Trades Union Congress will be roped in to provide career guidance and counselling.

A portal named the Individual Learning Portfolio, to help workers choose suitable training programmes, will be introduced in phases from 2017.

Human resource experts and workers welcomed the measures to encourage workers to hone their skills.

"The credit and subsidies will give them more opportunities and resources to consider exploring new sectors and careers," said Mr Zainudin Nordin, chair of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower.

Workers said they are drawn to subsidised courses, as well as courses that lead to career progression or a new job.

Social worker Bernadette Lee, 50, said: "It is a leap of faith to take time off work and go for training, especially for those who want to switch jobs. So linking workers up with employers will help."

Ms Lee, a former credit control manager, enrolled in a social work diploma course at UniSIM two years ago.

She was later offered a job at the Thye Hua Kwan Family Service Centre in Boon Lay with the help of WDA and the National Council of Social Services.

Grants of up to $10,000 for skills upgrading
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 26 Feb 2015

SINGAPOREANS looking to deepen their skills can look forward to cash grants of up to $10,000.

The Government will be giving out individual study awards of up to $5,000 to support young and mid-career workers who are looking to upgrade their skills.

For more senior workers, the Government will set aside fellowships worth $10,000 each to help them gain mastery in their respective fields and train others.

Both grants are bond-free.

The study awards will be introduced in phases, starting this year, the SkillsFuture Secretariat said at a media briefing yesterday.

Up to 2,000 study awards are expected to be given out annually for courses approved by public sector agencies. These may include overseas courses in certain sectors.

The fellowships will be introduced next year and the secretariat aims to award up to 100 each year in both craft- and knowledge-based fields.

The move is a timely one and can spur interest in key growth areas such as smart technology, said Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI) president Erman Tan.

Unlike the fellowships, the study awards are limited to developing skills for five growth sectors and four priority sectors identified by the Government. These include advanced manufacturing, smart urban solutions, hospitality, social services and early childhood education.

But people who already have deep specialist skills and want to improve their soft skills in areas such as business and cross-cultural understanding can also apply.

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Zainudin Nordin, who is chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, said targeting the study awards at growth sectors is a more holistic way to help Singaporeans.

"We need to show Singaporeans where the opportunities are and give them some means to get there," he said.

SHRI's Mr Tan suggested expanding the scope of the awards if there are other areas people want to have training in.

"People will want to know whether there is real growth in income and career prospects after taking up the award or fellowship," he said.

Pre-school teacher Seet Thia Puay, 34, hopes to take courses in training and customer service.

"Companies usually don't send us for courses that are not strictly related to early childhood education," she said. "The funding lets me take charge of my own development."

Offset on costs will let him take up more courses
By Aw Cheng Wei and Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2015

MR SALLEH Ismail hopes a new programme to promote lifelong learning means he will pay less for his part-time degree at National University of Singapore come August.

"It will really help a lot as I want to save money to take up even more courses," said the 51-year-old trainer.

Under the new initiative, all Singaporeans aged 25 and above will receive $500 in SkillsFuture Credit from next year, with more top-ups to come, to offset the cost of upgrading.

Education and training subsidies for Singaporeans aged 40 and above will also be raised, in incentives announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Monday.

Mr Salleh was spurred to upgrade his skills when he was retrenched in early 2010 from his job as a principal engineer in a manufacturing firm after 19 years.

"The job market was gloomy and I had difficulties finding a job because I had a very specific skillset," said Mr Salleh, who had a technical certificate at the time.

So, when he landed a job as a station manager at transport company SMRT in April that year, he jumped at every chance to learn new skills. He requested a job transfer to become a trainer.

Last year, he completed a diploma in engineering at Singapore Polytechnic, graduating with an almost perfect grade point average.

Currently, Mr Salleh, who earns between $4,000 and $4,500, is heading a new division at SMRT to promote e-learning in the company's training curriculum.

Mr Gerard Koh, vice-president of human resources at SMRT, said the new $500 grant could enable staff to attend courses that could boost their careers.

"With SkillsFuture Credit, our staff will be further encouraged to take ownership of their skills development," he said.

Poly, ITE students cite 'earn and learn' as main draws
By Pearl Lee And Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2015

THE monthly pay and job rotation are the main reasons that polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students would sign up for a new programme that gives them work experience as they study for advanced qualifications.

If not for these, they may choose to further their studies full-time or enter the job market, rather than hone their skills in a specific sector, the students said.

The new Earn and Learn initiative is among the Government's series of measures to help workers develop industry-relevant skills.

Under the new scheme, participants will be paid around $2,000 a month while being rotated among various roles in their chosen fields.

Temasek Polytechnic student Peck Yi Ning, 20, who plans to pursue a degree in maritime studies, said she would join the scheme if a maritime logistics firm offered her a job, as it would give her a head start in her career.

She said: "The pay is equivalent to what a poly graduate will receive and the job rotation allows you to be exposed to all the operations of a company."

Nanyang Polytechnic student Cynthia Tan, 23, said the new scheme offers job seekers a better deal than if they were to search for their own positions.

The monthly salary and career progression "are definitely plus points", said the final-year business management student who intends to join the scheme.

Sakae Holdings chairman Douglas Foo, 45, who was part of a committee that proposed the scheme, said: "If the students were to go out and find jobs on their own, they may have to prove their commitment to the job before their employers are willing to invest in training them.

"But under the new scheme, companies are committed to grooming their employees."

Several hundred students are likely to join the 12- to 18-month scheme when it starts in April.

A graduate may work for four days and study for one day. At the end of the scheme, an ITE graduate will receive a diploma, while a polytechnic graduate will obtain an advanced or specialist diploma.

The scheme will start with employers in four areas - logistics, food manufacturing, food and beverage, and retail. Other sectors will be included later.

Participating companies will receive grants of up to $15,000 per trainee to offset their costs.

While they are worried that trainees may quit after completing the programme, they said that it will go some way towards easing the manpower crunch.

Mr Christopher Tan, managing director of Thai restaurant Nara Cuisine, who plans to sign up, said: "As a business owner, I have to utilise anything at my disposal to grow and groom manpower."

Hardware store Home-Fix's founder, Mr Low Cheong Kee, 51, who has signed up, intends to use the grants to automate the training process, which is now still done using pen and paper.

He said: "This will free up the trainers to conduct more courses or observe the employees in the retail shops."

Positive spillover effects expected from SkillsFuture initiatives
By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia, 26 Feb 2015

The SkillsFuture initiatives announced at this year's Budget are expected to have a positive multiplier effect on the Singapore economy. Observers have said it could raise income levels and improve living standards for households in the years to come.

SkillsFuture provides a package of measures aimed at helping Singaporeans learn and upgrade their work skills throughout their lives.

The Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) has supported over 50,000 workers for training last year, up 30 per cent from 2013.

The rollout of SkillsFuture measures - which include the S$500 credit to some 2 million Singaporeans next year - will likely see higher demand for education services and training.

e2i has been working with the industry to identify skills gaps and create new training programmes. Mr Gilbert Tan, CEO of the Employment and Employability Institute, explained: "How do we tie those training programmes into the real jobs, how do we see the skills sets translating to application at the jobs, how those applications at the jobs translate to better value-add for the company, and how the company rewards that through better wages, better career development."

Accounting firm PwC said SkillsFuture will allow education service providers to invest with more certainty and most likely attract new entrants into the market. And that could bring benefits of innovation and competition to the education sector.

Mr Tristan Hockley, director of PwC South East Asia Consulting, noted: "In other markets, when significant subsidies are announced for skills training, we have seen at times a significant surge in demand for courses. To capitalise on this demand, we have seen significant new entrants in the skills market - some of varying quality which must be watched closely."

There will be positive spillovers to other sectors too, and this will eventually help boost the Singapore economy as a whole.

Mr Francis Tan, an economist at United Overseas Bank, said: "The upgrade of skills would eventually mean expected higher wages, higher income, that you are going to see in your lifetime. That will also certainly improve labour productivity in all the other segments’

“The impact of higher wages will likely lead to increase in future private consumption and accumulation of assets; household net worth may even go up. So it may seem small at the start, but it may take a while because there is always implementation lag."

The Association of Small and Medium Enterprises said SkillsFuture will also provide timely help to firms, to better train workers. Said Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises: "One of the easiest ways is to look locally or overseas for more advanced models that they can then tap and bring in the training resource, bring in a trainer, generate training resources like training videos.

“Not just one company at a time, you are looking at maybe three to five companies at a time, generating that collective shared goal and looking at certain mini industry clusters and levelling them up. If we can do that sector by sector, industry by industry, I think over time, a period of let's say four to five years, we could have really serious depths of expertise and development in the workforce."

The association said a higher skilled workforce will also enable firms to be more competitive in the region.

Skills, experience also crucial for workers: Employers
By Ng Jing Yng, TODAY, 27 Feb 2015

Dispelling the notion that employers here are obsessed with academic credentials, several companies TODAY spoke to said yesterday they look beyond paper qualifications when hiring or promoting staff. They also urged polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education students to see a new Government-supported apprenticeship programme as a means to an end rather than an end in itself.

In fact, students should also cast off the mentality that there is a cut-off point when one stops studying and starts working, the employers said.

Home-Fix DIY managing director Low Cheong Kee pointed out that non-university graduates will catch up with degree holders at the workplace if they perform well and take on training opportunities to upgrade their skills. Firms also sponsor good performers for higher education, who serve a bond after they complete their studies, he said.

Following the announcement of the details of the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme, some students interviewed by TODAY had expressed reservations about the scheme as it would delay their plans to further their studies. They felt the mindset of employers and society at large should be changed before they can embrace the programme.

The work-study programme under the SkillsFuture initiative aims to give ITE and polytechnic graduates a head-start in careers related to their studies, allowing them to go on paid apprenticeships and earn industry-recognised qualifications.

Mr Desmond Chan, South Asia managing director for Menlo Worldwide Logistics, said that in the logistics industry, companies value workers with specialised knowledge of the sector. He added that in order to change students’ misperception, it should be communicated to them that starting out as an apprentice would not hinder their ambition to further their studies.

Yang Kee Logistics managing director Ken Koh reiterated that having relevant job experience and the requisite skill set are just as important as possessing paper qualifications. “The contribution (of someone with experience and the right skills) will be more valuable to the successful implementation and execution of projects.”

Mr Michael Tien, chief executive of audio-visual retail company Atlas Sound and Vision, highlighted the need to manage expectations of fresh school-leavers who have the wrong impression that academic credentials alone will guarantee high pay.

The employers acknowledged the reality that university graduates command a higher starting pay than non-graduates and that some jobs require professional degrees. However, they stressed that companies reward workers based on job performance after they have been hired. Increasingly, employers are also looking at work experience during the hiring process.

Mr Low noted that there are market guidelines on average salaries for diploma holders and university graduates. Firms have to pay competitive wages to attract talent, he said. Genki Sushi corporate development director James Chan suggested having some salary guidelines based on work experience.

On their part, some companies provide scholarships to polytechnic students. They also reach out to students to dispel misperceptions and raise awareness about job prospects for non-degree holders. Mr Tien said he conducts talks at schools and partners with Temasek Polytechnic to set up a retail shop for students to learn about the sector.

Mr Koh said the logistics industry is often an unpopular career option. His firm organises site visits and internship opportunities to reach out to students. “The mindset that logistics is a tough, dirty and ‘unsexy’ business is a challenge,” he said.

Training providers expect higher demand for courses
Boost likely with SkillsFuture push, but experts warn quality could suffer
By Joanna Seow And Amelia Tan, The Straits Times, 28 Feb 2015

TRAINING providers are planning to ramp up capacity to cope with a likely rise in demand after new moves were introduced to encourage lifelong learning.

New grants and higher subsidies have been introduced to encourage workers to take on training to sharpen their skills, and training firms expect to see more workers sign up for programmes.

"We are looking to expand our range of courses to include more workers, whether it's back-to- work women, or job-hunters young and old," said Mr Suhaimi Salleh, chief executive of SSA Consulting Group, which runs courses on workplace literacy.

Infocomm technology trainer Lithan Hall Academy is planning to offer more courses in emerging areas such as big data analytics, said its chairman Leslie Loh.

The expected boost to the training industry comes after a range of SkillsFuture initiatives were announced earlier this week, to help workers deepen their skills.

Among other things, all Singaporeans aged 25 and older will receive $500 worth of credits to take government-supported courses on work-related skills. Regular top-ups will be made. The Government is expected to set aside over $1 billion for this next year, and this will boost the growing sector.

The credits can be used only for training that individuals wish to go for, and not for those planned by their companies.

As of last year, there were about 600 training providers supported by national training body, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), offering more than 8,000 courses from wine appreciation to medical technology manufacturing.

Last year, about 340,000 people were trained in these WDA- supported courses.

But human resource consultants warned that quality could suffer amid the expansion in supply, and said workers should be discerning about how they spend their money.

As the number of training places is ramped up, the quality of courses must also be maintained, said National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari.

"Some workers find that attending WSQ courses does not lead to better jobs or salary increments. Some also do not become more productive," he said, referring to Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications, the national training framework.

Mr David Ang, a director at training and consultancy provider Human Capital Singapore, said: "You should not be going for training just because there is more financial help to do so. Training must be focused."

The Employment and Employability Institute, which funded more than 50,000 workers for training last year, will work with job-seekers and workers to provide career coaching advice and help them understand industry needs, said its chief executive Gilbert Tan.

It may take a while for demand to heat up, cautioned Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan. "We still lack the culture of lifelong learning, that's one of the weak points of us as a workforce," he said.


$500 - Initial amount of credits all Singaporeans aged 25 and above will receive for government-backed courses

$1 billion - Amount the Government is expected to set aside for the SkillsFuture Credit scheme next year

600 - Number of training providers supported by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) as of last year

8,000 - Approximate number of courses they offered

340,000 - Number of people who took up WDA-supported courses last year

$100 - Average course fee last year for WDA-supported rank-and-file- level courses

SkillsFuture courses to include aerospace, IT, languages, culinary skills
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 9 Mar 2015

A diverse range of courses will be offered under the SkillsFuture Credit scheme, said Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin on Monday.

They will be in areas like aerospace, Information Technology (IT), and early childhood education, and also include courses in languages and culinary skills, which "some may have a strong interest for and wish to explore career opportunities in", he said in Parliament.

The SkillsFuture scheme will give more than 2 million Singaporeans aged 25 and above an initial $500 credit to use on approved courses. This is part of the drive to help Singaporeans keep mastering new skills for the workplace.

The full range of courses will be released closer to the scheme's implementation in 2016.

"We must ensure that the course offerings are of high quality, a wide variety, and delivered through multiple modes of learning," said Mr Tan during the debate on the Ministry of Manpower's annual budget.

The point of SkillsFuture is that as businesses restructure and move up the value chain, jobs will evolve too, he told the House.

Singaporeans need to move towards higher-value skills, so that they can stay relevant and take advantage of opportunities in the new economy, he said.

He also responded to various MPs' questions on how the SkillsFuture Credit programme will be implemented.

Weighing in on the competing demands to have a flexible scheme and to assure a high quality in courses, he said a middle ground would have to be found: "We need to pay attention to the quality of outcomes, to ensure that courses are useful for both individuals and also for the companies. This will have to be balanced with flexibility in utilising the credits, which many people have called for. "

The SkillsFuture scheme wants to help both those interested in deepening their existing skills, and those who want to broaden their horizons outside of their current fields, he said.

MPs like Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) had expressed concerns that employers cutting costs may, instead of bearing the full costs themselves, ask their workers to co-fund the cost of training with their SkillsFuture Credit.

In any case, employers who send their workers will continue to get government support in the form of substantial course fee subsidies, he added.

Small and medium-sized enterprises will also get additional support to send their local workers for training, he promised.

Digital learning key part of SkillsFuture modules by polys, universities
By Ng Jing Yng, TODAY, 18 Mar 2015

Online learning will be a key feature of the bite-sized courses to be offered by the publicly-funded universities and polytechnics as part of the SkillsFuture initiatives to drive lifelong learning.

For example, interactive online learning materials and online discussions will support classroom teaching, the institutions said in response to queries from TODAY.

And these short courses — which can lead up to qualifications such as a diploma or degree — will be adapted from existing part-time offerings, they said. Lessons will be held in the evenings or at weekends to suit the needs of working adults.

Last month, the Government announced that 300 skills-based modules — ranging between 30 and 60 hours each — would be introduced under the SkillsFuture framework. Singaporeans aged 25 and above can use their SkillsFuture Credit — S$500, for a start, from next year — to defray course fees. Individuals enrolling in a single course can also enjoy subsidies — 75 per cent for part-time degree courses and 85 per cent for post-diploma courses aimed at degree or diploma holders.

The Singapore University of Technology and Design said it would be rolling out courses in areas such as applied health sciences and sustainable urban solutions. These modules can lead to a certificate or a Master’s degree, its spokesperson said. Classes will be held in small groups, but the university is also exploring the inclusion of online courses.

Nanyang Technological University will be offering specialist certificate programmes in naval architecture and marine engineering, as well as power and clean energy. The university will employ a “flipped classroom” approach for students to access learning materials online before engaging in face-to-face discussions with classmates once a week.

Other universities, such as the Singa­pore Institute of Technology and SIM University, are still firming up their course line-up, but they said online learning would also be a key consideration.

Among the polytechnics, Nanyang Polytechnic plans to hold classes in the areas of counselling and media production, and its modules will be designed for applicants with no prior industry knowledge.

Temasek Polytechnic will be offering courses in aerospace as well as information and communications technology, among others. Its spokesperson said that while course materials would be available online, students would need to attend at least 50 per cent of classroom lessons.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic will start with 20 modular courses in sectors such as engineering and life sciences. E-learning features such as online discussions and interactive online learning materials will comprise up to 20 to 30 per cent of each course.

Singapore Polytechnic will offer 18 courses in areas such as Web programming and digital forensics and investigation, while Republic Polytechnic will hold classes in sports science and career counselling.

These courses may be bite-sized, but they will still be held to the standards of full-time courses, the institutions said. Applicants’ education and training background will be assessed on a case-by-case basis before admission, they added.

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