Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Enhanced post-diploma courses to keep polytechnic graduates industry-relevant

Shorter, bite-sized courses for poly grads soon
They can update skills with modules lasting one to two months
By Amelia Teng, Look Woon Wei And Andrea Ng, The Straits Times, 19 May 2015

POLYTECHNIC graduates will soon be able to upgrade their skills through bite-sized courses in industries such as applied sciences and engineering.

The stand-alone modules will be shorter than the existing post-diploma programmes that last between one and two years.

The initiative is part of the SkillsFuture movement to encourage Singaporeans to develop specialised industry skills and adopt the habit of lifelong learning.

Ms Indranee said: "While your diploma prepares you well to embark on careers in related fields, those who had not done so immediately after graduation, whether to serve national service, or to pursue jobs in other fields, found it daunting to return to the field for which they were trained.

"Polytechnic graduates who wish to re-enter the industry for which they were trained will thus be able to get equipped with the skills that they need to do so in a much shorter time."

Individuals from a relevant polytechnic course can start applying for the courses two years after they graduate.

For instance, graduates in cyber security or information technology can take a course in mobile enterprise and security at Nanyang Polytechnic, while those who studied aerospace technology or engineering can opt for a shipyard operations course at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Currently, students can take these courses only as part of part-time advanced diploma or specialist diploma courses, which take one to two years to complete. The new courses are run on a full-time basis and last one to two months.

Applicants can pick courses relevant to them, rather than complete an entire diploma course.

Credits earned from the courses, which will run twice a year in July and October, count towards advanced or specialist diplomas.

Fees will be waived for Singaporeans taking their first PDC course. The Education Ministry will subsidise 85 per cent of fees for subsequent courses.

Some polytechnic graduates said the enhanced PDC courses will help to refresh their skills.

"Having relevant, up-to-date skills is important in my job," said Ms Nurul Rasyiqah, 20, a Temasek Polytechnic aerospace electronics graduate who is now a junior aircraft maintenance engineer.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic also held its first graduation ceremony this year, for 300 film and media students.

Principal Clarence Ti highlighted the importance of internships, citing a recent survey by the polytechnic that found internships gave students more certainty in their career plans.

Only 18 per cent were still undecided about what to do after graduation after their internships, compared to 32 per cent who were unsure before their placements.

Internships allow "students to experience the workplace directly and not just as an abstract idea", said Mr Ti.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, the event's guest of honour, said: "The world is changing incredibly quickly. Some things you studied when you first came in may actually have moved on... some things may become obsolete."

At Singapore Polytechnic, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong told 320 business school graduates: "What happens in your first 16 to 18 years of education is only part of your journey of lifelong learning."

More than 25,800 students at Singapore's five polytechnics are graduating this year.

Most students say internships influenced career decisions: Ngee Ann Polytechnic
Before an internship, 32 per cent of students polled say they were undecided about their post-graduation plans. But the figure drops to 18 per cent after their internships, the study shows.
By Imelda Saad, Channel NewsAsia, 18 May 2015

Internships help students to decide their career paths, a new study by Ngee Ann Polytechnic revealed on Monday (May 18).

In the survey, 93 per cent indicated that internships influenced their career decisions. Before the stint, 32 per cent said they were undecided about their post-graduation plans. The figure dropped to 18 per cent after their internships, the study showed.

Additionally, about half, specifically 53 per cent, of respondents said they will pursue their interest in fields related to their course before their internships. After the stint, the figure rose to 63 per cent, the polytechnic said.

The study was conducted by Ngee Ann Polytechnic and polled about 900 final-year students.

"Now with SkillsFuture, we want to have a better idea of the relationship between Enhanced Internship, between (the) Earn and Learn programme, and (the) internship experience itself. Many of our students go for internships so we want to have a strong correlation and that helps us to decide how to tailor the programme better," said Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Deputy Principal Mah Wee Beng. 

Currently 85 per cent of Ngee Ann Polytechnic students are exposed to an internship. The school hopes to raise this figure to 90 per cent by 2017. About 60 per cent of job attachments are for a duration of six months.


Ms Heng Pei Ling, 21, landed a job even before graduation, thanks to a five-month internship at F&B retail chain, Wine Connection. She said the stint was invaluable in helping her put into practice what she learnt in school.

The opportunities the company gave her also convinced her that she had found the right employer.

"I was selected to go for the WSQ Advice on Wine (course). It taught me how to pair wine with food to serve customers better," said Ms Heng. "So learning opportunities and being able to climb the career ladder is what Wine Connection is able to give (me)."


Speaking at the graduation ceremony for the first batch of about 300 students at Ngee Ann Polytechnic on Monday, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said the country's SkillsFuture initiative is "fundamentally important for the nation and individuals".

That is because the world is changing at such a fast rate that learning has to be lifelong, he added.

Mr Tan said the Government will provide as many options for Singaporeans to stay relevant and continue to grow in their careers. But just as important is how Singaporeans view the world and their attitude towards life, he said.

The minister said graduands would naturally want to find a dream job but "life doesn't always work out as we wish".

He pointed to the qualities of resilience and of being able to learn to adapt, as a way of creating one's dreams and aspirations, however life turns out.

Mr Tan added that the local labour force growth will come close to zero in a couple of years, and SkillsFuture is a major component in ensuring Singapore will remain productive.

"By making sure we are relevant, by making sure we are adaptable, that will ensure we are productive and that I think will overcome some of the limitations that we do have," he said.


Mr Tan also stressed that for SkillsFuture to succeed, businesses have to walk the talk.

"You can talk about it, you can talk it up. But it will come from signalling as well. Wages, remuneration, opportunities, these are the real practical signals that need to take place. We do see elements of that," said Mr Tan.

"(The) Government needs to play a part as well but I think business, apart from providing an environment and opportunities, they also need to begin to put the money where their mouth is."

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