Tuesday 5 January 2016

SkillsFuture Credit: 10,000 SkillsFuture courses on offer

Spoilt for choice for lifelong learning: 10,000 SkillsFuture courses on offer
With 10,000 SkillsFuture courses on offer, it can be hard to decide how to use $500 credit
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 4 Jan 2016

The national movement to get Singaporeans into the spirit of lifelong learning reached a milestone last Friday - when more than two million people can start using $500 in credit each from the Government to pay for skills-based classes.

The 10,000 approved courses were listed in an online directory last November to give all citizens aged 25 and above, who will receive their SkillsFuture Credit, time to decide on what they want.

The move is a step forward in encouraging Singaporeans to take up courses by cutting the cost of doing so, but employers may need to give better support to workers, said human resource consultants, economists and workers interviewed.

That is why "employers must first be clearly educated on the benefits before SkillsFuture Credit will bear fruit", said Ms Eve Yap, marketing director of ManpowerGroup Singapore.

Most industries, in particular high-tech and engineering ones that require the constant upgrading of skills, will gain from the scheme as workers who sharpen their skills or learn new ones will become more efficient and productive, said Mr Foo See Yang, acting country general manager at Kelly Services.

The aim of the SkillsFuture Credit scheme is to allow citizens to take charge of their own learning, Acting Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who is in charge of the initiative, said last month.

"The credit is yours. It is not for the Government to question what you should learn."

The wide range of courses is also aimed at empowering the individual to choose based on his aspirations, said a Singapore Workforce Development Agency spokesman.

Citizens will be receiving letters on how to activate their SkillsFuture Credit account. They can also watch videos on how to search for courses and check their account balance and claims status on the official website.

The scheme is clearly a boon for those who have already planned to upgrade their skills and have a good idea of how to do so, said HR experts and workers.

Accountant Jerome Koh, 28, who planned to take classes in finance management and audit, said: "I was a bit hesitant about paying for them. They sound like an investment for which returns are uncertain. The credit pushed me to take them, and I'm happy about that."

For others, the scheme may plant the seed of further training in their minds. In fact, all 20 workers interviewed recently said that they were motivated to attend classes after learning of the $500 credit. They plan to take courses ranging from computer science to baking.

Tutor Brian Tay, 32, said he was motivated to improve his interpersonal skills to connect better with his students after learning about the credit, which will be topped up periodically in future.

"My timing is flexible, so I can easily pick a time that works best for me," the father of one said. "The classes can be a good way to network too."

Yet others relish the idea of being able to take courses for self-improvement.

Lawyer Anthony Phua, 33, for instance, wants to attend music lessons.

Businessman Teo Kay Swee, 42, said that he hopes to pick up computer skills and get over his fear of computers with the help of his SkillsFuture Credit.

He said: "I was not planning to attend any training, but since I was going to receive my credit anyway, I thought, why not?"

"The course probably will not help much with my trading business, but learning something new can be fun. I don't think I can be the next Mark Zuckerberg, but I can at least try to understand what he does."

The sheer number of courses can overwhelm trainees, distracting them from making an informed choice, the experts said.

For example, they may not know the courses that will be most beneficial for them, especially if they are gunning for a promotion at work.

Uninformed choices may also send trainees on a "paper chase", said Mr David Ang, director of Human Capital Singapore. While they attain what may appear to be higher qualifications, they may not gain more industry-relevant skills.

Bosses can guide employees who want to improve themselves.

Ms Yap said that the office culture can determine an employee's "spirit of inquiry". "Employers who are already rolling out staff enrichment programmes... will find it easier to motivate their staff. The understanding is that employees have the company's backing and additional learning may translate to moves up the corporate ladder."

Mr Ang said one way employers can help is by giving their staff time off for training.

Professor Hoon Hian Teck from the Singapore Management University's School of Economics said workers should take advantage of the scheme because Singapore is moving into its next phase of economic development in which workers need to constantly upgrade their skills to stay relevant.

Kelly Services' Mr Foo said those "enthusiastic about learning and upgrading their skills will have an edge" over others.

Mr Ang said that, ultimately, the scheme places "the choice of studies in the hands of each individual, whether they are employed or not".

"It is a 'leveller' that is given equally to all citizens."

Here's what some Singaporeans aged 25 and above have planned, when they receive their $500 SkillsFuture Credit this month. What type of courses and training would you be taking up? :)
Posted by SkillsFuture SG on Saturday, January 2, 2016

Soft skills help achieve results on and off the job
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 4 Jan 2016

Taking up a course in the service industry may make you think twice about flaring up at the waiter over cold soup or a long wait.

Mr Abdul Muizz, 27, a manager with Skyline Luge Sentosa, said he gained a wider perspective of customer service after receiving his Certificate in Attractions from private hospitality training centre William Angliss Institute under the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications framework two years ago.

The course, which now falls under the SkillsFuture Credit scheme, teaches participants interpersonal skills, attraction safety and how to conduct tours.

Students must accumulate between 103 and 200 hours to be certified. They pay between $355.20 and $3,552, depending on the level of government subsidies, which are given to citizens and older workers.

"I learnt how to be more patient and consider both the customers' and providers' points of view," Mr Abdul said, noting that his relationship with his family also improved after the course. "You don't have to be in the service industry to learn these soft skills."

He also started speaking to others in a more respectful tone, he added. "You're no longer so easily frustrated the next time you go out and the service at dinner is slow," he said.

Mr Abdul, who holds an N-level certificate, previously worked odd jobs before landing his current job.

Besides soft skills, he also picked up knowledge of passenger safety and has a clearer idea of operations.

Similarly, his colleague, Mr Gary Tiah, 26, found that his interpersonal skills improved after the course.

Mr Tiah, who holds a diploma in marketing, said: "I started asking people how their day was and making conversation. It improves their experience and mine too. I also learnt more about cultural differences across various nationalities."

Both men were promoted to managers within 18 months of completing the course.

Mr Ryan Williams, general manager of Skyline Luge Sentosa, said: "They became more knowledgeable about their work and worked better with guests."

Mr Abdul said: "I took the course, expecting it to help in my job... But it did more than that."

Going far beyond the bare bones of fish farming
Temasek Poly's one-day course on fish nutrition equips employee with ability to make better decisions at work
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 4 Jan 2016

Before Bangladeshi national Shariful Islam took up a day course on fish nutrition at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) two years ago, he could not make better decisions at work.

"Whenever a fish dies or falls sick, my job was to tell the supervisor and he will tell me what to do," said the 31-year-old exporter with local fish farm Apollo Aquaculture.

He started out with no experience in fish farming when he came to Singapore eight years ago, after his family could no longer afford his university education.

But he now knows how to do his job better after completing the course with four colleagues.

"I know how to cut open the fish when they die to see what they died from, bacteria or parasite," he said.

He also began prescribing better feed - a combination of pellets and live fish - instead of just the latter, to the fish. "They grow better," he said. "I also learnt how much I should feed the fish to get the most meat out of them."

He showed so much improvement at his job that his boss, Mr Eric Ng, decided to send four other employees to do a Diploma in Applied Science (Aquaculture) at TP. They graduated last year.

The 42-year-old chief executive said: "We are expanding, and are starting to rear the fish when they are still in their fry or larva stages... It's very delicate work."

The one-day course at TP, which teaches students about the dietary requirement of fishes, costs $214.

SkillsFuture Credit can be used for this course; five baskets of modules make up a diploma programme, covering subjects such as fish anatomy, aquatic ecosystems and fish diseases.

To get a certificate at the end of each modular course, students have to attend three classes a week for six months. For each course, a student pays between $189.54 and $751.14, depending on the level of government subsidies he qualifies for. These are given to citizens and older workers, among others.

The one-day course is for anyone, regardless of industry experience, said Dr Diana Chan, course manager at TP's School of Applied Sciences. She said: "Aquariums are a growing pastime among Singaporeans... They want to know more about proper nutrition, feeding practices and types of feed."

The labour crunch is tight enough for Mr Ng to consider hiring anyone who has completed the one-day course. He said: "It's a very niche field, and we need people who have the knowledge and skills."

Staying ahead in the fast-paced IT sector
Industry's rapid changes mean learning is a must for those who want to remain relevant
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 4 Jan 2016

When IT executive Mohamad Ideal Ismail, 37, graduated from his part-time degree course in computing in 2009, most of what he learnt about systems and applications was already outdated.

So it has been a race since to upgrade his computer skills and stay on top of industry trends, he said.

Between last April and October, he completed three courses at the Comat school near Tanjong Pagar, including the latest one on cyber forensics.

In a course under the National Infocomm Competency Framework (NICF), called Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator, he learnt how to recover deleted data, handle digital forensic evidence and capture logs.

Two months ago, he also received a Specialist Diploma in Information Security from Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), which he took a year to complete. The course covered modules such as data, applications and network security.

Singaporeans can use their $500 SkillsFuture Credit to pay for the NICF course. It would cost between $177.50 and $802.50, depending on the level of government subsidies, which are given to citizens and older workers, among others.

They can also use the credit to get modular certificates at NYP. The fees are between $210 and $350, before subsidies.

Mr Ideal, who has been in IT for 15 years, said the industry changes rapidly, making it necessary for him to keep upgrading himself.

His job scope widened to include cyber security in the past five years, making it more urgent for him to stay on top of the latest threats.

"That's why we have to keep learning new things," he added, noting that the courses he attended included both theoretical and practical know-how. It helped that the courses were conducted on weekends and did not disrupt his work. For example, for his most recent course at Comat, he attended classes on five consecutive Saturdays.

But it would have been difficult to take the class without industry experience. He said: "The terms we use... would be alien to someone not in the industry."

Senior consultant Muthu Krishnan, 57, who has taught at Comat for 20 years, said the forensics course assumes that students come in with industry experience. He said: "They would be lost otherwise."

Despite Mr Krishnan's experience, he is not spared the pressure of constantly having to upgrade himself. He scours hacking websites, such as hackernews.com, and the United States' National Vulnerability Database daily to keep his classes relevant.

"The curriculum is modelled after those in other countries which are on the front lines fighting hackers," he said.

Organised by Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), SkillsFuture Marketplace was a two-day event to create...
Posted by SkillsFuture SG on Monday, January 11, 2016

SkillsFuture Credit 'empowers all of us to go further': DPM Tharman
Tharman launches first of series of roadshows to help S'poreans make the best of $500 credit under scheme
By Olivia Ho, The Sunday Times, 10 Jan 2016

Whether it is someone new to the job market, a homemaker wanting to get back to work or a retiree looking to stay active, the SkillsFuture Credit scheme will help them get ahead, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

"Whether you are a graduate or someone with a master's degree, or you started work straight after leaving school, it does not matter," he said yesterday, as he launched the first of a series of roadshows to help Singaporeans make the best of their $500 credit under the scheme. "SkillsFuture empowers all of us to go further. And to renew ourselves as we go through life."

The initiative, which kicked off this month and for which the Government has set aside more than $1 billion, gives 2.5 million Singaporeans aged 25 and above $500 in credits to spend on upgrading themselves. Already, 10,000 courses in 57 areas, from digital animation to finance, healthcare and languages, are available, with more coming.

Singaporeans can expect to receive the activation letters for their credits by the end of this month, said the Workforce Development Agency (WDA), which administers the scheme. It began sending these letters, which include a step-by- step guide, in batches last Monday.

Mr Tharman, who is chairman of the SkillsFuture Council, urged beneficiaries to take their time in deciding how to spend their credits, which they can accumulate with future top-ups for courses which may cost more but are a better fit. "There is no need to rush," he stressed.

This is where the SkillsFuture Marketplace roadshows, presented as a supermarket of courses designed as colourful groceries, can help. For instance, a closer look at yesterday's inaugural roadshow at the courtyard of Westgate mall revealed that a paper cutout of some bok choy is, in fact, a brochure for an advanced course in social services. A "bag of pretzels" elaborated on a diploma in tourism, and a "jar of pickled carrots" had information on a course on how to put up metal scaffolds.

"SkillsFuture Credit is for every one of us."The #SkillsFuture Credit Roadshow was launched this morning by Deputy...
Posted by SkillsFuture SG on Friday, January 8, 2016

Visitors were given a shopping basket, which they could fill with brochures, as well as a shopping planner with a barcode, which they could scan at the various booths.

At the checkout counter, they could print out a list of the courses they have indicated an interest in, or e-mail it to themselves.

At least 6,000 people are expected to attend the roadshow, which ends today at 9pm. More are in the works for next month, said the WDA, which runs the roadshows.

Mr Bryan Tay, director of training provider DioWorks, said of the roadshow: "It allows us to reach heartlanders, people who are just milling around in the mall and who might not otherwise realise how we can help them use their credit." Dio-Works is the local partner of global education portal Udemy, which offers online video courses in areas such as health and photography.

Hougang resident Alice Ee, 45, went all the way to Jurong to find out more about the courses, as she had trouble searching for details online. "The design is great," said the travel agent. "I like how the information for each course is indicated clearly on the back of the 'food'."

Engineering production coordinator Zulkipli Md Khalid was browsing the shelves for courses that would prepare him for a second career. The 51-year-old said: "Now the economy is not so stable. If anything happens to my job, I need something to fall back on."

SkillsFuture Credit: $500 credit from 1 January 2016 for Singaporeans aged 25 and above to pay for course fees
Inaugural SkillsFuture Credit Roadshow Launched to Help Singaporeans Kick-Start Their Lifelong Learning Journey

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