Speech For Guest Of Honour, Mr. Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister (Higher Education & Skills), At The Skillsfuture Mou Signing Ceremony For The Accountancy & Financial Services Sector On 11 December 2015 At Ngee Ann Polytechnic

Published Date: 11 December 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Ms Rachie Hui, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, The Institute of Banking & Finance Singapore

Mr Nicklaus Wee, Associate Director, Singapore Accountancy Commission

Industry partners, principals and CEOs of the polytechnics and ITE

Distinguished guests, students, ladies and gentlemen

Introduction

1. It gives me great pleasure today to witness the MOU signing ceremony for the Accountancy & Financial Services Sectors, which are important pillars of our economy. This is another of many SkillsFuture initiatives that have been sprouting up.

What is SkillsFuture?

2. I must admit it is not easy to fully understand what is SkillsFuture. We are used to funding schemes and initiatives, but SkillsFuture is a much broader concept - a movement to open up pathways, promote passion, mastery and excellence in whatever we pursue, and engender a new social mindset in recognising people of varying talents.

3. So is SkillsFuture the credit of $500 which each Singaporean above 25 will get to enjoy? The answer is yes, but not all of it. This is one of many initiatives under the SkillsFuture movement. The Credit is not merely a grant either. It signals to Singaporeans that we are empowered to take charge of our own skills upgrading. There are some 500 training providers and 10,000 courses in the SkillsFuture Credit directory, and we should continuously review and expand the list and make it dynamic and evolving. An engineer may decide to learn the arts and the aesthetics, an accountant may want to learn an IT programming language, an engineer may want to learn how to drive a truck. The Credit is yours, and it is not for the Government to question what you should learn.

4. Is SkillsFuture all the various new, vocational courses that are introduced across various Institutes of Higher Learning? The answer is also yes but not all of it. But it is critical that as part of the movement, all our ITE, polytechnics, Universities and Continuous Education and Training Centres expand their array of courses, so as to broaden choice and areas of pursuits. SIT is offering seven new full-time degree programmes in 2016 - allied health degree programs in Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Diagnostic Radiography and Radiation Therapy, a Bachelor of Engineering in Telematics (Intelligent Transportation Systems Engineering), a Bachelor of Food Technology, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

5. UNISIM too, is introducing two new full-time degree programs in 2016 - in supply chain management and in social work. When I visited Republic Polytechnic last week, the Principal and staff told me proudly that they have some very interesting and specialised courses - in Sports and Leisure management, Sports Coaching, Sonic Arts and Arts and Theatre Management.

6. SkillsFuture is also about all the adult learning courses out there that the Workforce Development Agency is supporting. A decade ago the key mode of training for adults is employers sending their employees for training and claiming the Skills Development Fund. Today we have come a long way with a wide range of subsidised training from numerous training providers, and trainers are certified through the Advanced Certificate in Training and Assessment.

7. Very importantly, SkillsFuture also champions the idea that industries need to step forth and work with the education institutions and training centres to make education and training more relevant, industry focussed and attuned to the real world. Enhanced internship, integrated work study programme, and also Earn and Learn programmes help achieve these objectives. Essentially, these are modern apprenticeship schemes which enhance the learning experience for students. Today, we are please that the Accounting and Financial Services sector has stepped forth to strengthen SkillsFuture in the sector, through two new initiatives.

Enhanced internship

8. The first is Enhanced Internships, to give students from Accounting and Banking & Financial Services courses a more enriching experience in the industry, through better guidance through mentors and structured learning, at the workplace. All students from these courses will undergo Enhanced Internships from April 2016.

9. Internships will enable students to gain early experience of the real working world, to validate that this is indeed the professional field that they intend pursue, and to pick up real world competencies that is difficult to simulate in a school environment. For the companies hosting the interns, they will play an important role in developing their future talents. Interns who have good experiences tend to affirm their career aspirations and join the industry they are trained for.

10. Interns who perform well during their internships may secure jobs with the companies even before they graduate. Chua Kai Ling and Tan Khor Li are two such success stories. Both of them are Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduates with a Diploma in Accountancy. They took up full-time positions at the accounting firms where they completed their six-month internships. Kai Ling is now a Tax Associate with Grant Thornton Singapore, while Khor Li is an Audit Associate with EY Singapore. Khor Li is also currently pursuing her ACCA accounting qualification on a part-time basis, sponsored by her company.

Earn and Learn Programme

11. The second initiative is the Earn and Learn Programme for the Accountancy Sector.

12. Today, a polytechnic graduate can only become a Chartered Accountant of Singapore after obtaining an accredited accountancy degree and completing the Singapore Qualification Programme, or SQP. I am pleased to announce that, from August 2016, in collaboration with the Singapore Accountancy Commission, Ngee Ann Polytechnic will offer an Advanced Diploma in Accountancy, under the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme, which will directly lead to the Singapore QP.

13. During the 18-month programme, polytechnic students will be able to learn through a work-study format, leading to an Advanced Diploma in Accountancy. Graduates from the Earn and Learn Advanced Diploma in Accountancy programme will then be able to enrol for the SQP. This opens up a new pathway for polytechnic graduates to become Chartered Accountants of Singapore.

14. All this is made possible by the readiness of key stakeholders such as the industry, the government and institutions like Ngee Ann Polytechnic to collaborate and identify new ways to help Singaporeans fulfil their aspirations. I take this opportunity to thank the Singapore Accountancy Commission, the Institute of Banking and Finance Singapore and Ngee Ann Polytechnic on achieving a very meaningful milestone.

Conclusion

15. We reached a meaningful milestone today because there is now even greater clarity to the potential and impact of SkillsFuture. The initiatives announced today are not about science and technology, or blue collar skill work, but accountancy - a traditional white-collar professional occupation.

16. SkillsFuture is relevant to accountants, because it is a trade that require knowledge and skills, you get better through experience, you need masters to guide disciples and apprentices to pass on and improve the expertise through the generations. Similarly, SkillsFuture will be relevant to doctors, healthcare workers, writers, journalists, artists, engineers, lawyers, and civil servants like diplomats. My friends in Ministry of Foreign Affairs always describe their work as a craft. And the Ministry has a steep tradition of honing their skills and passing down the craft through the generations.

17. To the students who are here with us today, you are in a good sector. The Accountancy sector generates about $1.8 billion in annual revenue, and employs about 17,400 professionals, and operating revenue has been growing at 6% per annum over the last 10 years. The outlook is positive for this sector. Likewise, there is great potential and career opportunities in the Banking and Financial Services sector, as the sector contributes about 12% of Singapore’s GDP.

18. I wish you all the best as you embark on the next stage in your personal learning journey through SkillsFuture. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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