MOE FY2019 Committee of Supply Debate Response by Senior Minister of State for Education Chee Hong Tat

Published Date: 04 March 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1. Mr Chairman, the SkillsFuture movement seeks to build a nation of lifelong learners.

2. To do so, we are working in partnership with Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), private training providers, employers, Trade Association and Chambers (TACs), as well as workers and unions.

3. I would like to give an update on SkillsFuture, the outcomes we have achieved and our future plans:

  1. First, on increasing quality and industry-relevant training courses through IHLs and private training providers;

  2. Second, on enabling business transformation through skills upgrading for workers; and

  3. Third, on supporting individuals for lifelong learning.

INCREASING QUALITY AND INDUSTRY-RELEVANT TRAINING COURSES THROUGH IHLS AND PRIVATE TRAINING PROVIDERS

4. Let me start with the IHLs. I agree with Professor Lim Sun Sun that IHLs must continue to focus on teaching quality and ensure their courses are relevant to industry. Besides getting feedback from students, IHLs work with business leaders to review course offerings and content, and collaborate with industry partners on research and student projects.

5. With Continuing Education and Training (CET) now forming part of their expanded mission, IHLs have significantly increased the range of high-quality CET programmes.

6. The number of work-learn programmes has increased from 15 in 2015 to 123 in 2018, benefitting over 3,500 individuals. We will introduce more work-learn programmes with different modalities. The IHLs have also provided more SkillsFuture Series courses. Today, we have about 1,300 courses across eight emerging and priority areas.

7. The IHLs have made good progress in ramping up their CET offerings. This is a challenging task, involving changes to the way they organise and conduct their courses. I want to place on record my appreciation to the staff and management of the IHLs, for their hard work and perseverance. The changes will benefit many Singaporeans.

8. We have also been working with our training providers to develop industry standards and expand overseas. Existing adult educator training requirements for Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) courses will be extended to SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG)-funded, non-WSQ certifiable courses. These requirements will take effect by 1 Jan 2021.

9. SSG and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) supported a pilot initiative by the Strategic Association of Professional Training-Consulting Organisation (SAPTCO) to develop and export training programmes referenced to WSQ standards, starting with India and Vietnam. This will help our training providers to export their services to overseas markets. You do not have to be a member of SAPTCO to participate in the pilot. I encourage interested training providers to get in touch with SSG.

10. Dr Intan asked about streamlining of regulations for private education institutions (PEIs) and other private training providers. We want our regulations to be pro-business while maintaining quality training standards. SSG is reviewing our rules to reduce compliance costs and make it more convenient for private training providers seeking different types of regulatory approvals, and will be making some changes later this year.

  1. First, to reduce the number of fees for PEIs from 9 to 3, with an annual cost saving ranging from $380 to $640 per provider;

  2. Next, to harmonise requirements and streamline processes for training providers offering WSQ and private education programmes. This will simplify the licensing process for providers offering both types of courses. A risk-based performance management system will replace the current Continuous Improvement Review (CIR) process for WSQ Approved Training Organisations; and

  3. Third, to reduce the cost incurred by WSQ training providers to issue e-Certificates. This has been an ongoing effort since 2014. So far, we have reduced the certificate fee from $2.60 to $1.20. SSG is trying to further reduce this fee through regulatory streamlining and process review, so that training providers can enjoy more cost savings.

11. Mr Baey Yam Keng and Mr Lee Yi Shyan spoke about the need for pro-business regulations during MTI’s COS segment earlier today. We believe that smart regulation is an important enabler for supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, and it will help our training companies grow and export their services overseas. It can be one of Singapore’s competitive advantages. But we must not assume that smart regulation will automatically happen. I agree with Mr Ang Wei Neng that government agencies must be open to feedback and listen to feedback from industry.

ENABLING BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION THROUGH SKILLS UPGRADING FOR WORKERS

12. Mr Zainal Sapari asked about involving employers in worker training, and promoting lifelong learning amongst workers.

13. As companies restructure and transform with technology, they should also build capabilities in their workers to help them move up the value chain. Transformation must be “technology driven, people led”. Using technology alone is not adequate if the workers are not trained to optimise these tools. If we do it well, enterprise transformation should result in higher profits for the company and higher pay for our workers – a win-win outcome.

14. During MTI’s COS, I announced enhancements to the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG). Companies that qualify for PSG can apply for additional training subsidies, which will cover 70% out-of-pocket training expenses up to $10,000. The training subsidy will be provided via a PSG (SkillsFuture Training Subsidy). This is additional funding, above the existing training subsidies of up to 90%, to provide extra support for companies. We also want to reinforce the message that worker training and skills upgrading are critical elements for business transformation.

15. Companies can use the training subsidy for training that is aligned with their industry’s Skills Framework, to support business transformation and meet their training needs. I have asked MTI and MOE colleagues to keep the application process simple, so that more companies can benefit from PSG and the training subsidy.

16. Mr Zainal Sapari and Mr Ang Wei Neng asked about efforts to deepen workplace learning. Companies can work with the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning (NACE) to develop structured training plans for workplace learning.

17. Gardenia is one such company. Its workers operate on 24/7 shifts, 365 days a year. This makes it challenging for them to attend external training. By working with NACE to develop a workplace learning blueprint, Gardenia is looking to bring training to its workers within the factories. It has also implemented structured workplace training for production coordinators under work-learn programmes.

18. Besides Gardenia, 26 other companies have successfully implemented basic workplace learning systems with the help of NACE. Many of them are SMEs, with more companies in the pipeline. We will continue to work with TACs and companies, including on-going collaborations to train workers for the wider industry.

19. Ms Foo Mee Har made a key point that while employees upskill themselves, employers need to recognise these skills. I urge employers to recognise and support skills-based hiring. SSG has rolled out 27 Skills Frameworks and engaged over 2,500 enterprises so far. These Frameworks are jointly developed by employers, industry associations, unions, government agencies and training institutions. Employers can use these Frameworks to develop career maps, articulate job requirements, design training programmes, and recognise skills for hiring and career progression.

20. Ms Foo also suggested appointing lead training providers. SSG has started doing this through our CET Centres. There are currently 36 CET Centres, including the IHLs and a good spread of private training providers. We will take on board Ms Foo’s suggestions as we study ways to further enhance the services provided by these Centres.

SUPPORTING INDIVIDUALS FOR LIFELONG LEARNING

21. To sustain a strong eco-system of CET, lifelong learning needs to be part of our cultural DNA. We have made encouraging progress, with SkillsFuture benefiting about 465,000 Singaporeans through a wide range of programmes in 2018. For example, 96% of approved SkillsFuture Credit claims are for work-related courses.

22. Professor Lim Sun Sun asked about the efficacy of SkillsFuture programmes. We have been tracking the progress of SkillsFuture since its launch in 2015. Training participation rates have increased from 35% in 2015 to 48% in 2018.

23. We are also encouraged to see positive training outcomes. From a survey of 3,500 learners who attended work-related training in 2018, more than 80% said they were able to perform better at work six months after the training.

24. We do additional longitudinal studies to supplement these surveys, as we know surveys have their limitations. A recent study by MTI found that for individuals who were not in employment, WSQ training increased their likelihood of securing employment by up to 3.5 percentage points in the year after training. The same study showed that employed individuals who attended WSQ training enjoyed a real wage premium of up to 5.8 per cent on average in the year after training.

CONCLUSION

25. Sir, please allow me to share a story in Mandarin about Mr Jeremy Fong, who is Managing Director of Fong’s Engineering and Manufacturing and the past-Chairman of the Singapore Precision Engineering and Technology Association.

26. 冯树帆先生是文科生,在学校修读的是文学和历史,但是后来选择修读工商管理,并到工艺教育学院及私人教育机构报读短期的机械工程课程。

27. 随着科技和市场的变化,冯氏精密机械与制造公司逐步进行企业转型。冯先生本人通过职业再培训保持竞争力,并同时领导企业转型。他的这套理念也运用在员工的管理上, 他相信的是, “转型加培训,迈向成功”。要双管齐下,才能达到最佳效果。

28. 公司在转型与自动化的过程中,冯先生保留了所有的员工,并将他们分配到公司的其他岗位上。这三年来,他的公司参与了技能创前程的在职培训计划,为理工学院及工艺教育学院的毕业生提供了职场学习的机会。

29. 我很高兴看到像冯先生这样积极投入技能培训的雇主。他是我们大家学习的好榜样。

30. To conclude Sir, SkillsFuture is a journey that we must take together with our partners and all Singaporeans. SkillsFuture is essential to our economic transformation, but it is more than a programme or an initiative. It is a movement to encourage lifelong learning and continuing education. It is to nurture a passion for deepening skills and a curiosity for new knowledge. What we want to achieve, is for lifelong learning to spark a lifetime of joy in our people.

31. Thank you.

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