Opening Address by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Education at the CET Masters Series Symposium, Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre

Published Date: 03 October 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

A very good morning to all of you.

1. I am happy to join you today at the CET Masters Series Symposium, and would like to thank Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), Republic Polytechnic (RP) and Temasek Polytechnic (TP) for jointly organising this event. This collaboration between our polytechnics reflects the theme of this symposium and its central message – the importance of working together to build a vibrant skills training ecosystem.

2. Over the years, Singapore has established its reputation as a hub for trade, talent, and technology, and this is recognised by international organisations too. The World Economic Forum ranks us as the world’s second most competitive economy in 2019, with good scores in areas such as infrastructure, higher education and training systems, as well as transparent and efficient institutions. This is consistent with the findings from DHL’s Global Connectedness Index – in the latest 2018 edition, Singapore was ranked second in the world. It is therefore not surprising that many companies find Singapore to be an ideal gateway into Asia.

3. Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) play a critical role in enabling Singapore’s economic competitiveness by working closely with our companies. This includes helping our companies train their workers as part of enterprise transformation. Employers need to think about how your businesses will be impacted by digital transformation and global competition. You must also equip your workforce with the skills to use the new technologies and integrate these solutions into your business processes. This is why we keep emphasising that enterprise transformation and skills upgrading are two very important elements that need to go hand in hand, if we want to achieve maximum impact.

4. Our IHLs have traditionally focused mainly on pre-employment training (PET). With the launch of the SkillsFuture movement, IHLs have been given an additional mandate to become a key pillar of the continuing education and training (CET) ecosystem. This adds another dimension to the strong linkages, which our IHLs have developed with industries over the years, to assist companies, particularly SMEs, to transform business processes, improve productivity and services, innovate new products, upskill workers, and access new markets. There are three important roles which I believe IHLs can play in this regard, under a “triple A” partnership with companies.

5. First, as an Accreditor, IHLs can provide quality assurance through their training courses and set quality standards for employers and workers in the area of CET. They have a strong reputation and offer a trusted brand name. Many employers have chosen to collaborate with IHLs to train their employees and build up their capabilities. An example is the Data Certification Pathway jointly designed by NP and OCBC Bank. This partnership combines NP’s expertise in data-related courses for working adults, with OCBC’s strengths in data science and analysis. This combination allows trainees to meet practical industry needs while adhering to high academic standards. The Data Certification Pathway aims to train 200 data analysts and data scientists in the next three years, effectively doubling OCBC’s current pool of experts in this important area of work. So this is the first A – Accreditor.

6. Second, IHLs serve as Aggregators, bringing together talent from its faculty members, industry partners and students. There are rich collaboration opportunities in this area, as IHLs are able to undertake research and development, as well as provide the necessary skills training and technology transfer on behalf of companies to solve practical problems. For instance, RP’s GoRPA programme is designed to enable companies to quickly get up to speed with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) capabilities, and apply it directly to their work processes through actual projects. To date, RP has trained more than 300 employees from over 40 companies and completed more than 150 projects. One of the companies that has benefited from this programme is global logistics provider DB Schenker. GoRPA has helped them enhance their integration of business processes, enabling them to improve their productivity and data reporting accuracy, and freeing up administrative time for their employees to do higher value-added work.

7. We have covered two As so far – Accreditor and Aggregator. Finally, IHLs also act as Accelerators. They help companies catalyse new ideas and test-bed new business concepts. This includes continuous innovation efforts, such as enhancements to work processes, output delivery or service quality. For example, TP’s HIT Robotic Group (HRG) and Security Industry Institute partnered an SME solution vendor, Soverus Security Solutions, to integrate and test-bed a Visitor Management System with facial recognition technology on a service robot. Students build Internet of Things (IoT) software applications to deploy smart sensors in the robots, which can be deployed as part of overall security operations, and provide concierge services with the help of AI processing for decision making. Once tested and proven effective, the industry partners can scale up these new ideas and accelerate their process of bringing the enhanced products and solutions to market.

8. With links to extensive industry networks in Singapore and overseas, IHLs can further help to create value for companies that want to enhance their operational processes, innovate new products and services and expand to new markets. For instance, NP’s Travel and Learn programme currently supports SMEs interested in internationalisation. Since its launch in 2017, more than 200 individuals and small business owners have participated in the programme, with trips to major cities in ASEAN and China. Participants get to network with local business leaders, and forge strategic partnerships, and to gain strategic insights into new emerging markets. IHLs can also help companies to build management capabilities, so they have stronger governance, financial and HR management to run faster and go further.

Conclusion

9. I hope my explanation of the “triple A” partnership opportunity (Accreditor, Aggregator and Accelerator) has persuaded you that our IHLs have a clear and strong value proposition to partner with employers, and to serve as intermediaries to help enterprises transform minds, build talent, and drive innovation. We have been doing so for many years, and with SkillsFuture and CET, and the greater push for enterprise transformation and skills upgrading, we can bring some of these existing capabilities together, and make them even stronger as a whole. I hope that with this push, we can work more closely with our industry partners and companies, so we can achieve our objectives of enterprise transformation.

10. There is an important fourth “A” that is necessary, and that is Action, to translate ideas into reality. I hope that this symposium will spark conversations and open doors for new collaborations between employers, IHLs, the Unions as well as Government entities like SSG and the economic agencies. Business success and enterprise transformation is like a marathon; it will take time for us to see the fruits of our labour. But we know that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step under our feet. So let us take that first actionable step today, as we join hands to develop a vibrant and sustainable skills ecosystem in Singapore.

11. It is my pleasure to declare the Symposium open, and I wish everyone a fruitful learning experience. Thank you.

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