Speech by Minister for Education, Mr Lawrence Wong, at the Launch of the National Workplace Learning Certification

Published Date: 06 May 2021 05:00 PM

News Speeches

Mr Seah Moon Ming, Chairman SMRT Corp,

Mr Neo Kian Hong, Group CEO SMRT Corp,

Ms Jeanne Liew, Principal and CEO Nanyang Polytechnic,

Mr Ong Tze-Ch’in, Chief Executive of SkillsFuture Singapore,

Dr Tim Philippi, Executive Director, Singaporean-German Chamber for Industry and Commerce,

Mr Melvin Yong, Executive Secretary of National Transport Workers’ Union

1. I am very happy to join all of you this morning at the launch of the National Workplace Learning Certification. We are in a time of heightened alert because of the recent cases, but I am glad that we are still able to come together face to face in person, with a smaller group and all the precautions in place. It is a simplified ceremony and event, but I think it is a meaningful gesture to mark this occasion.

Importance of Workplace Learning

2. The workplace environment has always been a place of change, with companies constantly adopting and applying new technologies to improve their productivity and to stay ahead of their competitors.

3. But in recent years and with the disruptions brought about by COVID-19, this change has taken place at an ever-accelerating pace. All industries are undergoing further transformation fuelled by the IT revolution. Companies everywhere are forced to re-think and re-orientate their business models to keep up with the changes and to meet new consumer demands and needs.

4. In tandem with business transformation, it is important for us to pay attention to helping workers adapt to the evolving environment. Very often when I meet business leaders and CEOs, I hear them affirming the need for their business models to adjust and change. But when we ask them about worker training, I think many of them may not have given sufficient thought on how the changes in their business models would translate into new skills requirements for their employees.

5. Our workers are the lifeblood of our industries. A key part of any successful business transformation effort requires worker training to be front and center. So it is important that they constantly update and expand their skillsets, in sync with the new requirements of their companies and their industries. With today’s pace of change, it is no longer sufficient to rely only on formal training, that you take occasionally, where workers attend courses to build skills but they do this only from time to time. Instead, we need to maximise the workplace as a significant place of learning, where workers can continue to learn on the job day in, day out.

6. This idea of workplace learning is not the same as just one-off job training. Workplace learning takes a longer and more strategic view towards employee upskilling. It focuses not only on what employees need to know now, but how they can grow and develop over time to contribute even more within the organisation. So it is not just about ad-hoc learning on the job, it is systematic, it is comprehensive, it is done deliberately. A successful workplace learning culture will not only help companies and employees keep up with changes, it will also position them, and Singapore as a whole, to thrive in a new post-COVID work environment which is likely to be more unpredictable, turbulent and volatile.

7. This is precisely why we set up the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning (or NACE) back in 2018, to support companies in building and developing the capability to train and develop their employees at the workplace. NACE was established as a collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET) and the Chamber of Industry & Commerce for Munich and Upper Bavaria (IHK). That is because the Swiss and Germans are well regarded internationally for their focus on vocational education and training, and more importantly, their workplace learning systems. That is why we wanted to learn from them and to leverage with them. Since its launch, NACE has helped about 530 companies in Singapore build up their workplace learning capabilities.

8. One such company that benefitted is Grand Venture Technology Limited, or GVT, a local SME which has worked with NACE in building up their workplace learning capability. NACE helped GVT to design on-the-job training blueprints to develop their employees’ competencies as part of the company’s workplace learning efforts. This has enabled GVT to cut down at least 10 per cent of the time required for on-boarding and training, and their employees are now progressively benefitting from this initiative.

National Workplace Learning Certification

9. We have been building upon the good progress by NACE to further expand the NACE ecosystem, with the setting up of more centres at the Institutes of Higher Learning. Today, we will take workplace learning forward by another big step, through the launch of the National Workplace Learning Certification.

10. The certification maps out consistent workplace learning capability requirements for companies, using the National Workplace Learning Framework as a guide. This Framework was developed in January 2020, taking reference from the German and Swiss models, and in consultation with our local industry. Why are we doing this certification, and how does it benefit companies and workers?

11. First, through the certification process, companies will be able to conduct more systematic training needs analysis; they can identify and close gaps in their training system to be and remain successful. Companies will be able to foster a more learning-friendly culture and environment, and implement workplace learning activities that support the development of their employees. So for companies, this is not just about getting a piece of paper; it is going through a process that will systematically raise your capabilities, and put in place improvements to strengthen your core competencies.

12. Second, the certification will enable us to distinguish the companies that have made this effort and put in the commitment and resources to improve. We hope over time this will be a key differentiator for companies to attract and retain talent. I am confident that workers on their part, unions too, will be able to tell the difference, and will over time gravitate towards such preferred employers in the marketplace.

13. At the same time, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) will look into using the certification as a validation of quality workplace learning capabilities. This could then potentially become another criterion that SSG uses to assess the in-house training providers that it funds.

14. So we encourage all companies to embark on this journey of workplace learning. NACE is committed to walking every step of the way with you, as you work towards being certified.

15. SMRT, our hosts for today, has shared with me their intention to achieve the National Workplace Learning Certification. And I want to thank SMRT for taking the lead and showing the way to the rest of the industry. SMRT has always been a strong supporter of workplace learning. Driven by its key mission to provide a safe, reliable and commuter-centred public transport service, SMRT recognises the strategic value of workplace learning as part of its operations.

16. In 2019, SMRT initiated a training transformation through a comprehensive review of its training for staff. This includes propagating workplace learning beyond supervised field training to include activities like self-directed digital learning, coaching, and being supported by other efforts like leadership alignment and management strategies. It has also engaged NACE to customise learning for its trainers, which enables them to strengthen SMRT’s in-house training.

17. This collaboration is ongoing, and I am heartened to see SMRT infusing NACE’s workplace learning methodologies to support its growth in operations and maintenance. I certainly look forward to hearing more success stories as SMRT continues to improve its workplace learning practices, through and beyond its journey towards certification.

Conclusion

18. We often talk in Singapore about our tripartite partnership between Government, employers, workers and unions. It is a symbiotic partnership and the relationship between companies and their workers is very important. Workers need their employers’ support to continually upskill and reskill through high-quality training. Companies, on the other hand, need their workers to be highly skilled and adaptable, in order to achieve successful transformation and take the business to greater heights. Workplace learning, supported by the Government, is that element that helps to fuel and strengthen this symbiotic relationship.

19. It is with this relationship in mind that we launch the National Workplace Learning Certification today. It is an important milestone in our SkillsFuture movement, and I encourage more companies to step forward to be part of this journey. Thank you very much.

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