Speech by Ms Gan Siow Huang, Minister of State, Ministry of Education, at the Skillsfuture Month Forum

Published Date: 08 July 2021 02:00 PM

News Speeches

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. A very good morning to everyone. I am delighted to be with you at this forum. The event also kicks off this year's SkillsFuture Month. A warm welcome to those attending in-person here at the Lifelong Learning Institute, as well as to those dialling in virtually. I am glad that we are able to make it here for this very meaningful occasion.

2. The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has been a harsh wake-up call for many of us. It has forced countries, corporates, and individuals to transform the way we live, work and play. More than ever, it is imperative for our workforce to continually upskill and reskill in order to remain competitive, and capture future opportunities in the new normal.

Skillsfuture Is a National Movement with Multiple Stakeholders and Contributors

3. The SkillsFuture movement was launched in 2015 as a national movement to provide Singaporeans with the opportunities to develop to their fullest potential throughout life, regardless of their starting points. It supports Singaporeans in their lifelong pursuit of skills mastery, to stay in employment and remain employable amid economic restructuring and industry transformation.

4. A critical aspect of SkillsFuture has been the contribution from stakeholders beyond government, such as trade associations and chambers, unions, community partners and organisations, some of which are here today. This year's SkillsFuture Month features several events organised by these entities. Individuals can look forward to learning through activities organised by partners such as NTUC, Twitter, LinkedIn, PayPal, the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF), JTC Corporation, NTUC LearningHub (LHUB) and more. We will see Mendaki SENSE organising tea-time webinars for Self-Employed Persons (SEPs) to boost their digital and financial literacy levels, and lunch-time webinars for entrepreneurs to learn how to build a sustainable business.

5. The five Community Development Councils (CDCs) will also co-organise virtual events with the community partners for members of the public to participate in the SkillsFuture Month. In addition, the Astronauts Collective, a non-profit organisation, will be organising World X, a virtual career exploration event, as part of SkillsFuture Month, for tertiary students to experience and discover diverse careers through activities such as job taster workshops, networking sessions and interactions with professionals. I think there is something for everyone.

Good Progress on the Enterprise Pillar of the Next Bound of Skillsfuture

6. The Next Bound of SkillsFuture has a strong focus on the enterprise pillar. It is critical that enterprises, particularly employers, support continual skills upgrading so that our workforce remains relevant and competitive.

7. The Ministry of Trade and Industry and SSG conducted a study on the returns to firms that sponsored their local workers for SSG-supported training between 2010 and 2018. The study showed that when companies actively support and invest in the upskilling of their employees, they can better attract and retain talent, as well as increase their revenue. The study found that for every 10% of the local workforce that companies supported for training, the company's revenue was about 0.7% higher on average each year for up to three years after training. The labour productivity of firms was also 2.2% higher on average per year for two years. The results of the study are encouraging, and provide evidence that investment in workforce training leads to positive business outcomes.

8. Clearly, it is a win-win proposition for companies to invest in developing their employees. There is therefore every reason for companies to embark on this journey together with their employees.

9. I am glad that we have made good progress on the enterprise pillar since the launch of the Next Bound of SkillsFuture last year.

10. For today's Forum, we have several enterprises to share how they have been pivoting their business models and augmenting their employees' skillsets in tandem with their business transformation efforts. The Forum will showcase the good work of SkillsFuture Queen Bees, which have been instrumental in helping us reach out to SMEs in their sectors and business networks. Our Queen Bees promote the SkillsFuture movement, pass on skills and industry knowledge to SMEs, and identify skills gaps and interventions for them to enable whole-of-company skills upgrading. I am heartened that so far, we have helped over 500 enterprises, many of which are SMEs. Some of the SkillsFuture Queen Bee partners we have welcomed onboard since the start of this year include Boustead Projects, Omron, Sheng Siong and Shopee. I thank all our SkillsFuture Queen Bee partners for their strong support, and I look forward to the continued growth of our Queen Bee network.

11. Another important aspect of the enterprise pillar is the push for better workplace learning. The National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning (NACE) was set up in 2018 to help companies develop their workplace learning capabilities through training and consultancy projects. I am glad to share that NACE has helped about 650 companies implement workplace learning programmes and trained 3,700 employees.

12. Recognising the need for government support, we have also introduced the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit (SFEC) last year, to encourage employers to invest in enterprise transformation and capabilities of their employees. Eligible employers have received a one-off $10,000 credit to cover up to 90% of out-of-pocket expenses on supportable initiatives. More than 7,000 employers have sent their employees for training courses supported under the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit thus far.

13. I urge more companies to come on board and make use of these opportunities to support their workforce development and business transformation.

Continued Focus on Mature Individuals

14. Even as we push on the enterprise front, SkillsFuture continues to place a special focus on supporting mature individuals in their 40s and 50s.

15. We have a wide range of programmes that are designed to help individuals reskill and stay employable, be it in their current jobs or a switch to another industry. These include reskilling programmes such as the Professional Conversion Programmes, as well as career transition programmes delivered by Continuing Education and Training (CET) centres. Last year, SSG also rolled out the SGUnited Skills and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways - Company Training programmes to help Singaporeans acquire industry-relevant skills and move into new job opportunities as the economy recovers. As at May 2021, more than 11,000 Singaporeans have enrolled in SGUnited Skills programmes and close to 5,300 Singaporeans enrolled in SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways - Company Training programmes. I am happy to say that more than 60% of the trainees are mature individuals aged 40 and above, the group that we are really trying to support. Yesterday, I was at the Ascott Centre for Excellence, one of the CET centres for hospitality. I was very happy to see that the trainees, some of whom are graduating soon, are very excited to apply for jobs in the sector that they have been trained in. One of the members was Madam Harmoniwati, who is 56 years old. She has been taking care of her family and she is planning return to work after 20 years. She was very excited, and shared with me how the 9-month course gave her a lot of confidence. In fact, she already has a job offer, while she was attending the course. I am very happy for people who have benefited from the SGUnited Skills programme.

16. To support mature individuals in participating in these programmes, we have provided additional SkillsFuture Credit (Mid-Career Support) of $500 for Singapore Citizens aged 40 to 60 last year. About 6,000 individuals in this age group have utilised this additional SkillsFuture Credit.

17. I was particularly heartened to read an email recently from a trainee on a SGUnited Skills programme. At the age of 45, he enrolled in the SGUnited Skills Diploma in Computer Networking offered by Singapore Polytechnic. At the point of writing his email, he was doing his 3 months diploma practicum through an attachment to a local company. His company has indicated that they will offer him a position after the attachment ends. And of the four of them with this company from the same course, three have been offered jobs, while the fourth trainee is being considered as well.

Conclusion

18. The path to recovery may well be long and challenging for many companies as well as individuals affected by COVID-19, but we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To ensure that we are well-positioned for recovery, let us start our work on strengthening our workforce and our foundations today. Through lifelong learning, we can work together to build stronger businesses, tighter communities, a more agile workforce, as well as a more resilient society. If we join hands towards this common objective, I am confident that we will be able to emerge strongly together.

19. I encourage everyone to participate actively in the upcoming events during this SkillsFuture Month, and I wish you a fruitful afternoon. Thank you.

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