Speech by Second Minister for Education Dr Maliki Osman, at the SkillsFuture Work-Study Fair 2021 Virtual Opening Ceremony

Published Date: 13 August 2021 05:00 PM

News Speeches

Ms Low Khah Gek
CEO, Institute of Technical Education

Principal/CEOs of the polytechnics

Mr Lam Yi Young
CEO, Singapore Business Federation

Mr Douglas Foo
President, Singapore Manufacturing Federation

Dr Michael Fung
Deputy CE (Industry), SkillsFuture Singapore

Industry partners


Ladies and Gentlemen

1. A very good morning to everyone. It is my pleasure to join you at this year's SkillsFuture Work-Study Fair, an important part of the SkillsFuture Month.

Good Progress of Work-Study Programmes

2. Amidst rapidly changing business cycles, we recognise the increasing importance of a strong industry nexus, to make higher education more industry-relevant and to better enable strong employment outcomes for our graduates. We also recognise the increasing relevance of workplace learning and how this could provide students with yet another education upgrading pathway that suits certain learning styles and students' aspirations, beyond the traditional academic and technical vocational pathways prevalent today in our higher education system. It is for this reason that we want to significantly expand Work-Study Programmes under the Next Bound of SkillsFuture and make this a more mainstream pathway. One that is taken up by a significant proportion of each cohort of students.

3. These programmes provide opportunities for our students to further hone their skills learnt in school through on-the-job training and projects at the workplace. The valuable experience gained lays an important foundation in helping students progress in their careers. Progress that these students might not have been able to achieve via more traditional academic and vocational pathways. By 2025, we aim to have 12% of each cohort go through such work-study opportunities.

4. We are making good progress. There has been a swift expansion of Work-Study Programme opportunities since inception, from just 15 programmes across 12 sectors at the outset in 2015, to 183 programmes across 37 sectors today. To date, over 7,000 trainees have benefited from these programmes, and more than 1,600 companies have come on-board as partners.

5. Mr Benjamin Tong is an example of a student who has benefitted from a Work-Study Programme. Benjamin graduated from ITE with a Nitec in Electrical Engineering in 2014. After completing his National Service, he decided to enter the workforce and soon realised the importance of deepening his skills to progress in his career. He then enrolled in the ITE Work-Study Diploma in Security Systems Engineering course as an Assistant Engineer with NEC Asia Pacific Pte Ltd. Benjamin appreciated the opportunity to learn new skills while staying employed. He also relished applying what he learned immediately at his workplace. Benjamin completed the course last year as part of ITE's pioneer cohort of Work-Study Diploma graduates. He was given a pay increment and was entrusted with additional responsibilities. His supervisor has found him to be a consistent good performer and is confident of his potential to take on the role of an operational manager.

6. Another example is Mr Sitaa Raam S/O Visvanath. Sitaa Raam graduated from Temasek Polytechnic with a Diploma in Clean Energy in 2017. After completing his National Service, he joined the Work-Study Post-Diploma course leading to a Specialist Diploma in Sustainable Energy Management, jointly offered by the Singapore Institute of Technology and Temasek Polytechnic. As part of this course, Sitaa Raam was placed with Sunseap Solutions Pte Ltd, and designated as a project engineer by his employer. With the strong support of his supervisor for his upskilling efforts, Sitaa Raam has decided to continue working for the company after he completes the Work-Study programme, and hopes to further take up a part-time degree programme in October this year. This is a good example of how companies like Sunseap can build their talent pipeline by investing in the upskilling of their employees, while helping to boost their career development prospects both in the company as well as the broader sector.

7. We have been regularly tracking the effectiveness and relevance of the Work-Study Programmes through an outcomes survey, and I am heartened by the findings from our 2020 survey. About 9 in 10 of the graduates were satisfied with the programmes and agreed that they had acquired relevant knowledge and skills to kickstart their careers. More than 96% of graduates were employed 6 months after completion of the Work-Study Programmes, with 78% continuing employment with the same Work-Study Programme company.

Industry Support Is Key to Success of Work-Study Programme

8. The encouraging progress of our Work-Study Programmes would not be possible without the strong support of our employers and industry partners. I am glad to learn that the employers have similarly reaped benefits from the Work-Study Programmes. In the outcomes survey, 96% of employers indicated that they were satisfied with the programmes, and 93% agreed that the programmes were effective in training their employees.

9. Through the Work-Study Programmes, companies can build a robust local talent pipeline and strengthen their talent development efforts, in order to pursue business transformation to keep up with a rapidly changing economy. It is especially critical during challenging times like the current pandemic. Most importantly, offering Work-Study Programmes is an important signal that a company takes workforce development seriously and is prepared to contribute to the upskilling of Singaporeans.

10. One example of a company that has benefitted from the Work-Study Programme is Raffles Hotel Singapore of the Accor Group. Since 2018, Raffles Hotel Singapore has been working closely with Nanyang Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic and ITE through Work-Study programmes to develop hospitality talents who support their business operations. Raffles Hotel Singapore has participated in four Work-Study programmes and recruited a total of 14 Work-Study Programme trainees to date, of whom five are still undergoing the programme.

11. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are also able to benefit from Work-Study Programmes. For example, Seo Eng Joo Frozen Food Pte Ltd has been working closely with Singapore Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic since 2015 to offer two Work-Study Post-Diploma Programmes: the Advanced Diploma in Applied Food Science and the Specialist Diploma in Supply Chain Management. These Work-Study Programmes serve as an avenue for the company to hire, mentor and train young talents for specific job roles that support the operations of the company. The company has recruited a total of eight Work-Study Programme participants to date, and they have taken on roles such as Senior Quality Excellence Officer and Senior Accounts Support Executive after their graduation.

Expansion of Work-Study Programmes

12. Our IHLs are continually seeking out fresh collaborations with industry partners to expand the Work-Study Programmes offerings. In addition to the four Work-Study Programmes in infocomm technology, media, social service and sports and wellness sectors already rolled out by Republic Polytechnic in June this year, the polytechnics will launch four more new Work-Study Programmes in the coming months.

13. As we continue with our efforts to build a relevant and competitive workforce that meets industry demand, I am happy to witness today the signing of two Memoranda of Understanding between our IHLs and the Singapore Business Federation and Singapore Manufacturing Federation respectively. These two federations have a total membership size of 32,000, most of whom are our local SMEs. These new partnerships will enable our IHLs to tap on the Federations' network of companies to encourage more employers to come on board to provide more Work-Study Programme opportunities for our students, enabling them to appreciate the role of SMEs in the economy and enhancing our pipeline of local workers for these sectors.

Conclusion - Learning Never Ends

14. I would like to thank our IHLs for their continual efforts in expanding the range of Work-Study Programmes. I would also like to take this opportunity to show my deepest appreciation for our industry partners and employers, who have shown their support for our Work-Study Programmes and helped maintain the strong ties between academia and industry, marrying knowledge and workplace skills.

15. Although we cannot have a physical fair again this year, today's event will still be able to provide insights on the wide range of Work-Study Programme offerings from industry partners and participating employers. To our participating students today, I encourage you to keep an open mind as you join the webinar sessions later on. Make full use of the opportunity today to find out more about the programmes available, and I hope you will be able to find something that matches your passion and aspirations.

16. I wish everyone a meaningful experience at this year's Work-Study Fair.

17. Thank you.

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