Speech by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education, at the SkillsFuture Fellowships and SkillsFuture Employer Awards Ceremony

Published Date: 10 December 2021 04:00 PM

News Speeches

President Halimah Yacob

Mr Tan Kok Yam, Chief Executive of SkillsFuture Singapore

Award Recipients

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Introduction

1. A very good afternoon to all of you. I am happy to join you at the fifth SkillsFuture Fellowships and SkillsFuture Employer Awards Ceremony. Congratulations to the fellowship and award recipients for your exemplary efforts in the pursuit of lifelong learning and supporting skills development.

2. I would also like to thank Mdm President for gracing the awards ceremony and lending your unwavering support all these years as Patron of the Awards.

3. This year, we continue to hold the ceremony under special measures necessitated by COVID-19. The pandemic has certainly changed our way of life in many aspects, but there are also many shining examples of how we have come together to adapt and overcome the challenges. For instance, as we quickly digitalised and adopted new ways of working and interacting, many have come forward to help those among us who are less digitally savvy.

4. While the pandemic may be on top of our minds for the moment, but we should not forget that we have always lived in an uncertain world that is defined by constant change. Many of these trends have been emergent since the pre-pandemic days, and are likely to remain with us in the long run.

  1. Globally, sustainability has become a key agenda for many countries, as we grapple with ways to manage the impact of climate change. This has also created new opportunities, such as those in green financing, carbon trading, and sustainability reporting, to name just a few. These create demand for new skillsets and talent pipelines.
  2. We have also seen a shift towards shorter, more compact business and technology cycles, driven by the continuous advancement of technology, and the huge amount of data available to us. Technology is not just changing the way we work and live, but also helping to increase our longevity and productive lifespan. This means that there will be a much greater need to put effort into keeping our workforce productive and competitive, through continuous efforts to refresh our skills and keep pace with the changes.

Skills Upgrading Is Essential

5. Such imperatives underpin the thinking behind the national SkillsFuture movement. SkillsFuture recognises the need for every one of us to cultivate a mindset of lifelong learning and strive towards skills mastery in our respective fields. By embracing continuous learning, we can better equip ourselves to overcome challenges and seize new opportunities.

6. Such a learning-oriented mindset is particularly relevant in times such as the current pandemic. Hence, we have strengthened our support for Singaporeans in upskilling and reskilling, so that we can emerge stronger in the post-COVID economy:

  1. We rolled out the SGUnited Skills and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways – Company Training Programmes last year to provide opportunities for Singaporeans to acquire industry-relevant skills and pursue new employment opportunities.
  2. As of July 2021, about 18,000 Singaporeans have enrolled in these programmes. Many have since successfully switched to new careers in key growth sectors such as healthcare, info-comm and media.
  3. We launched the Enhanced Training Support Package to encourage employers to make use of the downtime during the pandemic to upskill and reskill their workforce through training and to prepare themselves for economic recovery. The Enhanced Training Support Package has since supported more than 212,000 training places between March 2020 and June 2021.

Individuals Must Take Ownership of Their Skills Development Journey

7. Today, we come together to recognise individuals who have particularly demonstrated how they embody the spirit of lifelong learning, and shown determination and dedication towards skills mastery, while supporting and inspiring those around them in the process.

8. One of them is Miss Shirley Tan, a strong believer of lifelong learning.

  1. More than 10 years ago, she entered the Early Childhood Care and Education sector without prior experience. Undaunted by the transition, Shirley pursued relevant programmes to acquire skills required for her new role.
  2. She currently heads the Catholic Preschool Education group and is one of the 14 pioneer recipients of the ECDA Fellows award.
  3. To help uplift the capabilities of the sector, Shirley designed and implemented the 'Connecting the Dots: From Survival to Maturity' project to train principals in the fraternity.

9. Mr Mohamad Nazree Bin Suhaimi Nazree is another exemplary individual. He works in the pest management sub-sector with Aardwolf Pestkare, and has made a concerted effort to deepen and broaden his skills to keep pace with changing industry needs.

  1. At the onset of COVID-19, he attended a course on "Cleaning, Disinfection and use of PPE" in anticipation of the higher demand for disinfection services.
  2. The skills he acquired from the course enabled his company to venture into disinfection services, contributing to revenue growth.
  3. Nazree intends to continue to deepen his skills through certification programmes in animal management.

10. In time to come, I hope that we will see more Singaporeans like Shirley and Nazree, who are passionate about lifelong learning and are committed towards their continuous pursuit of skills mastery.

Employers Play an Important Role in Supporting Skills Development

11. While it is imperative for individuals to take ownership of their own lifelong learning journey, it is often just as important that they are supported by their employers in this endeavour. This is why our current five-year plan for SkillsFuture, which we have called the Next Bound of SkillsFuture, places an enhanced focus on strengthening the role of enterprises in the skills ecosystem.

12. Companies play an important role in supporting their employees to upskill and reskill in order to progress in their careers or move into new sectors, and in recognising the skills that the employees have acquired. This is sometimes seen just as a business cost, but it is in fact an investment in the company's future.

  1. Companies who invest in their most important asset – their workforce – unsurprisingly reap the benefits of doing so.
  2. A recent MTI and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) study showed that companies that invested in training their employees reported positive returns – higher revenue, increased productivity, and greater employee retention rates.

13. Today, we will also recognise employers who are exemplars of advocating skills development and learning at the workplace. They believe that a competent workforce is critical to a successful business, and have taken ownership to build up the skills of their employees.

14. One such employer is dnata, a leading global air and travel services provider.

  1. To help their employees build and deepen their skills, dnata has sent them for training programmes such as the SkillsFuture Work-Study Diploma in Airport Operations, Specialist Diploma in Aviation Management and SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace; and tapped on the Enhanced Training Support Package to equip over 400 employees with emerging and priority skills during the economic downturn.
  2. Working with the Institutes of Higher Learning to build up their workplace learning capabilities and create a sustainable training ecosystem, dnata implemented a Training Development System that uses structured development roadmaps to build competencies and skills for their in-house and on-the-job trainers.

15. Another example is Toh Chin Leong Construction. This landscaping company believes in providing equal opportunities, regardless of the individual's experiences and qualifications. They identify their employees' skills gaps, and help them to bridge those gaps through structured on-the-job training, in-house training programmes and mentorship. Toh Chin Leong Construction is also one of the early adopters of the Progressive Wage Model for the Landscape sector. They have helped to uplift the sector's capabilities by supporting the government in the development of the Skills Framework for Landscape, and the technical and generic competencies for SkillsFuture Work-Study Diploma trainees, so that trainees can pick up the relevant industry skills and provide higher value services for their clients.

16. To encourage and recognise more companies in their skills development efforts, SSG will be refreshing the SkillsFuture Employer Awards from next year.

  1. There will be three award tiers: Platinum, Gold and Silver, to recognise companies at different stages of development in their workplace learning capabilities; for example, from putting in place skills-based training programmes and more progressive HR practices that recognise skills acquired; to contributing towards the development of talent pipeline for the industry.
  2. I encourage more employers, including those who are already doing so, to reapply for the awards next year, to reaffirm your sustained efforts in people and skills development and strive towards the next tier.

Conclusion

17. While there are still many uncertainties ahead in our path towards recovery, there are also new opportunities that continue to present themselves. As we look towards post-pandemic recovery, it is important for us to reposition ourselves for growth. This will require both employers and individuals to play their part, joining hands in working towards enterprise and workforce transformation. And I would like to emphasise this – enterprise and workforce transformation must go hand in hand. One cannot happen without the other.

18. And let us draw inspiration from the award recipients who have not just demonstrated skills mastery, but also inspired others in their lifelong learning journey. With more companies which are supportive of skills training, and Singaporeans who are committed towards lifelong learning, I am confident that we will be able to ride the waves of change. Our adaptability will be our nation's collective advantage, so let us build on this and emerge stronger together.

19. Once again, congratulations to all award recipients, and we look forward to working closely with all of you to strengthen the skills mastery of our workers and competitiveness of our companies, and bring about a better life for our people.

20. Thank you very much.

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