Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at STL-SCEU Learning Festival at Toll City on 22 February 2022, 9:20am

Published Date: 22 February 2022 01:10 PM

News Speeches

Distinguished guests

Introduction

1. A very good morning to all of you.

  1. It is always a pleasure to meet up with colleagues and friends from Toll City and ST Logistics.
  2. First and foremost, let me thank ST Logistics for your efforts over the last two years to help our country acquire the essentials that were perhaps taken for granted pre-COVID.
  3. Having said that, COVID-19 has accelerated many changes, and brought home lessons that will remain with us for a long time to come.
  4. Today, for instance, many more friends from ST Logistics are dialing in, freed from the constraints of physical space that limited previous participation.

2. Two weeks ago, I shared our vision for our universities and lifelong education. Today, I would like to focus on the continuum of our education and training system, which STL and the Supply Chain Employees' Union (SCEU) contributes to.

3. The realities that underpin our thinking are these:

  1. First, the shelf-life of skills continues to shorten.
  2. For workers, relevance comes from currency.
  3. And currency comes from continuous upgrading.
  4. No amount of education before entering the workforce can prevent obsolescence.
  5. Second, having the relevant skills nowadays is more important than joining the sunrise or relevant sectors.
  6. In fact, the sectors will evolve. The old sectors may disappear and new ones may emerge.
  7. We cannot protect jobs.
  8. But we certainly must protect our workers.
  9. And the best way to protect our workers is to make sure that they have the relevant skills to pivot across different sectors as these evolve.

4. We have, therefore, two very simple goals for our education and training system - first, to start right and second, to progress well. And, from these two simple goals of starting right and progressing well, there are several key things that we need to do well:

  1. First, to start right, we must guide our people well to understand their strengths and interests; and we must make sure that we equip them with the right competencies for a good start, and these are all part of our pre-employment training.
  2. But the second part is even more important, and that is for our workers and companies to progress well. This means that our workers must continue to learn and have the opportunity to learn throughout their life; and this is why I commend ST Logistics, together with the Supply Chain Employees' Union, for creating such opportunities and the roadmap for people to learn.
  3. Just now, from the video we saw, what caught my eye was ST Logistics' skills map, which was developed through the workers' accumulated experiences. To progress well, we need to make sure that our workers can continue to learn and always have opportunities to learn.
  4. The second part of progressing well has to do with our companies. Our workers' upskilling must progress in tandem with our companies' transformation. There is less motivation for our workers to upgrade their skills if our companies do not become receptacles for them to apply those skills.
  5. On the other hand, if our companies transform their operations and we are unable to keep pace with the retraining of our workers, then we will not have the necessary manpower, nor the quality of manpower, that is needed to propel our companies forward.

Importance of career guidance, so that students discover their strengths and interests

5. Let me start with our Education and Career Guidance (ECG) in secondary schools and beyond. One of the key things that we need to do is for our students to graduate with a good understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, and interests. More informed choices will reduce the attrition from school to workplace.

  1. Over the years, we have strengthened our career guidance in our schools, and we will continue to do that, including for our Polytechnics and ITE. The best career counselling and guidance does not necessarily come from just the schools, the teachers and the lecturers. The most powerful career guidance comes from people in the industry, and I hope that our industry leaders, like what we have here today in front of us with ST Logistics, and even the Supply Chain Employees' Union, will partner our schools, polytechnics, ITE, talk to our students and let them know the opportunities in the sectors. This will be the most powerful testimony for our students.
  2. Of course, at the same time, we will also look for opportunities for our teachers to join some of the companies for some time to experience the possibilities and opportunities here. And with that, they can share their experiences and observations with their own students. We hope to see this partnership in strengthening our career guidance for our students.

Currency of the curriculum, internships and industry exposure

6. The second part about starting right is to make sure that we keep our curriculum up to date, working hand-in-hand with our industries.

  1. For example, Nanyang Polytechnic's Diploma in Business Intelligence is developed with industry partners, such as Google Cloud, Microsoft, Oracle Academy and SAS. Such partnerships shorten the cycle for transfer of knowledge from frontier companies to our education institutions and academia.
  2. Under Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Personalised Learning Pathway, students can also do a Minor in Entrepreneurship and network with start-ups and industry leaders.
  3. Our lecturers must acquire the industry-relevant skills through such partnerships. For example, Singapore Polytechnic works with companies to conduct 'train-the-trainer' sessions, which shorten the cycle of how SP staff acquire and pass on the skills they learn to our students.
  4. Recently, Republic Polytechnic sent one of their lecturers on a five-month attachment to a deep-tech start-up company that specialises in healthcare Internet of Things (IoT). The lecturer was able to apply his expertise during the attachment and, very importantly, brought back new knowledge and learnings to his students. I therefore encourage our Polytechnics and ITE to send more of their lecturers on such attachment programmes, and I also urge our companies to open up such opportunities to our Polytechnics, lecturers and staff.
  5. When companies come on board to train our students and faculty, you have access to the talent pool, because the lecturers and the faculty will be your best salesmen to recruit the next generation of workers.
  6. This two-way exchange is important, and must continually be strengthened.

7. We are also offering more quality industry exposure opportunities, for students to learn from the latest workplace developments.

  1. When MOE, under Dr Maliki's guidance, worked on the Review of our Polytechnic and ITE pathways, one of the significant things we wanted to continue to improve was the quality of our internships. Internships bring to life what the students learn in their textbooks. And this is why quality internships need quality industry partners like ST Logistics. When the interns have a positive learning experience with a company, chances are that they will join the company, they will stay in the industry, and that will significantly reduce attrition. I thank companies like ST Logistics, which have opened their doors to many of scholarship holders and interns to experience what it is like to have a career in the supply chain industry.

Continuous learning through work

8. Having equipped our people with the right skills for a strong start, our next objective, which is our third prong, must be to encourage them to keep learning throughout their lives, and to have a mindset that they are never done with learning.

  1. This is not about the paper chase, but the timely acquisition of knowledge and skills. So, courses - in different formats - should be on tap for people to plug and play as they need. Learning must be an activity that anyone can do at any time, and at any place - this is our aspiration.
  2. We have diversified the ways in which learning can take place. Work-Study programmes, for instance, allow adult learners to upskill while remaining in employment. ITE recently launched the Work Study Diploma in E-commerce & Retail course, co-designed with Cold Storage Singapore and comes with workplace experience in the retail industry.
  3. Another modality would be modular courses that address immediate skills needs on a just-in-time basis. Some of these can be stackable, conferring micro credentials that can later count towards a full qualification. This includes many offerings at IHLs and also WSQ certifications in many job roles.
  4. Another idea that we are working on is to collaborate with frontier companies, like ST Logistics, to create new courses and modules, as our workers progress through the system. This would be the apex of what we call just-in-time learning. To design and develop the curriculum as the business process evolves. If we can embrace this model of learning, then I am sure our workers will find it relevant to participate in these courses, and companies will find it meaningful to allow and help our workers to gain the new knowledge - this is mutually beneficial.

IHLS as partners in workplace learning and transformation

9. Let me now elaborate on the fourth prong. As we equip our people with in-demand skills, they need meaningful jobs and employers with the ability to make best use of these skills.

  1. The training of workers and company transformation must therefore go hand in hand.
  2. Companies have ready partners in our IHLs to help transform processes, move up the value chain and develop manpower capabilities.
  3. For example, Temasek Polytechnic's Advanced Manufacturing Centre, set up in collaboration with TP's partners such as Omron, combines a training centre for students and adult learners, with a consultancy to support companies' Industry 4.0 transformation efforts.
  4. Republic Polytechnic's Centre of Innovation (COI) in Supply Chain Management has worked with over 400 companies, and completed over 800 consultancy projects.
  5. The companies benefit from this type of collaboration and consultancy, as they are able to use the skillsets and knowledge from our IHLs to improve their processes.
  6. On the other hand, our lecturers retain and improve their currency with the latest technology and business processes. This enables them to transmit this knowledge to the students as soon as possible. So when students graduate, they are ready for the company, instead of the companies having to train them based on the foundational knowledge that they have. This is how we can shorten the cycle, from frontier industry knowledge and practices through the academia, and in turn benefiting the industry as soon as possible.

10. I see our frontier companies as part of our wider education and training ecosystem. The polytechnics, ITE and the Autonomous Universities cannot do this alone. We need the companies' partnership to make sure that we have cutting edge training in our curriculum, and enable adult learners to keep learning.

Making learning accessible for adult learners

11. The fifth prong is we need to improve our andragogy and scale up our abilities to use new training approaches suited for adult learners. This is so that everyone not only has the skills that they need for their current job, but also extra skills that will them to transit to the next job that they might do.

  1. If we look at ST Logistics' skills map, they are not only training for today's jobs and tasks, but also equipping workers with a bit of surplus skills that they can use to pivot and take on new jobs, whether in the absence of co-workers or when the company transforms.
  2. Without that little bit of skills surplus, companies will always find it difficult to move fast if the workers cannot keep pace. Companies with foresight like ST Logistics will constantly want to invest in their workers ahead-of-time, and not just-in-time, and that is the hallmark of a great company. I am sure with this attitude, many of the workers and employees would look forward to such jobs which are not just equipping the workforce for today's jobs, but also for tomorrow's challenges.
  3. The other thing that we may notice from ST Logistics' effort today is the use of digital skills. Its application is again, not just for the task at hand. Instead, the foundations built up will allow workers to pivot across the different job areas and acquire different skillsets as technology changes.
  4. Another example that I would like to cite today is HMI Institute's efforts on the swabber training and Supervisory Training in ART self-swab. At the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, they had to scale up by one order of magnitude to reach tens of thousands per month. They achieved that by breaking down the tasks and using digital technologies, online and offline training combined, to scale up the training efforts There are many lessons we can learn from how we can use such technologies, pedagogies and andragogy to scale up the training for our workers to make sure that they are able to acquire the knowledge that they need in a timely manner. So, never waste a crisis. The many lessons learnt from COVID can, and should be applied beyond the pandemic.

12. I am very pleased that ST Logistics is signing an MOU today with the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning (NACE) to embark on the National Workplace Learning Certification Journey. I hope that you will also share your learnings and experiences with other sectors, so that together we can uplift the skills of our workers in a much more timely manner.

  1. And that's why I would like to congratulate Logan and your team for all your efforts to take ownership of not just transforming your company, but transforming and upgrading your workers' skills as you evolve your company. And that, I believe, will certainly motivate your staff to keep learning, to stay nimble, and to stay relevant.

Conclusion

13. I spoke today on five key points:

  • Importance of career guidance, so that students discover their strengths and interests
  • Currency of the curriculum, to shorten the lead time for emerging skills to find their way to students and internships and industry exposure, as the workplace is an extension of the classroom
  • Continuous learning through work
  • IHLs as partners in workplace learning and transformation
  • Making learning accessible for adult learners

14. There is a larger purpose behind all that we are doing. The ultimate goal of what we want to see in our continuous learning journey, is not just economic gains, but personal growth that gives our people a sense of accomplishment, fulfilment, and contribution.

15. Thank you very much, and I wish you all a fruitful discussion ahead.

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