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MOE FY2023 Committee of Supply Debate Response by Minister of State for Education Gan Siow Huang

Published Date: 28 February 2023 09:30 PM

News Speeches

Learn for Life: Forging Our Collective Future

A vibrant CET ecosystem with companies leaning forward

Mr Chairman

1. Singaporeans will need greater agility and resilience in learning, amidst the rapid pace of industry transformation and dynamic demand for skills.

2. Several members including Mr Darryl David and Ms Mariam Jaafar asked how we will enable workers to adapt quickly to the changing job environment. The SkillsFuture movement is our national effort to build a culture of lifelong learning and equip Singaporeans with the skills they need to adapt and thrive. It requires ownership by employers, individual learners, and training providers, as well as close partnership with the tripartite partners.

3. In my speech, I will outline how we are supporting companies, individuals, and training providers to be a part of this collective movement to secure our future.

Firm-level: Supporting companies to upskill their workforce

4. First, on companies. Over the years, more companies are stepping forward to train and develop our workforce, lending strength to our SkillsFuture movement.

  1. Last year, about 20,000 companies participated in and benefitted from SSG-supported programmes. 96% of these were SMEs.
  2. For Financial Year 2022, SSG estimates that one-third of its total expenditure on training support will go towards employer-sponsored training.
  3. Since 2020, about 16,000 companies have tapped on SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit, a one-off $10,000 credit per company, to send their employees for SSG-supported training programmes.

5. To ensure relevance and responsiveness of upskilling, we will continue to work closely with companies as a key partner in workforce development.

6. Workplace Learning, in particular, is a key strategy that we are pursuing as it allows workers to upskill in-situ and on the job, minimising operational disruption to companies and workers.

7. Since 2018, the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning (NACE) has been helping companies to systematically build workplace learning capabilities. In 2022, NACE supported close to 500 companies, of which 80% were SMEs.

8. This year, NACE will partner NTUC to pilot the Workplace Skills Recognition (WPSR) Programme.

9. First, NACE will introduce a new tier of workplace learning certification, the Workplace Learning:READY (WPL:READY) mark, to recognise companies with basic capabilities in workplace learning.

10. NACE, NTUC and SSG will reach out to SMEs to equip them with capabilities to analyse their training needs, develop plans and processes to support workplace learning, and most importantly, train and recognise the competencies of their workers in specific skills.

11. Second, for SMEs that have attained the WPL:READY mark, NACE and NTUC will help them fast track the assessment and recognition of skills that the workers have acquired at the workplace. Workers in these SMEs can attain WSQ certification without having to attend external WSQ courses, once they are assessed to have acquired the necessary skills on the job.

12. Workers and employers in the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) sectors can benefit significantly from such an initiative. SSG and NTUC will start this pilot with SMEs in two PWM sectors – retail and food services.

13. Let me illustrate how this pilot will benefit workers and employers in the retail sector. Under the PWM, a Retail Assistant needs seven skills in order to take on the role of a Senior Retail Assistant. Today, these skills can be acquired through WSQ training programmes.

14. With Workplace Skills Recognition, the Retail Assistant who is working in a WPL:Ready mark company could be trained and assessed in these skills on the job. They can also be given the appropriate WSQ certifications for the skills that they have demonstrated at their workplace.

15. The certifications will enable the Retail Assistant to qualify for future promotion to the Senior Retail Assistant role under the PWM framework. Through this pilot, we hope that companies will be able to sustain upskilling of more workers.

16. Mr Patrick Tay suggested that employers provide training leave for their employees to undergo skills training. We will consult our tripartite partners and study the idea of training leave, taking into consideration the impact on businesses, especially SMEs.

Industry-Level: Enabling Companies to Appreciate Industry Shifts; Coordinating Training and Placement Efforts

17. Besides supporting individual companies in upskilling their workers, we also want to help companies appreciate the broader shifts at the industry level and the impact on them.

18. The Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) set out roadmaps for 23 industries, integrating restructuring efforts between Government and various industry stakeholders. All 23 ITMs have been refreshed, with updated jobs and skills strategies, to respond to a post-COVID-19 world.

19. In addition to the ITMs, companies can also reference SSG's Skills Demand for the Future Economy Report published in November last year. Using big data, the report provides an update on key developments and trends in the Green Economy, the Digital Economy, and the Care Economy, as well as changes in the skills that are needed across industries. I strongly encourage employers to take a look at the report if they are thinking about the new skills that their workers might require.

20. We will need to do more at the industry-level to coordinate training and placement efforts in sectors that are less regulated and have more SMEs, as mentioned by DPM Wong in the Budget Speech.

21. SSG, together with Workforce Singapore, Enterprise Singapore and Economic Development Board, will pilot Jobs-Skills Integrator, JSIT, in three sectors – Precision Engineering, Wholesale Trade and Retail. We will appoint suitable intermediaries such as industry associations, employment agencies and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) as JSITs.

22. Mr Darryl David, Mr Sharael Taha as well as many others asked for details on the JSIT pilot. We will start the pilot in the Precision Engineering (PE) sector, with Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP)'s School of Engineering leading the effort. NYP has a Centre for Digital and Precision Engineering, which has been playing a key role in training students and adult learners for the PE sector. Over the years, it has established strong partnerships with various training providers as well as industry stakeholders.

23. The PE sector has a high concentration of SMEs and mature workers. The sector is also known to have jobs and vacancies that are quite hard to fill. At the same time, industry transformation in this sector requires some employees to move into new roles in the future.

24. As the JSIT for the PE sector, NYP will engage companies to understand their manpower and skills needs and review existing training programmes to meet the needs of the industry.

25. NYP will partner the Singapore Precision Engineering and Technology Association, SPETA, to engage companies in the association's network.

26. NYP will also work with employment agencies and other training providers to enhance placement support and training for companies in the sector.

27. For SMEs in the PE sector that find it challenging to track industry developments, articulate your skills needs to training providers, and find workers with the right skills, NYP can serve as your first port of call for advice on emerging skills needs and industry-relevant training programmes for your workers. You can benefit from new manpower pipelines, with trained and skilled workers who can meet the demands of hard-to-fill or newly created jobs.

28. For workers in the PE sector, NYP will work with partners to offer careers and skills advisory services, and industry-relevant training programmes to support you in your career development.

29. For jobseekers, NYP can connect you with employment agencies and potential employers who will provide more information about the PE sector. You can access industry-relevant training programmes and employment facilitation services that are curated by NYP to support you in your journey.

30. Through this pilot, we hope to better meet the industry's need for skilled workforce, while enabling more workers to take up upskilling to meet their career aspirations and to stay employable.

Worker-Level: Ensure That Training Leads to Positive Employment Outcomes

31. Let me now turn to how we are supporting individuals in their upskilling journey.

32. Last year, about 560,000 individuals participated in SSG-supported programmes. This is a higher number than pre-COVID. Mr Patrick Tay suggested allowing individuals to use their SkillsFuture Credit for career coaching services. We will study this suggestion.

33. Mr Darryl David asked how we ensure that individuals who undergo reskilling and upskilling will be able to find jobs. During the pandemic, SSG ramped up train-and-place programmes, which combine skills training with employment facilitation to help individuals move into new industries or job roles that are relevant to their training.

34. The outcomes for these programmes have been encouraging. Among the close to 20,000 individuals who have completed the SGUnited Skills and the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways – Company Training programmes, more than 60% were successfully placed in jobs within six months of course completion.

35. Since last year, the SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme, SCTP, was introduced to help train and place mid-career workers into new job roles. Apart from facilitated training, the programme provides career advisory and employment assistance to support mid-career workers in their job search. SSG provides baseline subsidy of up to 70% of course fees, and enhanced subsidy of up to 90% of course fees for Singaporeans aged 40 and above. This will provide significant support for mature workers, which Ms Denise Phua spoke about.

36. Ms Ong Choon Mei, a former financial advisor, who successfully switched to the HR sector, is an SCTP beneficiary. Taking a career break to explore other opportunities last year, she enrolled in the SCTP in Applied HR and Business Digitalisation, a four-month course conducted by Singapore Polytechnic. SSG's course fee subsidy reduced the full course fee from more than $5,000 to about $600. Choon Mei did not have to pay any money out of her pocket as she used her SKillsFuture Credit to pay for the course fee.

37. As at December 2022, we have successfully launched 82 SCTP courses, in ten sectors with good employment opportunities, including Infocomm and Technology, Professional Services, and Healthcare. From April to December 2022, there have been over 1,000 enrolments.

Training Providers: Building Capabilities to Deliver Quality Training for Singaporeans

38. A vibrant, high quality and market-responsive training and adult education (TAE) sector is key to the success of the SkillsFuture movement and lifelong learning in Singapore.

39. The types of programmes we fund, and the outcomes we tie our funding to, are important levers for us to achieve this. Ms Foo Mee Har suggested introducing a quality framework that would require streamlining courses and grouping them into three broad categories with distinct objectives including funding allocation and KPIs.

40. Her suggestion reflects our current plan to a large extent, as SSG has started its transition towards outcome-based funding. Let me explain.

  1. By end-2024 when the transition is completed, SSG will provide the highest tier of subsidies at 70% of the course fees for programmes that deliver strong manpower outcomes in terms of securing employment and career progression. These courses include full qualification programmes and stackable modules that are recognised by the industry.
  2. SSG will continue to provide subsidies at up to 50% of the course fees for standalone courses that are designed to provide just-in-time, bite-sized skills top-up. These include SkillsFuture Series courses that are aimed at developing emerging skills.
  3. SSG will cease to provide course fee subsidies to non-certifiable courses, including self-improvement courses. To foster a culture of lifelong learning, individuals can continue to use their SkillsFuture Credit for these courses.
  4. Across all three categories, SSG tracks quality and outcomes through audits and by seeking learner and employer feedback. SSG will do more to enhance the quality of the feedback and to share this with individuals so that they can make informed choices. But we will also need the involvement of learners and companies to close the feedback loop with us, and improve the system for all.

41. Beyond its funding framework, SSG also looks at developing capabilities in the TAE sector. In 2018, SSG developed the TAE Industry Transformation Map (TAE ITM), in consultation with industry and training providers, to drive innovation and enhance productivity in the sector.

42. One of the priorities under the refreshed ITM is to raise the industry relevance and market responsiveness of training. The Skills Frameworks, which Mr Mark Chay asked about, facilitate this by providing critical information on sector transformation and a common skills language for workers, employers and training providers. A previous survey conducted on around 1,900 companies found that 44% had adopted the Skills Frameworks. The Skills Frameworks have been especially useful in our PWM efforts.

43. SSG is also driving innovation and digitalisation of the TAE sector. Professor Koh Lian Pin asked whether we could reduce the administrative burden on training providers. Indeed, as part of the TAE ITM, SSG will continue to do so by promoting process digitalisation. For example, SSG is now replacing manual attendance-taking processes with e-attendance taking via SingPass.

44. Mr Gerald Giam asked about how SSG ensures that SSG-funded courses are accessible to persons with disabilities (PwD). As far as is practicable, training providers will admit PwD learners into existing courses by making the necessary adjustments. SSG is working with SG Enable under MSF and other stakeholders such as Social Service Agencies to further expand CET opportunities for PwDs. This includes providing grants for training providers to customise courses for them. We appreciate that PwDs have very varied learning needs, and training providers assess them on a case-by-case basis to provide customised training support.

Impact of the SkillsFuture Movement

45. Government spending on CET has nearly doubled since the launch of the SkillsFuture movement, from around $0.5b in FY2016 to $0.9b in FY2022. As a percentage of GDP, our spending is comparable to the other OECD countries, and we continue to grow our investment in this area.

46. Several members asked about the outcomes that the SkillsFuture movement has achieved. Having invested significantly in this, what have our efforts led to?

47. Wage and employment outcomes are the most concrete and measurable outcomes arising from skills training. We monitor these outcomes through programme-specific surveys and studies. For example:

  1. Our annual survey on SkillsFuture Work-Study Programmes consistently showed that more than 90% of the trainees were employed within six months after completing the programme. Their median salaries were also higher than what they received at the start of the programme.
  2. In 2019, MTI published a study showing positive effects of the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) training on labour force participation and wages.

48. However, wage and employment outcomes do not always tell us the full picture. Reskilling may have helped workers who were otherwise at risk of displacement to keep their jobs or move to new job roles. These positive outcomes might not show up if we only looked at wages and job placements.

49. This is why we should take a broader view of the impact of the SkillsFuture movement and signpost progress over time.

  1. One dimension is whether the training helps workers to be more effective. In the Training Quality and Outcome Measurement or TRAQOM survey that SSG conducts on the courses it supports, more than 9 in 10 trainees said that the training enabled them to perform better at work.

50. We will continue to assist companies in developing workers, and support individuals in their upskilling journey. Importantly, we must have a continuing, active conversation across different stakeholders on the skills that are needed, which types of training are helpful and impactful, and where the gaps might be. Strengthening the impact of the SkillsFuture movement is a collective effort, and we must join hands on it, to succeed.

51. Mr Chairman, allow me to say a few words in Mandarin.

52. 职场学习是我们支持企业与员工的一个着重点。

53. 全国职场学习中心(NACE)将同全国职工总会(NTUC)合作,协助中小企业加强让员工进行职场学习的能力,并认证员工的工作技能。员工便无需报读额外的指定课程,也能获取资格认证。这项计划将先为零售和餐饮服务中小企业推出。

54. 另外,我们必须加强员工培训和就业方面的协调。我们将在某些领域委任指定机构为"就业与培训协调处"(JSIT)。

55. 我们将率先在精密工程业指定南洋理工学院(NYP)为就业与培训协调处。南洋理工学院将与公司接洽,了解它们的人力和技能需求,并与培训机构合作,以确保学员能够掌握企业所需的技能。该中心也将与职业介绍所合作,加强为求职者提供的就业援助。

Update on Green Plan; Partnering Parents and Community

56. Let me now respond to cuts filed by members on other topics and give an update on MOE's Green Plan.

Singapore international schools in ASEAN capitals

57. Mr Jamus Lim suggested funding and subsidising international schools in major ASEAN capital cities. We have set up a Singapore international school in Hong Kong. Whether we would do so in other cities depends on whether there is a critical mass of schooling age Singaporean children who are concentrated in an area, and whether their parents want to put them through the Singapore curriculum or prefer other options.

Singapore – an education hub

58. Mr Mark Chay asked about MOE's plans to improve the quality and credibility of private education institutions (PEIs) and whether applications for student passes and other approvals can be more seamless. MOE and SSG regularly review the governance standards required of PEIs under the mandatory Enhanced Registration Framework and EduTrust schemes. The onus though, is on PEIs to regularly review their curricula and course offerings to ensure that they can prepare their graduates well.

59. Today, foreign students who are accepted by an EduTrust-certified institution to pursue full-time courses in Singapore can apply for a Student's Pass through ICA's eService. This is a one-stop process, and most applicants are notified of the outcome within one month.

60. Mr Mark Chay also asked whether different registration processes can be streamlined. I would like to clarify that the Enhanced Registration Framework (ERF) and registration to be an SSG training provider serve different purposes. Private Education Institutions (PEIs) are educational institutions that offer programmes such as diplomas and degrees, which students may invest substantial time and money in. The ERF ensures that PEIs have baseline standards in areas such as corporate and academic governance, with a focus on consumer protection; while the Edutrust scheme further distinguishes PEIs with a consistently high standard of governance. The registration of training providers for their courses to be funded by SSG, on the other hand, ensures that training providers have appropriate track records and processes to conduct training, that the trainers have requisite adult pedagogical training, and course contents that fully cover the skills and competencies under the Skills Framework.

MOE's Green Plan update

61. Finally, on the topic of Singapore Green Plan, MOE launched the Eco Stewardship Programme (ESP) in 2021 to strengthen environmental education in our schools. There are four pillars in the Eco Stewardship Programme, namely Curriculum, Culture, Community and Campus.

62. In 2023, our focus will be on food sustainability. MOE will support schools in areas such as emphasising sustainability in food production in our curriculum, and setting up of facilities for students to apply what they learnt on food production and food waste management. The IHLs will continue to enhance skills training and research in sustainability related areas.


63. Mr Chairman, MOE is committed to building a culture of lifelong learning and equipping Singaporeans with the knowledge and skills that they need to thrive in school and at work. To this end, we will build on partnerships with the industry, unions, training providers, sector agencies and the community. Together, we will forge our collective future.