Speeches/Interviews

December 08, 2020

Address by Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, Second Minister for Education, at the Work-Study Diploma Signing Ceremony, at ITE HQ

Mr Andrew Chong
Chairman, ITE Board of Governors

Ms Low Khah Gek
CEO, ITE

Dr Gog Soon Joo
Chief Skills Officer, SkillsFuture Singapore

Dr Robert Yap
President, Singapore National Employers Federation

Industry Partners

ITE Work-Study Diploma graduands

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. A very good afternoon to you. It is my pleasure to join you for this year's ITE SkillsFuture Work-Study Diploma (WSDip) Signing Ceremony.

2. Since August, I have been visiting the polytechnics and ITE to meet students and their parents, as well as adult learners, to understand their education experience. In my visits to ITE, students and parents have told me how dedicated and supportive ITE staff have been. In many cases, the bonds forged between staff and students last a lifetime and have helped our students succeed in their education and as they transit into the workforce. Many tell me that their lecturers are often their mentors whom they can consult when they reach critical decision points throughout their lives. We celebrated the inaugural Poly-ITE Staff Appreciation Day on 6 November 2020, where we recognised the efforts of all staff in our polytechnics and ITE. Again, thank you all for your dedication and tireless efforts to bring out the best in each and every one of our students.

3. The students also shared with me that they appreciated ITE's hands-on and industry-relevant curriculum. They were excited to use ITE's learning facilities which leverage the latest digital tools and advanced technologies that mirror those in the workplace. Students also welcomed the opportunity to apply their skills in a real-world environment while in ITE.

ITE Work-Study Diploma & Collaboration with Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF)

4. The demand for applied learning was one of the reasons we started the ITE WSDip programme. This was launched in 2018 as the Work-Learn Technical Diploma, as another shift in Singapore's higher education landscape towards a focus on skills application and mastery, and employment.

5. Since launching the first courses, ITE has worked hard to expand and establish the WSDip as a mainstream offering for ITE graduates. ITE started with 4 courses and 100 trainees in 2018. It has grown to 24 courses with over 750 trainees enrolled in 2020. ITE will be launching 6 additional new courses, for a total of 30, offering 850 new places in 2021.

6. My heartiest congratulations to the 62 trainees from three of the inaugural batch of courses for having successfully completed their courses after 2.5 years of working and studying. For those in the first batch of the Maritime and Offshore Engineering course who are nearing the end of their 3-year course, please continue to keep up your hard work in this final stretch.

7. The preliminary outcomes for these pioneer graduates are positive. 75% of graduates continue to work in their host companies after completing their programmes, with about two-thirds of this group receiving a salary increment upon graduation. Daniel Ezzra completed his Nitec in Electronics (Mobile Devices) at ITE and chose to take up the WSDip in Security Systems Engineering because it allowed him to further his studies and earn a salary at the same time. When he enrolled in the course, he was expecting the training to help him progress in his chosen career. Two and a half years later, both Daniel and his supervisor are happy with how far he has come. Today, he is the top trainee in his course and doing well as a Field Engineer at Certis Technlogy.

8. ITE has modelled the WSDips closely after Germany's dual track apprenticeship system, with companies playing a pivotal role in providing quality workplace-based learning. The WSDip's ethos of "learning by doing" is a central feature of the curriculum, where 70% of the programme comprises on-the-job training (OJT). Trainees have ample opportunity to hone and master their skills in a workplace environment as employees. ITE supports companies by providing their employees academically rigorous on-campus classroom-based learning, comprising 30% of the curriculum. This ensures trainees are equipped with essential core skills and knowledge. ITE also develops company trainers' competencies and OJT plans. In Singapore, the government also steps in to provide substantial funding support for individuals and companies in the form of course fee subsidies and incentives.

9. This emphasis on hands-on learning is what attracted Lim Kok Jeng to the WSDip programme. Kok Jeng was working in the F&B industry but decided he wanted to gain valuable practical know-how to work in the growing healthcare sector. He thus chose to enrol in the WSDip in Rehabilitation Care and is currently employed full-time as a trainee by Yishun Community Hospital. He spends 4 days a week working at the Hospital and return to ITE College East once a week to equip himself with the theoretical knowledge important for his work.

10. The WSDip's strong focus on applied learning is only possible because of ITE's close partnerships with WSDip companies. ITE works hand in hand with its industry partners to co-develop and co-deliver the curriculum. It is an intensive effort, but industry partners have found this a worthwhile investment to build and sustain their talent pipeline. This is why companies such as events technology provider GlobalSign.in (GSI) have decided to join the programme. As more events pivot to virtual platforms, GSI was looking for talent that could adapt quickly to changes in the events industry as events move online. They saw how the WSDip equips trainees with theoretical and practical knowledge and would thus be a good way for them to secure a pipeline of skilled employees and remain competitive.

11. Such close cooperation with industry is crucial, given the increasing scale and pace of economic transformation and disruption. Programmes like the WSDip benefit both individuals and companies by building a strong nexus between industry and training. Company involvement in the training design and delivery process ensures the curriculum is industry-relevant and responds nimbly to the changing skills needs of companies. We remain committed to growing Work-Study Programmes such as the WSDip under the Next Bound of SkillsFuture, as part of our target for 12% of every student cohort to undergo Work-Study programmes by 2025. I would like to thank the 274 companies that have come on board and taken in our WSDip trainees thus far. Despite COVID-19, 230 companies have committed to take in ITE trainees under WSDip 2021. Post COVID-19, we hope more companies will do so as we ride on the economic upturn.

12. In addition to its partnerships with industry on the WSDips, ITE will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today with the Singapore National Employer Federation (SNEF). This collaboration will strengthen workplace-based training, skills upgrading and career progression for employees. ITE will work closely with SNEF to bring more companies into ITE's Certified On-the-Job-Training Centre (COJTC) programme to provide high quality, structured OJT to their employees. ITE will also support SNEF in SNEF's SAPPHIRE initiative, which helps companies transform into progressive and lean organisations. The initiative will foster CEO, management and HR partnerships to transform workplaces by integrating productivity, HR and Industrial Relations (IR) practices. I am heartened to see employers, supported by ITE, taking an active interest in supporting and developing their employees to prepare them for the industry of the future. For a start, ITE and SNEF aims to reach out to all 3,000 SNEF member companies in 2021 under the COJTC and SAPPHIRE initiatives.

13. 2020 has been a challenging year. Many companies are having to manage the impact of COVID-19 and may be hesitant to commit to new investments. I urge companies to continue placing their workforce as their priority and continue supporting their skills development. I encourage companies to consider participating in place-and-train programmes like the WSDip. As the economy recovers, such investment in your workers and in your pipeline of talent will pay off. It will sustain your competitiveness and put you in good stead to emerge stronger. As we expand the slate of WSDip programmes, we will continue to work with companies to ensure good trainee, as well as employer, outcomes.

Gearing Up for the Future

14. The steady expansion of Work-Study Programmes like the WSDip is one key aspect of how the polytechnics and ITE are evolving to meet the aspirations of our students and help ensure good employment outcomes. We must continue to ensure our students are well equipped with the necessary skills to embark on fulfilling careers, amid rapidly-transforming job roles and manpower demands.

15. There is scope for us to go further, build on our position of strength, and ask ourselves how we can do even better to support our increasingly diverse profile of polytechnic and ITE students, to help them seize opportunities and thrive in the future economy.

16. In my conversations with the polytechnic and ITE students, I learnt of their experience in navigating the diverse pathways in our education system. Their life journeys are all different, but one common theme is their drive to learn and upskill. One student I spoke to was Kousalya D/O Selvakumar. As a mother of four, Kousalya put her studies on hold after completing her secondary school to start a family and was a stay-home mother for a number of years. She decided to return to studies after her children were a bit older, and completed a Nitec in Nursing in 2019, 15 years after her O-Levels. With the support and encouragement from the ITE team, Kousalya did very well in her course. She was one of the top students in her batch and was selected for an overseas nursing studies exchange programme in the USA. She is now pursuing a Diploma in Nursing at Ngee Ann Polytechnic and hopes to do a degree in Nursing one day.

17. I also met Muhammad Amirul Adli Bin Roslee, who chose to enter the Nitec in Fitness Training course at ITE, as he has a strong interest in fitness coaching. He thrived under ITE's hands-on approach to learning and decided to upgrade his skills in the field, through the Higher Nitec in Sport Management. Amirul graduated earlier this year and has applied for the newly launched Work-Study Diploma in Fitness Management where he hopes to gain work experience and kickstart his career in fitness coaching.

Review of Pathways and Opportunities in Polytechnics and ITE

18. We are creating many opportunities for our graduates. MOE recognises the value of applied education pathways for our students to gain skills relevant to industry. Even so with almost 70 percent of our Primary 1 cohort choosing the ITE and polytechnic route. We have been studying how to provide more opportunities in applied education, so that more students like Kok Jeng, Kousalya and Amirul can benefit. As Minister for Education Lawrence Wong mentioned last week, I am leading a review on pathways and opportunities in the polytechnics and ITE to better support the diverse and unique strengths and aspirations of our students in their post-secondary education journey, as well as the needs of our employers and industry.

19. Let me outline the key areas. First, we will look at how to further enhance the curriculum to better prepare graduates for the workforce. Given industry transformation and the need for higher skills, a key focus in particular will be strengthening ITE's & polytechnics' curricular offerings and pathways for its students to build higher skills and provide more upgrading opportunities. Our Nitec and Higher Nitec programmes have served generations of students well by nurturing them with deep technical skills relevant to the workforce. We will explore strengthening the ITE curriculum so students can continue to leverage on skills learnt to remain relevant in the future economy.

20. Second, we will augment opportunities and services for students and fresh graduates as they embark on their journey of building their careers and continuing skills upgrading or re-skilling. The WSDip and WSPostDip programmes are one key pathway for this. We will examine how pathways can be enhanced and expanded.

21. Third, we will also study how to expand community partnerships and programmes to better support and uplift students with higher needs.

22. In the coming months, we will engage students and alumni, as well as tap on insights from industry members and educators. I look forward to working closely with our polytechnics and ITE to help secure a brighter future for our students.

Conclusion

23. I would once again like to thank ITE for its unstinting efforts to expand and enhance the WSDip, as well as our industry partners for supporting our trainees in their programme. To our WSDip trainees, I wish you an enriching and fulfilling employment, and lifelong learning journey. To the graduands, my heartiest congratulations.

Thank you.