Speeches/Interviews

July 31, 2018

Speech by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State For Education at the Skillsfuture Fellowships and Skillsfuture Employer Awards Presentation Ceremony at Intercontinental Hotel

President Halimah Yacob

Minister for Education Mr Ong Ye Kung

Recipients of the SkillsFuture Fellowships and SkillsFuture Employer Awards

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Good evening. I am very happy to join everyone at this year’s SkillsFuture Fellowships and SkillsFuture Employer Awards Presentation ceremony. Let me begin by congratulating our 29 SkillsFuture Fellowships and 27 SkillsFuture Employer Awards recipients! Many thanks also to our tripartite partners for their support in making these awards possible, and to Madam President, for gracing the occasion. We are deeply honoured by your presence this evening.

Importance of SkillsFuture

2. This is the second year we are giving out the Awards, and I am encouraged to see the SkillsFuture movement making good progress and gaining support from our employers and workers. This is an important part of our economic development strategy, to prepare our companies and workforce to be future-ready and to benefit from the new opportunities in our future economy.

3. Singapore’s training participation rate, which measures the proportion of our workforce taking up work-related training, has increased for a second consecutive year, from 35% in 2015 to 42% in 2016, and again in 2017 to about 48%. We need to keep this up and encourage everyone to embrace lifelong learning, and continually look for ways to learn new skills, upgrade existing skills and prepare ourselves for anticipated changes on the road ahead.

4. MOE and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) have rolled out a variety of SkillsFuture initiatives over the past few years. We worked with our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) to launch the SkillsFuture Series modular courses last October, which is a curated list of short, industry-relevant training programmes. As at 30 May this year, over 11,000 individuals have participated in the SkillsFuture Series. We will build on this initial momentum and bring in other partners, including employers and unions, to work together to expand the range of courses. This tripartite, whole-of-nation approach will be a key focus for the next phase of our SkillsFuture journey.

Enhancing Employer Support and Involvement

5. Employers are important partners because you play a critical role in supporting your employees on their lifelong learning, and equipping them with the right mindset and skills to embrace new market trends and technologies. One initiative to achieve these objectives is the SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace programme, which has benefitted over 12,000 Singaporeans since its launch in October 2017.

6. Companies are often the first to sense what are the new skills needed for your business operations and what are the existing skills gaps in the workforce. The government and IHLs will continue to involve industry representatives in designing our SkillsFuture initiatives and training courses to ensure they remain relevant in meeting industry needs. We also want to work with leading employers to provide training, not only for their own employees, but for the industry sector as a whole.

7. Last Friday, Minister Ong witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to launch the SAP Skills University Singapore. It will work closely with the five polytechnics to develop and deliver training programmes to meet specific skills needs of the ICT sector, including SAP’s customers and partners. The collaboration will also offer career advisory and placements services for ICT-related jobs, with funding support from SSG. We welcome more of such industry collaborations in different sectors, and hope to extend the partnership arrangements to other leading companies in Singapore.

8. In a recent Lianhe Zaobao article, Professor Ang Ser-Keng from Singapore Management University said that employers play an important role in inspiring their workers to learn and become more productive. I agree with Professor Ang. Investing in skills development also increases job satisfaction and staff retention, as employees feel that their personal and professional development are well-cared for. In turn, employees who are better-skilled can help the company grow further. It is a win-win arrangement. We have good employers who are already adopting such an enlightened approach, including many of you who are present here tonight. We need more to come on board if we want this to become a key attribute of our corporate culture in Singapore.

9. Mr Abdul Jalil Bin Idros, one of our SkillsFuture Fellowships recipients this year, has been working with YTL PowerSeraya for 23 years. He worked his way up from a Technical Officer and is now a Senior Engineer overseeing a team in maintenance and operations. Supported by his employer, Mr Abdul Jalil balanced work and family commitments to pursue a Bachelor of Technology in Electronic Engineering, as well as a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering at the National University of Singapore.

10. As an in-house trainer, he taps on his experience and knowledge gained from his part-time and post-graduate degrees in Engineering to conduct courses on operations and maintenance, as well as on-the-job training and briefings to colleagues to heighten their cybersecurity awareness. Congratulations to Mr Abdul Jalil on your achievements, and kudos to YTL PowerSeraya for being a good employer and providing its employees with the support and encouragement for their lifelong learning.

11. With companies investing in skills development, the benefits can extend to the entire industry. Another SkillsFuture Fellowships recipient tonight, Mdm Thamarai Nagalinggam, is a Senior Cluster Quality Manager at NTUC First Campus Co-operative Limited. She uses her wealth of experience and training in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) to mentor and guide pre-school principals in their professional development. She also supported the development and adoption of the Skills Framework for ECCE, which benefits other providers and workers in this sector. Thank you Mdm Thamarai and NTUC First Campus Cooperative for your contributions, and congratulations on your achievements.

Strengthening Industry Capabilities

12. Let me also acknowledge some of the other employers who are here this evening, and thank them for their strong support for SkillsFuture and lifelong learning. One such company is Accenture, which has invested significantly in staff development, using blended learning modes to facilitate training and knowledge sharing. Accenture is a strong supporter of our SkillsFuture initiatives, partnering the IHLs on the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme and the SkillsFuture Work-Study Degree Programme to train students in emerging areas such as big data, cloud computing, and cyber-security.

13. I am also heartened to see our Small and Medium Enterprises coming forward to support the SkillsFuture movement, and tapping on the different initiatives to develop the skills and capabilities of their employees.

14. As a leading household name for Traditional Chinese Medicine, Eu Yan Sang is a strong advocate of continuous learning and skills upgrading. Besides focusing on its own employees, it also helps to provide training for other professionals in the industry. It set up the Eu Yan Sang Academy in 2014 and partners the Singapore College of TCM to provide professional development opportunities for TCM practitioners in Singapore.

15. Minister Ong launched the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning yesterday. Led by Nanyang Polytechnic and supported by SSG, the Centre will tap on the expertise of Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, and the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce for workplace learning.

16. The Centre will help companies build their capability to train and develop their workers. This will be done through training and certifying the trainers, and offering companies with customised solutions to develop their in-house training systems. I encourage companies to tap on this resource and the co-funding provided by SSG.

Conclusion

17. Ladies and gentlemen, building a culture that embraces lifelong learning will require the collective effort of our tripartite partners – businesses, unions and the Government, all working on this together as a whole-of-nation initiative. We want to grow a competitive economy that is both pro-enterprise and pro-worker, and which is supported by pillars of strength in having deep skills and knowledge; good connectivity with the world, smart adoption of technology; and a trusted Singapore brand name which stands for quality and reliability.

18. As we press on towards this common goal, let us draw inspiration from today’s awardees, who have blazed the trail and shown the way. By supporting SkillsFuture, they are supporting a passion for lifelong learning; a willingness to work together with others to prepare for change; and a pursuit of continuous improvement for excellence. These are also the qualities of successful individuals and companies, and what we need as a society to keep Singapore vibrant, innovative and successful in the future.

19. Congratulations once again to all our award winners. Thank you and have a pleasant evening ahead.