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ABOUT 18,000 Singaporeans have already used their SkillsFuture credits to attend various courses in the first three months of this year, with the government having disbursed around S$5.2 million.
Giving this update in Parliament on Friday, Acting Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung described this as a "healthy number": "(It's) not a mad rush, yet a good response. What's encouraging is that 17 per cent of them are aged 60 and above."
And nearly half who have used their credits are under 40.
Mr Ong was responding to queries by backbenchers Baey Yam Keng and Desmond Choo, who both wanted to know the take-up rate for the SkillsFuture Credit so far.
All Singaporeans aged 25 and up each have an account with a starting balance of S$500 in credits, which can be used for skills upgrading courses. The credits do not expire. The government will make top-ups at intervals.
The credits are a key feature of the SkillsFuture national movement, which aims to help Singaporeans master their skills to realise their full potential, regardless of their starting points.
The government is spending more than S$1 billion a year from now to 2020 on initiatives such as career guidance for students, enhanced internships and subsidies for mid-career learning, among many others.
Mr Ong also announced that the government will expand the number of eligible courses to 12,500 by the end of this month, up from the approximately 10,000 courses that were available in January.
The Law Ministry, Design Singapore and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore have already got on board, taking the number of public agencies involved to 12.
To help more people with disabilities learn skills, the Education Ministry and the Social and Family Development Ministry will look into how the Post-Secondary Education Account and SkillsFuture Credit can be rationalised to better support this group.
Another aspect of SkillsFuture that will get an upgrade is the Earn and Learn Programme (ELP), a dual-track work-study programme under which students deepen their skills and knowledge in school while acquiring experience in industries.
Last year, 150 students were placed in 50 firms across 15 ELPs in 12 sectors; Mr Ong said 20 more ELPs in 10 sectors will join that list, including electronics and healthcare.
Graduates from the Institute of Technical Education, meanwhile, will have a new ELP pathway that enables them to work towards a part-time polytechnic diploma.
Two new ELPs will lead to a part-time diploma in the air-transport sector, and plans are being made for similar ELPs in the public transport, ICT and hotel sectors.
Mr Ong said: "With this pathway, ITE graduates can take modules that are relevant to their current work first. They can focus on upgrading their skills to do a better job, without rushing to get a paper qualification for its own sake."