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Helping ITE, poly grads move up the ladder

Panel to assist them to find right jobs, progress in careers

[SINGAPORE] A new tripartite committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, will be set up to help Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnic graduates get the right jobs and move up the ladder.

This committee - to comprise representatives from the government, employers and unions - will be tasked with developing an "integrated system" of education, training and career progression for all Singaporeans, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday at the National Day Rally.

Its other task will be to promote industry support and social recognition for people to advance based on their skills.

As he outlined a vision of a country where its citizens are given full opportunity to achieve their potential, Mr Lee shared how it was possible for people to do well even if they did not go through university.

Besides the academic route, he spoke of how Singaporeans could succeed in life by getting good jobs, mastering deep skills and gaining relevant qualifications along the way.

He said that the Aspire committee, set up last year to look at ways to help ITE and polytechnic graduates advance in life, will announce its recommendations soon.

Aspire - Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review - is chaired by Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah.

Broadly, the recommendations will include ways to help students make better education and career decisions; help polytechnic and ITE graduates get into jobs for which they were trained and have the right skills; help individuals to progress and upgrade after entering the workforce; and develop structured career paths for them.

Mr Lee admitted that implementing this "work and study" path on a national scale would not be easy, given that it involves multiple stakeholders and many government agencies.

The unions are already fully behind the effort and championing lifelong learning. Companies, too, must develop and value every worker and create the corporate values, cultures and training systems.

In his speech, Mr Lee singled out Keppel Corporation as one company that enables its employees to progress by helping them acquire deep skills and knowledge throughout their careers.

He cited some examples of Keppel staff, either ITE or polytechnic graduates, who had moved up the ranks at the company and now hold senior positions.

He said the Public Service will also do its part. It already offers fulfilling careers to non-graduates and puts more weight on job performance and relevant skills rather than starting qualifications.

In order to help all Singaporeans achieve their potential, Mr Lee cited two strategic factors: economic growth, and cultural change.

The first is necessary to create opportunities for workers to advance. Keppel is able to do what it can for its staff and has structured pathways for them because it is a successful company, said Mr Lee.

"Likewise for Singapore, our economy must be competitive, too. Companies have to be able to prosper, and investments must still want to come to Singapore. We must have growth in order to look after our people well. We must be hardheaded, in order to be goodhearted," he said.

As for a change in culture, he said that Singapore should always be a place where people are proud of what they do and are respected for their contributions and character.

"Anyone can improve his life if he works hard," said Mr Lee. "So long as you work hard, you can always hope for a brighter future."