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New national centre to help local companies develop in-house trainers

A NEW centre will serve as the national institute for workplace trainers, helping local firms develop their own groups of certified instructors.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who made the announcement on Monday, said having employers train their own workers is “the most important aspect of lifelong learning”.

He added that learning on the job becomes the best avenue for upgrading one’s skills and knowledge after the formal education system.

Called the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning (Nace), the new institute aims to help more than 1,000 companies – particularly small and medium-sized enterprises – build their workplace learning capabilities over the next five years.

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Companies may apply for grants from SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) to defray the cost of such training. The grants cover up to 70 per cent of the cost for non-SMEs and up to 90 per cent for SMEs.

Many companies do not have the ability or bandwidth to train their own workers, even with the help of existing funds such as the Skills Development Fund, said Mr Ong.“Day to day, they are fighting fires... and they are unable to find time to train their workers,” he said. However, he added that this is not sustainable.

Mr Ong also stressed that “the success of any in-house training system depends on the trainers”.

This is where Nace comes in, as it strengthens company-supported training – one of three aspects in Singapore’s continuing education system, he said. The other two aspects are industry training providers and institutes of higher learning.

Led by Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) and supported by SkillsFuture Singapore, Nace recommends customised training plans for interested firms. This can involve identifying the expertise they need to build, and working out an on-the-job training structure for them.

Nace has been set up in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Both institutions have strong reputations for vocational training and workplace learning systems.

Mr Ng Cher Pong, chief executive of SkillsFuture Singapore, said: “We will draw on best practices from Switzerland and Germany, and strengthen the support available to companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to help them develop such in-house capabilities.”

Ms Jeanne Liew, chief executive of NYP, noted that companies and employees constantly face the challenge of freeing up time for training.“But with evolving technologies and business demands, it has become imperative that we address any mismatch between jobs and skills,” she said.

“With this approach, we can work with firms and tailor an approach that is structured and documented, yet has relevant and specific content to the company.”

THE STRAITS TIMES