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Panellists at launch of E50 Awards welcome SkillsFuture movement (Amended)


THE new SkillsFuture drive has been lauded for enabling individuals to take ownership of their learning and to broaden their career options.

Panellists at the launch of the Enterprise 50 (E50) Awards on Friday agreed that, beyond facilitating the upgrading of job skills, the initiative could also promote a desire for personal growth.

OCBC economist Selena Ling said previous help schemes tended to be "top down" - the government set the target, companies used the grants and incentives.

"Now, when you look at the principle behind SkillsFuture, you need to have passion for the job and want to pursue learning because it's something that's going to help you."

KPMG tax partner Chiu Wu Hong said it recognised that each individual was different and developed at a different pace.

Both he and Ms Ling were referring to the national movement that sets out to give opportunities to every citizen to develop themselves through life by promoting the mastery of skills in every job, regardless of its holder's academic qualifications or work experience.

A work-study programme for polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates and enhanced training subsidies for mid-career Singaporeans are among the unveiled features of SkillsFuture.

The panellists who spoke at the launch of the E50 Awards - handed out annually to privately-owned companies for their spirit of enterprise - also voiced their concerns about SkillsFuture. One was that companies had to play a key role in ensuring that workers made the best use of the perks offered to them.

Victor Khaw, general manager of Allalloy Pte Ltd, a total welding solutions provider serving the oil and gas industry, said employees often face inertia in upgrading their skills, and that it is "quite tedious" to go for training while holding down a job, so workers need the support of their companies in this.

He said he has told his staff that should the industry the company serves decline or relocate, they may not want to follow it, but "what they do want though, is to widen their skill sets so that they have the choice of working elsewhere".

Ms Ling added that SkillsFuture would entail collaboration, not just between Singaporeans and the government, but between employees and institutes of higher education.

Melvin Tan, managing director of the Cyclect Group of Companies, which provides engineering, procurement, construction and project management services for clients such as Universal Studios Singapore, Marina Bay Sands Resort and the Singtel F1 Singapore Grand Prix, praised the scheme's flexibility, as it complements the education system.

He added that SkillsFuture may also drive Singapore's workforce to be more productive: "Companies that don't adapt to SkillsFuture may lose their workers because these workers now have options to train, upgrade themselves and become more attractive to other companies, which creates more competition in the industry."

The incentives in the scheme may also alleviate the tightness in Singapore's labour market, said Mr Chiu. "Without SkillsFuture, our polytechnic and ITE graduates will perpetually chase after paper qualifications. Now, it's easier for them to upgrade their skills while working, which ensures a steady flow of labour into our economy."

Ms Ling, taking up this point, stressed the need to ensure the flow of talent and skills into the right industries, and to identify the "sunrise" industries and the skills needed for careers there: "The devil is always in the implementation. It's deciding which courses qualify to tap SkillsFuture that is the tricky part."

The E50 Awards are jointly organised by KPMG and The Business Times, sponsored by OCBC and supported by IE Singapore, the Singapore Business Federation and Spring Singapore.


Amendment note:

We incorrectly stated that the Cyclect Group of Companies owns and runs Universal Studios Singapore and the Marina Bay Sands Resort. Cyclect in fact provides engineering, procurement, construction and project management services for clients such as Universal Studios Singapore, Marina Bay Sands Resort and the Singtel F1 Singapore Grand Prix. We apologise for the error.

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