A new board is to be set up to accommodate SkillsFuture for better education, career guidance and training courses for all Singaporeans.
SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG) are two new statutory boards scheduled to be formed by the end of 2016.
The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (Amendment) Bill and the SkillsFuture Singapore Agency Bill were two bills passed in Parliament on Tuesday 17 August. SSG will be overseen by the Ministry of Education (MOE) while they work with WSG.
The aim of the boards is to deepen the skills of adult learners by tapping on the educational resources in educational institutions, integrate work and study and lastly provide better career guidance for students and workers.
Embracing Groups That Fall Between The Cracks
However, many MPs are calling for more efforts to be made to cater to other categories of Singaporeans.
In an article from Channel NewsAsia, Denise Phua, Member of Parliament (MP) for Jalan Besar GRC called for the agency to look into expanding the skills of people with special needs. She explained that those who managed to find jobs might soon lose them if no continuous customised training and support is provided.
“It is not a Bill only to future-proof those who can study in the current, in the existing post-Secondary education institutions. It is for all Singaporeans. […] Singapore is a nation. It is not a business entity. It is not Singapore Inc,” she said.
She added that the government doesn’t leave behind those who are at risk -in this case those with special needs – or “throw the crumbs while the rest of us feast and continue to learn while others don’t”.
“Everyone deserves to maximise their potential, whatever level that potential is deemed to be,” said Phua.
Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera also mentioned that skills training should be extended to prison inmates as well.
He informed that if Singaporeans are able to benefit from the training, so would the inmates. It would help them in their rehabilitation as well as ease them into integrating back into the economy and community.
In The New Paper, East Coast GRC’s Ms Jessica Tan further added that women are under-represented in jobs that allows potential growth. That she says is one of the reasons why there is a “disproportionately negative impact of labour disruptions on women.”
According to the 2015’s Global Gender Gap report, Singapore ranks 54th among 145 countries in gender gap equality. Though Singapore has risen in ranks over the years from 65th position in 2006, there is still much more that can be done to close the margin.
Mr Desmond Choo from the Tampines GRC wants the new statutory board’s focus to not be solely on the young.
“There is a need to prepare our young Singaporeans for jobs that do not exist yet today. But we should also focus on our current workforce,” he said.
Choo explained that it’s the work with the current workforce that will payoff in substantive productivity gains.
Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower’s chairperson Mr Patrick Tay, perceives the number of Professionals, Managers, and Executives (PMEs) needing help and job placements to stay high.
With the increasing ageing workforce in Singapore, those aged 40 and above tend to take a longer time finding a job and are more susceptible to layoffs, he related.
SkillsFuture And Our Ageing Population
Many MPs also voiced out their concerns regarding the older generation and the fact they might not be as versatile in IT or other areas as the younger generation.
Tanjong Pagar GRC’s Joan Pereira proposed that MOE help older workers meet their career ambitions by establishing courses catered to them. She recommended the education ministry look into the type jobs older workers are employed in and what they hope to do if they further their careers.
Not Just A Governmental Effort, Employers Are Also Involved
In response to this, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung reiterated just yesterday that efforts are already being made under these categories but admitted that more can be done for them.
He informed that MOE higher education department works closely with industry partners in developing internships for university and polytechnic students, and also coming up with the curriculum of courses.
According to Mr Ong, the SkillsFuture programme is to prepare workers for both traditional and new industries and that they need to build a foundation of skills of depth. In this way, will workers be prepared for any job they are keen to apply for.
He also adds on that as compared to a mere top-down governmental approach, employers should also play a part in creating an inclusive workplace.
“If companies, all they do is look at academic results, hire based on academic results, promote based on academic results, I think it misses the point of SkillsFuture […] If enough companies [hire based on competency and fit] and it becomes the mainstream way of handling our human resources, then the signal to Singaporean workers and students is very clear. It is your competency and skills that matter, not just your grades.”
Being a country where we strive to excel in our studies, it is great to see that there is help for those who are not academically-inclined. Groups that fall through the cracks in the education system now get a second chance to redeem themselves.
MP’s voicing out the problems faced by these citizens and the government promising to solve it – that’s a start. But as a country that promotes justice and equality, we should do our part to provide equal opportunities for our people in their careers and future endeavours.
And that should be what SkillsFuture should be all about.
Feature Image Credit: eventhook.com