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Speech at The Adult Learning Symposium 2012 “New Frontiers in Learning and Work”

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister of State for Manpower and National Development, Resorts World Sentosa

Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. A very good morning to all of you.
  2. First, allow me to share with you my observations on the CET landscape and where it fits in the big picture. My sense is that CET plays a critical role in our landscape. The education system as a whole provides the backdrop. It is the foundation piece in equipping our young people, through preschool, primary school, secondary school and so on with the basic skills, abilities, values and systems to build on. The tertiary level, including the ITE where there are vocational skills training, have a shorter cycle where they can still adapt to relevant training modules. But these courses take place prior to all of us entering the workforce, while adult CET really takes place later when our abilities, strengths and weaknesses become more apparent to us. In the same fashion, you will find that with technological advancements and globalisation, changes take place very quickly. So how do you help your workforce and economy adjust quickly?
  3. I believe this is where adult CET comes in to play a critical role, where we can have sharp and structured learning modules to ensure that we remain relevant and stay employable. This is why the Government places a lot of emphasis on funding and supporting the CET effort. While we do so, we also want every individual to take ownership of his own continuing education journey. You would know exactly what you need and where to find the resources available to help you to fill those gaps. The Government helps by providing as many opportunities as possible.
  4. Feedback is also critical. One of the bugbears I have is whether we are getting our monies worth. At the end of the day, we do not want the only people benefitting from this whole process to be the vendors and the service providers. We want to ensure that whatever modules we provide are relevant. This is where feedback from industries, companies, businesses and individuals is important. Now, companies are beginning to understand the value involved, and the Government continues to help provide the funding and the support for us to construct a conducive environment for us to continue on this journey.
  5. Adult education is obviously not new, but it is an area where we need to spend time and effort to study. We need the experts, like you, to share experiences and perspectives.
  6. At the heart of everything, we need to ensure that Singaporeans are looked after, engaged, stay relevant and are employable. The feedback from surveys has been very positive, meaning that many people who have gone through the WSQ qualifications find themselves more productive. It may not necessarily translate to higher wages immediately, but one of the less tangible factors, which also mean that it is less obvious, is the sense of personal pride and professionalism that the person acquires as a result of real understanding. As we navigate this phase, we emphasize that your feedback and inputs really make a difference.
  7. That is where we established IAL- The Institute for Adult Learning. IAL has done well. It has trained more than 8,000 CET professionals over the last three years and every one of them is able to in turn help us train and develop the rest of our workforce. While we provide the courses, training the trainers is critical as well.
  8. Today, I am very pleased to congratulate the first batch of 12 graduands from the Master of Arts in Lifelong Learning with the renowned Institute of Education, University of London, together with 80 graduands of the WSQ Diploma in Adult and Continuing Education.

    Developing T-shaped CET Professionals
  9. For every Singaporean, we need to develop in them this culture and habit that lifelong learning is an endeavour that all of us must pursue. We will do our utmost best to support the effort, and we cannot and should not stop learning. Likewise, a company cannot stop developing its people. Part of the process of engaging is to enable people to further improve themselves and companies play an important role to create the capacity and lull time for people to pursue that. Singapore is amongst the most open, dynamic, competitive and global economy and it is important because it allows us to stay relevant, allows us to stay afloat amidst competition and allows us as a small country to remain adept. That is important as it is ultimately about creating jobs, allowing people to remain employable and we do have very low levels of unemployment. It is a function of many things. I would suggest that our ability to keep our workforce relevant, allowing our people to further their development, plays a big part in that as well. Therefore, our CET must continue to evolve and keep up with the rapid changes in global manpower and businesses and other practices. With technologies constantly improving, product life cycles getting shorter and ongoing economic restructuring happening every other day, it is therefore important for us to keep at this effort to stay relevant.
  10. This underscores IAL’s efforts to strengthen the development and effectiveness of CET Professionals, including the review of the Training and Adult Education (TAE) WSQ Framework to ensure it continues to remain relevant and effective.
  11. In its engagement with CET Professionals here, IAL found that many are taking on diverse roles in training and development, i.e. inter-mobility. One of today’s graduands in Master of Arts for Lifelong Learning, 53 year-old Dr Koh Yang Huang, a Principal Consultant at the Health Promotion Academy, is one of them. She is a CET professional who teaches. She also mentors her trainees. She designs the curriculum and at the same time, she doubles up as a Workforce Development Specialist and a Human Resource Developer, based on the nature of her responsibilities and role in her organisation
  12. There are also Adult Educators like Siti Hawa of Mendaki Sense – she is a trainer and curriculum developer with different job functions within one job role i.e. “intra-functional mobility”. She works with low-skilled, low-wage workers to help them raise their skills. Her training involves exploring various methods of how to manage a class of trainees with different levels of proficiencies and backgrounds, up-scaling the curriculum development to address specific employment goals of the learners, and even drawing – as part of the ‘show and tell’ approach to training.

    A New Competency Development Model
  13. As the examples of Dr Koh and Siti show, we can no longer expect a specific job scope to stay with us throughout our career. Nor can we expect to develop a specific expertise that will remain industry relevant throughout our economic life. Things will change and that will be the norm. Instead, cultivating inter- and intra-functional skills will allow us to stay mobile in our career and enable us to move easily within our industry into other job roles and across industry sectors. This is what we often refer to as the “T-shaped Professionals” and CET Professionals, too, must be “T-shaped” with deep expertise in a core area, and at the same time, broad horizontal skills to handle the myriad challenges.
  14. With their “T-shaped” skills, CET Professionals will naturally be better able to raise the skills of the workers they train, which in turn will raise the skill standards of the entire workforce. IAL plays a pivotal role here to grow the capabilities of these professionals – to help them improve and be more effective. In consultation with the Training and Adult Education Manpower Skills and Training Council, IAL has developed a new competency model for the CET industry to do so.
  15. From today, there will be a new Training and Adult Education Professional Competency Model1. This means CET Professionals who have more than one role in a single job description (“inter-mobility”), like Dr Koh; or those with different functions within one job role (“intra-functional mobility”), like Siti; will be offered flexible upgrading pathways to develop as all-rounded T-shaped Adult Educators who are not just trainers, but also courseware developers and assessors too. They will develop four sets of key skills:

    1) First, as an Adult Educator – training and developing CET for the workforce;
    2) Second, as a Training Management Professional managing CET programmes, curriculum, and even manpower, among others;
    3) Third, as a Human Resource Developer to deliver CET plans and engage workers for their training needs; and
    4) Fourth, as a Workforce Development Specialist, to develop and implement competency frameworks and models, as well as accreditation and audit.
  16. With the expansion of the TAE Professional Competency Model, some 20,000 training practitioners and HR developers can now use it to chart their career path, whether to scale up within a chosen expertise, or to explore new horizons by taking on different roles.

  17. So what does this mean for the community and industry as a whole? It’s certainly an exciting start as the new competency model will bring about a more inclusive CET professional community – one where you as a CET Professional, will chart new frontiers in learning and work, one where you will be recognised for the value you contribute to the industry. You will also be more empowered to chart your own careers through the Model, whether as an educator or for employers to plan and anticipate staff as well as organizational training needs. Each of you will be directly shaping the industry’s developments with your own CET journey, and as you develop Singapore’s workforce. There is a very real difference that you can make to the lives of Singaporeans. It might seem marginal but for the individual whom you help to stay relevant, it means a lot, especially if they are able to stay employed. At the same time, you also play a very important role in increasing the productivity of our workforce and of our economy, keeping us afloat. The world is challenging, but Singapore is well placed to navigate this landscape.
  18. As a Government, we have invested tremendous amount of resources in our CET system, because at the end of the day, we believe that there are many Singaporeans out there who are striving to do better, for themselves and their families. It is our responsibility to do as much as we can to provide them that foundation and to provide them the opportunity for them to do so. Some may have had a slower start in life, some may not have been dealt a fair hand in life, but that does not stop them from wanting to do better and that does not stop us from providing them with the opportunities to improve themselves. Through CET, we hope that we can give them that ladder to climb higher and fulfil their lifelong aspirations, to help them to provide for their families and to stand on their own two feet. However, we cannot achieve this without individuals like Dr Koh, Ms Siti Hawa and all of you here play a critical role in that journey. While many of you may not directly see your efforts, I would like to assure you that your contributions will not be forgotten by the lives you have touched.
  19. It is with this recognition of the important work that you do that I hope the two-day symposium will inspire all of you to strive towards “New Frontiers in Learning and Work”. It is not just a slogan but it is something that we can contribute to society in a very big way. This is when we can develop as T-Shaped CET Professionals, and work hand-in-hand with employers, workers, WDA and IAL, to bring our national CET system forward to a new frontier – one that is first-world and first-class, for a skilled workforce but one that remains relevant for our people. Here’s wishing you a fruitful learning journey ahead.
  20. Thank you very much.

1 For information on the Training and Adult Education Professional Competency Model, please refer to the Annex that is attached to the press release on the said model, issued on 5 July 2012.