Speech at “The Art Of Shoes” Design Competition Grand Finale cum Launch of WSQ Diploma in Fashion Technology (Footwear Design & Product Development)
Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower, The Cathay
Mr Mark Lee,
Chairman of the Academic & Examination Board,
Textile and Fashion Industry Training Centre,
Ladies and gentlemen,
- I am pleased to attend today’s Grand Finale of “The Art Of Shoes” footwear design competition cum launch of the new Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) Diploma in Fashion Technology (Footwear Design & Product Development).
Growth Opportunities in the Footwear Market
- Footwear is big business. I think it is big business because everybody needs a pair of shoes at any point in time. Let me share some statistics with you. Transparency Market Research reports that the Asia-Pacific region accounts for 42 per cent of the global footwear market, and is projected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 2.1 per cent from 2011 to 2018.
Euromonitor International tells us that consumers in Singapore spent $635 million on footwear in 2011, and the figure is expected to reach $722 million by 2015. This represents a three per cent per annum growth rate, exceeding the estimate for Asia Pacific. I guess this shows that Singaporeans love our stilettos, pumps and other shoes more than our regional counterparts do!
- The demand for footwear will not abate. We have heard the success stories of home-grown footwear companies such as Charles & Keith, Tangs Studio and Heatwave making big strides abroad. Indeed, I am heartened that despite their growing regional operations, many industry players continue to site their headquarters in Singapore, and conduct most of their product design and branding activities here. We have a window of opportunity to grow our local “footwear talent”, particularly Professionals, Manager and Executives (PMEs), in areas such as product design and development.
Skills Upgrading to Remain Competitive
- Product design and development, in particular, tend to be knowledge-intensive in nature. Therefore, it is vital for industry players, such as the Textile and Fashion Industry Training Centre (TaFtc), to make sure they stay ahead of the game.
- The Singapore Workforce Development Agency or WDA has rolled out programmes under the Textile & Fashion WSQ framework. More than 4,000 workers have been trained under Textile & Fashion WSQ since the framework was implemented in December 2009, with almost 8,000 Statements of Attainment (SOAs) issued by WDA. Textile and Fashion WSQ programmes are largely targeted at our local PMEs, who account for 65 per cent of the trainees and nearly 70 per cent of the SOAs issued to date.
New WSQ Diploma in Fashion Technology (Footwear Design & Product Development)
- WDA is taking training in this industry to a higher level. Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of the WSQ Diploma in Fashion Technology (Footwear Design & Product Development) – the first-of-its-kind footwear diploma programme to be offered in Singapore. This WSQ diploma has been jointly developed by WDA, TaFtc and Ars Sutoria, the elite Italian International Technical Institute of Art for Footwear. It is a three-month full-time diploma programme designed to impart knowledge and skills across the entire footwear development value chain.
- WDA has set aside $2 million for this WSQ Diploma programme from September last year to December this year. The funding will be used to subsidise the training for 450 local PMEs, whether they are from the footwear and apparel sectors, or those looking to switch industries. These PMEs will learn critical value-add skills such as design, sourcing, pattern making and fitting from Ars Sutoria trainers at TaFtc, and will also study the finer points of creating and developing high-quality footwear collections that can be efficiently produced and are commercially viable. In other words, they may well become the ones who produce the shoes that so many of us women, and sometimes men too, fall in love with!
Conversion Programmes for Mid-Career Switchers
- Some of you may be thinking that this is a golden opportunity for you to make the switch from whichever sector you are in, to do something in this exciting footwear industry. WDA has also launched the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Textile and Fashion Professionals, as well as the Global Fashion Talent Programme (GFTP) for the footwear sector. These programmes open up opportunities for PMEs, especially mid-career switchers, to enter the local footwear industry by combining skills upgrading with working experience.
- Under the PCP, trainees will undergo the three-month WSQ Diploma in Fashion Technology (Footwear Design & Product Development), as well as a two-month local internship with a host company. Over this five-month period, they will be exposed to real-life operating concepts and acquire the know-how in footwear design and manufacturing.
- The GFTP, on the other hand, goes a step further to expose local PMEs to the overseas operations of local footwear industry players. Trainees undergo the five-month PCP, followed by an additional five-month on-the-job training stint at an overseas production facility.
Success story and a Career in the Footwear Industry
- Let me share with you the story of Ms Lai Jiawen, a 30-year-old Singaporean who previously worked in the financial sector, but decided to make a bold career switch to the fashion industry. In 2010, she enrolled with WDA for a similar Fashion Technology Diploma in Merchandising & Marketing, and took an internship with SL Global. After completing the programme, she accepted a permanent position as a Management Trainee at SL Global. Since then, Jiawen has been promoted to Management Associate with a pay increment of 10 per cent and she continues to grow as a fashion professional.
“The Art Of Shoes” Footwear Design Competition
- Like Jiawen, many have also begun to pursue their dreams of being in the fashion scene, and the contestants today speak for themselves. Contestants in today’s “The Art Of Shoes” competition, jointly organised by WDA and TaFtc, have undergone WSQ training in sketching footwear designs, after which they conceptualised their entries for the competition. As you may have felt during the fashion showcase earlier, their interesting and innovative ideas show great promise for the future of Singapore’s footwear industry!
- Now I think you’ll notice my shoes – this platform may have been designed so you can see! In fact, I was invited to select one design by any of the finalists, so that I could wear the shoes designed by him or her for today’s event. I had a tough time choosing from the beautiful designs that were offered to me – if I had my choice, I would have one of each – but because I was allowed only one, eventually selected the one that I am wearing today. This pair of shoes is designed by Ms Cheryl Cassandra Lee, an 18-year-old Singaporean who is one of today’s finalists. I am honoured to be wearing this pair of one-of-a-kind shoes which Cheryl designed! Let me let you in on a little secret, this is my first pair of custom-made shoes, so I’ll definitely treasure it! You may also have noticed that the model earlier wore this shoe differently, and I think this speaks to the creativity of design, that you may tie it in many different ways.
- As the saying goes, good shoes take you to good places. I hope Jiawen’s story and examples set by today’s contestants will inspire more Singaporeans, especially those with a passion for fashion, to make use of such opportunities to delve into the exciting world of fashion and forge new careers. I look forward to the day when more Singaporeans are recognised locally and internationally for their successes in creating high quality footwear. Who knows, maybe one day Singapore will be able to nurture our very own Christian Louboutin, Salvatore Ferragamo or Jimmy Choo!
- To the finalists in “The Art Of Shoes”, my heartiest congratulations to all of you! You are all winners, and let me thank you once again for participating in this competition.