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Speech at Launch of the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Health, Lifelong Learning Institute

Mr Ng Cher Pong
Chief Executive
Singapore Workforce Development Agency,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen, polytechnic and ITE students,

  1. Good morning. Thank you for making your way here. The past few days have certainly been deeply emotional and poignant for many of us. Some of you may have gone to Parliament House to pay your last respects. You would have seen the documentaries on Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the old black-and-white videos from decades ago. One aspect of his life that struck me was that Mr Lee never stopped learning.
  2. Mr Lee Kuan Yew is an embodiment of lifelong learning. You will recall his Chinese tutor mentioning Mr Lee’s keen interest to improve his Chinese. He took Mandarin lessons even after stepping down from Cabinet, and maintained his strong desire to learn even in his later years. We must always emulate his unending willingness to learn, never forgetting his words – “…our most valuable asset is in the ability of our people…”1

    Take Ownership of One’s Lifelong Learning Through SkillsFuture
  3. Today, we launch the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme organised by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency. This is our national effort to provide all Singaporeans with opportunities to advance in their careers through skills, regardless of their starting points and qualifications.
  4. SkillsFuture marks a new phase of investment in our people. We are implementing a wide range of SkillsFuture initiatives to empower Singaporeans to learn at every age, and continuously acquire skills and expertise in their field. These include education and career guidance for students, work-study programmes for fresh polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates, as well as Study Awards and Fellowships for mid-career working adults.
  5. Deep skills and capabilities are necessary across the workforce. These cannot be acquired solely from schools. Instead, skills mastery can only be developed over time through practical experiences and on-the-job training, building upon the foundation laid in schools. If you want to attain skills mastery, you have to be prepared to continue learning and deepening your skills throughout your careers. You will need to take ownership in planning for your own skills and career development.
  6. That’s only one part of the equation. For SkillsFuture to succeed, employers have to value skills and be prepared to invest in helping workers achieve skills mastery. They need to offer meaningful and attractive career progression pathways that are built upon skills. This is particularly so in a tight labour market, in order to attract and retain talent.

    A Head-start for Fresh Polytechnic and ITE Graduates
  7. The SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme is created precisely to support both individuals and employers in developing deep mastery of skills and capabilities. It is designed to give fresh polytechnic and ITE graduates a head-start in careers related to their discipline of study. This head-start involves industry relevant training and opportunities to learn on the job, leading to industry-recognised certification such as the Advanced Diploma or Specialist Diploma.
  8. Designed in close collaboration with employers, the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme spans 12 to 18 months. It integrates On-the-job training or OJT, mentorship, facilitated learning, in-company projects and potentially even overseas attachments to provide fresh polytechnic and ITE graduates with practical workplace learning, to better respond to evolving industry needs.

    Programme Benefits and Rollout
  9. There are three key benefits from the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme. First, participants can acquire the necessary skills for the job via a structured training pathway, which will help them progress in their careers. Second, participants will attain industry-recognised qualifications or certifications by the end of the programme. Such qualifications will attest to the industry-relevant skills that have been acquired, and enable participants to continue deepening their skills in future. Third, employers can build up a pipeline of talent, who can contribute at the workplaces even during the programme.
  10. In fact, we will work with the employers to enhance their talent retention strategy. Employers will have to develop a two-year career development roadmap, and strengthen workplace learning capability through developing and implementing structured OJT blueprints.
  11. The SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme will be rolled out first for the Food Manufacturing Industry in April this year, followed by seven other sectors over the next few months. The sectors include Food Services, Games Development, Logistics, Infocomm Technology, Marine and Offshore Engineering, Retail, and Precision Engineering.

    A Sectoral Showcase of SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme
  12. Today’s launch incorporates a roadshow for interested students to learn more about how the programme will be implemented in the eight sectors. WDA will organise more of such roadshows for graduating students and their parents to understand the sectors better. These will allow students to gain deeper insights to the job requirements, training opportunities and career prospects in each sector.
  13. 61 employers from the eight sectors, as well as representatives from the polytechnics and ITE, are here today to explain the programme and the prospects of their industry. I am happy to see a broad representation of employers across the sectors, both MNCs and SMEs. They include Faesol Pte Ltd, ST Logistics, Charles & Keith, Wing Tai, L’Oreal Singapore, RWS Singapore, PD Design Studio, BreadTalk, Nestle R&D Singapore and SembCorp Marine. These employers believe in the value of experiential learning through OJT. Accenture, for example, plans to hire fresh polytechnic graduates this year to work as Software Engineering Technicians under the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme. This is to meet the growing demand for local talents and skills in emerging technologies and advanced software development. We also have Chinatown Food Corporation, an SME that manufactures Oriental and non-Oriental foods for the local and global markets, which is looking to hire a fresh polytechnic graduate as an Assistant Food Technologist under the programme.
  14. In total, there are close to 150 vacancies on offer by the companies in the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme that are open for registration today. I would like to urge students to make the most of this opportunity to learn more from the industry experts and sign up for the programme.

    Encouraging Stakeholder Buy-in
  15. In the last few months, WDA and the Programme Managers from the polytechnics have been reaching out directly to the graduating cohorts, male graduates who are closing to completing their National Service, and employers in various sectors. We are indeed encouraged by the positive feedback and response to the programme.
  16. I would like to especially acknowledge the efforts of the management and staff of Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic and ITE, in supporting this programme and working closely with WDA and MOE for the outreach to students and employers and in developing high-quality programmes for this ground-breaking initiative.
  17. We will expand the programme to cover more sectors in the next few years so that more graduates and employers can benefit from such opportunities. It provides an additional pathway for fresh polytechnic and ITE graduates – one that will facilitate their transition to the workforce, and enable them to continue learning and deepening their skills.

  18. The SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme is one of many initiatives that will be rolled out to support Singaporeans at different stages of their careers and lives. Other SkillsFuture initiatives, such as the SkillsFuture Study Awards and SkillsFuture Credit, will also be rolled out in the coming months by WDA as well as other Government agencies.
  19. In closing, I would like to call upon all Singaporeans, employers and students to embrace and partake in the national SkillsFuture effort to foster deep skills in the workforce, and be a part of Singapore’s transformation into an advanced economy and an inclusive society.
  20. Thank you.

1As said by then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, in his speech ‘Talent for the future’, delivered on 14 August 1983.