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Panel to implement work & study path on national scale

To help Singaporeans succeed regardless of their paper qualifications, the Government is implementing a work and study path on a national scale.

SINGAPORE: To help Singaporeans succeed regardless of their paper qualifications, the Government is implementing a work and study path on a national scale. However, this requires a culture shift and involves multiple stakeholders, so a tripartite committee involving the government, employers and unions will be set up to drive support for this.

For the second year running, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally Speech on Sunday (Aug 17) at the ITE College Central. He explained that this is partly because one of his themes this year is on opening up pathways for ITE and polytechnic students.

Helping Polytechnic and ITE students find jobs well-suited to their skills, helping people progress and upgrade after they have graduated and started work, as well as developing structured career paths for them - these will broadly form the recommendations to be announced by a committee led by Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah, tasked with looking at how to create this work and study path.

However, Prime Minister Lee said implementing this on a national scale will not be easy. He noted that the natural agency to take the lead is an expanded Workforce Development Agency, but acknowledged that it will need strong support from other agencies, like the Education Ministry and the Manpower Ministry, employers, and unions.

To drive support for this initiative, a tripartite committee involving the government, employers, and unions will be set up. It will be led by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. Mr Lee said: "It will develop an integrated system of education, training, and progression for all Singaporeans, and promote industry support and social recognition for individuals to advance, based on their skills."

In that respect, Mr Lee said the Public Service is doing its part, offering fulfilling careers to non-graduates. He cited the Singapore Armed Forces as an example of an institution which offers many paths upwards for non-graduates and military experts. He said this shows that beyond academic qualifications, the SAF also recognises leadership and abilities.

Another example is in the nursing profession, where many senior nurses started their careers without a degree, and worked their way up, said Mr Lee. He then pointed to recent enhancements to improve the pay and career development of those in the profession.

Even so, Mr Lee reassured Singaporeans that the Public Service can and will do more - for example, by giving more weight to job performance and relevant skills rather than qualifications, and promoting non-graduates more quickly to what used to be considered graduate level jobs, once they have proven their capabilities.

Mr Lee emphasised that two strategic factors are needed for everyone to achieve their potential - economic growth, which will create opportunities for workers, and a cultural change in how people are valued. "We must have growth in order to look after our people well. So we have to be hard-headed in order to be good-hearted," he noted.

"Singapore must always be a place where everyone can feel proud of what they do, where you're respected for your contributions and character. Anyone can improve his life if he works hard, and everyone can hope for a better future," Mr Lee added. With the right support at work, said Mr Lee, a person can achieve career advancement - whether or not he is a graduate.