SINGAPORE: As companies innovate and digitalise, workers here cannot be left behind, and in his Budget speech on Monday (Feb 20), Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat outlined ways to help people acquire and use skills to adapt to the changing environment.
For instance, to enhance training and make it more accessible to workers, Mr Heng said that more short, modular courses will be offered and the use of e-learning will be expanded. He noted that universities, polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education (ITEs) have started offering such courses.
In terms of funding, SkillsFuture will continue to be a primary source for Singaporeans to take approved courses, he said. Additionally, union members can get subsidies for selected courses through the NTUC-Education and Training Fund, and the Government has set aside S$150 million to match donations to the fund, he said.
Besides picking up new skills, workers must also apply and use these skills, and this requires employers, trade associations and chambers (TACs), unions and the Government to work together, Mr Heng said.
He said skilled workers must be matched to where they can best use their skills, and the Government will make the National Jobs Bank more useful for jobseekers and employers. It will also work with private placement firms to deliver better job-matching services for professionals.
The minister also called on employers, TACs and unions to play an active role in structuring training for workers. He cited the Singapore Hotel and Tourism Education Centre (SHATEC) as a successful example, noting that it was set up by the Singapore Hotel Association more than 30 years ago to provide hands-on training and certified courses.
“It has since helped to build up a skilled hospitality workforce, with its alumni winning accolades worldwide,” Mr Heng said, adding that employers and TACs who develop training programmes can receive funding support from SkillsFuture Singapore.
BUILDING GLOBAL NETWORKS
The Finance Minister also revealed the setting up of a Global Innovation Alliance for Singaporeans to gain overseas experience, build networks and collaborate with counterparts in other innovative cities, and there will be three programmes in this initiative. Plans for the alliance were part of the Committee on the Future Economy's recommendations announced earlier this month.
Firstly, the Innovators Academy will help tertiary students to build connections and capabilities overseas, building on the National University of Singapore (NUS) Overseas College programme that connects students to overseas start-ups, he said.
Students from other universities will be able to participate and the Government aims to grow the intake of students from 300 to 500 over the next five years, he added.
Secondly, Innovation Launchpads will be established in selected overseas markets. These will create opportunities for entrepreneurs and business owners to connect with mentors, investors and service providers, Mr Heng said.
Thirdly, there will be Welcome Centres - through which innovative foreign companies can link up with Singapore partners to co-innovate, test new products here and expand to the region, he said.
The Government will launch the Alliance in Beijing, San Francisco and various Southeast Asian cities in the initial phase, and the Ministers for Trade and Industry will share more during the Committee of Supply debates, he said.
Mr Heng also highlighted the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative, which will support companies to groom Singaporean leaders by expanding leadership development programmes, including sending promising individuals on specialised courses and overseas postings.
The programme will target to develop 800 potential leaders over three years for a start, the minister said, adding that the Government will set aside more than S$100 million for the Alliance and the Leadership Development Initiative.