More SkillsFuture funding, incentives will spur workers to upgrade, say experts
Subsidised salaries and tax reliefs are some ways to incentivise employers to send their workers for longer and more comprehensive courses, say observers.
SINGAPORE: Making more SkillsFuture funding available will spur workers to pick the right courses that are useful for their career, rather than those that are more pocket-friendly, experts said.
Employers also need to be incentivised to get their staff members to go for longer and more comprehensive courses, they added.
A company that sends a certain number of employees for courses, for example, could get a tax write-off and “that always gets employers motivated”, said Prof Sumit Agarwal of the National University of Singapore (NUS).
“Another way could be that (employers) don't have to pay salaries while the employees are actually taking these courses, or they can give (these employees) subsidised or reduced salaries," he said.
Financing, of course, is an “obstacle”, said Prof Sumit, adding that if the Government is willing to put in more money into SkillsFuture initiatives, that would “certainly help”.
“If you are just sending people to train for a very short time and you are expecting them to be putting in their own funds, they may be reluctant or they may be choosing fields or areas which may be affordable for them, as opposed to what is optimal for them,” he noted.
WHY DOES THE WORKFORCE NEED SKILLS TRAINING?
How much more help to be provided through the SkillsFuture Credit scheme, at major milestones of one’s life, is among the considerations Singapore needs to make to improve the country’s training ecosystem, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday (Oct 18).
Speaking at the Singapore Economic Policy Forum, he said that the country will invest more in skills training, with a focus on developing more Singaporean specialists and leaders across all sectors of the economy.
The “bottom line” is there is a need to make it possible for workers to invest their time in more meaningful and substantial training, said Mr Wong in his speech. This is especially so for mature and mid-career workers in their 40s and 50s, who are at a higher risk of career disruption, he added.
He added that another question that needs to be addressed is “how we can give employees peace of mind and time off from work to focus solely on upgrading”.
But observers noted that giving workers time off to complete longer training courses will not be easy, especially with the ongoing labour crunch.
Some experts suggested breaking courses into bite-sized programmes that can be held online, believing this is better suited for time-starved working adults.
COURSES FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T HAVE TIME
Studies have shown that after 24 hours, a person forgets three-quarters of what has been learnt, said Mr Adrian Tan from the Singapore Human Resources Institute.
“Instead of learning for 12 hours straight over two days, how about 15 minutes every day?
"Fifteen minutes, or even 10 minutes learning and a five-minute assessment. So that is then very much possible,” he said.
“If you can't even afford to provide your employees with a 15-minute downtime, then I think you probably have a larger problem on hand.”
Mr Wong said that the Government has studied many countries, but has not yet come across one with a comprehensive nationwide system of adult education and training.
Singapore is “distilling” the best practices from around the world, and examining how to apply them locally, he added.
“Working together, I am confident we can build a better SkillsFuture system that will enable all Singaporeans to develop and grow, and bring out the best in them.”
Meanwhile, Prof Sumit believes more can be done to encourage locals to pursue higher education.
"If you look at lots of the people who are being hired at universities or at companies that are doing research and development work, a lot of them are foreigners,” he added.
“This is where I think the Singapore government can give incentives for Singaporeans to come, spend time, and get a PhD and be part of this. That way, they are actually innovating."