Speech - Address by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education, at the ITE Work-Study Diploma Awards Presentation Ceremony, at ITE HQ

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  • Publish date:06 Dec 2021

Distinguished Guests and Colleagues

Ladies and Gentlemen

Happy to join you this afternoon.

I would first like to thank the Institute of Technical Education (or ITE) for organising today's event to celebrate the achievements of its Work-Study Diploma (WSDip) graduates as well as ITE's continuing partnerships with industry.

ITE's WSDip programme has grown from strength to strength since it was launched in 2018.

  1. There are currently more than 1,200 trainees enrolled in the programme, with its second batch of 242 trainees having just graduated in September.

The programme provides an apprenticeship mode of training where workplace learning and on-the-job training are central features of the curriculum.

  • It has three objectives:
    1. Supporting skills upgrading and career progression of ITE graduates;
    2. Promoting stronger industry partnerships and engagement with ITE in the area of training; and
    3. Allowing companies to attract and develop talents to secure a pipeline of skilled employees.

Supporting the Progression of ITE Graduates

The curricular structure ensures that its graduates are industry-relevant and this is what attracted Mr Jack Chong to the programme.

  1. Jack joined the WSDip in Mechanical and Electrical Services Supervision course in 2019 after completing his National Service. He had earlier graduated with a National ITE Certicate (Nitec) in Mechatronics.
  2. Under the programme, he worked for Techniques Air Conditioning and Engineering Pte Ltd as a site coordinator. The curriculum allowed Jack to link theories and concepts to his work and apply newly acquired skills immediately at the workplace.
  3. Jack's attention to details and willingness to try new things impressed his supervisors. He also demonstrated communication skills, which helped him resolve differences with various stakeholders when on site.
  4. As a result, Jack was promoted to the role of Engineer, given greater responsibilities and entrusted with bigger projects. Along with this progression, Jack also received a significant pay increment.

Jack's positive WSDip experience is not unique to him. His batch mates saw an increase in salary of about 20 per cent on average upon completion of the diploma. They also took on higher-level job roles, which gave them personal fulfilment.

Jack and 12 other trainees will be receiving their course medals today for emerging as the top trainees in their cohort. I commend their exceptional performance and congratulate all the recent WSDip graduates.

Benefits of industry partnerships in training

I would like to thank our employers and companies for their partnership. Employers are co-creators of the WSDip curriculum and are closely involved in its training design and delivery process.

  1. This allows employers to have direct input on which relevant skills are developed, and how.
  2. It also ensures that the curriculum continues to be industry-relevant, in tandem with the evolving needs of companies and the economy.

To support the training capabilities of employers, ITE provides at least 28 hours of training for company supervisors and trainers. Such Train-The-Trainer courses equip company personnel with the knowledge and skills to develop and deliver on-the-job training, facilitate learning and conduct assessment.

To date, more than 400 companies, including SMEs, have come on board as co-trainers of WSDip trainees. One of them is Yusen Logistics, which offers the WSDip in Logistics & Supply Chain Management.

In co-designing the programme, Yusen Logistics includes training in Dock Management, through which trainees learn how to keep track of and provide real-time information of Yusen's vehicles. Yusen Logistics also exposes the trainees to Warehouse Automation, so that they gain an understanding of how such innovation helps to improve efficiency in the company's storage and retrieval processes.

  1. This is possible due to the white space in the curriculum for each WSDip that allows companies to customise industry-relevant training.

The partnership with employers provides a hands-on experience that is unique to Work-Study programmes.

  1. Under the curriculum, 70 per cent of the trainee's time comprises on-the-job training, where employers impart skills and provide supervision to the trainees.
  2. This provides trainees with opportunities to apply their skills in a space where it is "safe to fail".
  3. Such close relationships also allow the trainees to understand employers' training and job expectations early on.

When employers take up an active role in training, trainees are more likely to be engaged too, knowing that employers value their development and growth.

Many employers have commended ITE for its WSDip programme, which helps them to attract and train young talent to bring greater value to their company. 85 per cent of trainees have also chosen to remain with their host companies beyond their graduation in 2021.

  1. These show that engaged employers and relevant, effective training in the programme translate into considerable return on investment for the host companies. And we hope more companies will join us.

Building on the progress of the WSDip programme, ITE will be expanding the range of courses by adding six new programmes in 2022.

  1. These include WSDip in E-commerce & Retail to meet manpower needs of the growing supermarket and retail sector; and
  2. WSDip in Architectural Building Information Modelling (BIM) & Design to address increasing demand for technical support skills in architectural practices.

This brings the total number of course offerings in 2022 to 36, with more than 1,500 places. I hope that many ITE graduates will seize this opportunity to upskill and build their careers.

Strengthening Our Applied Education Pathways

The WSDip programme is a good example of our broader effort to innovate and enhance applied education pathways.

  1. MOE has been making moves to increase industry relevance in our polytechnic and ITE experience. We must ensure our graduates are equipped to thrive in the future economy.
  2. This year, Second Minister for Education Dr Maliki Osman led a Review of Opportunities and Pathways in Applied Education. The review committee consulted over 2,000 stakeholders through engagement sessions, and the recommendations will be shared early next year.
  3. The recommendations will cover proposals to enhance the applied education experience, cater to diverse learners in our institutions and expand opportunities for our polytechnic and ITE students to progress and achieve their aspirations.

A key part of these recommendations to enhance applied education is strong industry support.

  1. We need close industry partners committed to working with our institutions to develop structured learning opportunities for our students to prepare them well for the workforce.
  2. The investment is worthwhile, as it is these same students who will form the future talent pipeline for industries and companies.
  3. I thank all our industry partners here today for your support and ask that you continue to explore new ways to support and partner ITE in its programmes.

In the larger scheme of things, work-study programmes are a key component of our broader higher education system, or continuing education system, which supports learning and upgrading across an individual's lifetime.

  1. We are working towards a higher education system with multiple upgrading pathways, so that Singaporeans can choose the pathway that best fits their individual aspirations and needs.
  2. A Singaporean's relationship with our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) should last for 30 years, not 3 years. This is why I always prefer to call them 'Institutes of Continuing Education', because there is no limit to lifelong education. There is no need to rush for the highest possible qualification before entering the workforce.
  3. Instead, IHL upgrading will increasingly be interspersed with periods of applying and deepening one's skills, to keep them current and relevant. We will continue to open up opportunities for individuals to upgrade mid-career. This will help Singaporeans continue to refresh their skills and stay relevant through future waves of change, across their whole career lifespan. This is particularly salient as today's graduates will be pursuing many jobs in their lifetimes.

Another important thing for us to remember is that because knowledge and business models are changing so fast, it is impossible for us to prepare our graduates just by front loading all that they need to learn.

  1. I hope all 2.5 million in our workforce, will regularly upgrade their skillsets every five, if not ten years.
  2. And if 2.5 million people upgrade their skills every five or ten years, it means either a quarter million, or half a million Singaporeans will reskill or upskill annually.
  3. And we will be working on meeting these growing training needs.

I hope that one day, we will drop the term 'Work-Study Diploma' and just use 'Diploma' -- because every diploma is by its nature, a work study diploma. This should be the norm and not the exception. I am glad that:

  1. ITE expanding this programme because this concept must permeate every level of our training and education institutions.
  2. Our industries are partnering our training institutions to develop tomorrow's workers according to the needs of our future economy.

Enabling lifelong learning will require close collaboration between the industry, in particular taking reference from frontier business models, technologies and knowledge, to work together with our ITE, polytechnics and universities.

This will ensure that as an ecosystem, we are always at the forefront of technology, business models and knowledge. And if we can do this well, we will never have to worry about the competitiveness of Singapore's economy and the job prospects of our graduates. Collectively, we will be able to chart a winning path for Singapore amidst global competition.

Thank you very much.