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Strategy Teardown: Singapore’s National Efforts to Support Lifelong Learning

The need to develop a continuous learning culture is becoming an essential ingredient for a successful global workforce. Today, a graduate will celebrate their completion of a university degree only to get to the market and have their qualifications rendered obsolete in a flash. In a well-connected, globalized and highly technological world, it is thus critical to adopt a lifelong learning process. From an individual, corporate – and national perspective.

Many countries are working towards maintaining a competitive edge in the world, but few realize the significant impact that lifelong learning can contribute to this. There is the exception of a few though, with a good example being Singapore. Singapore has expressed its urgency of being at the global forefront through its efforts in promoting lifelong learning, continuous education, and resilience at work. The country’s goal materialized in 2015 with the government launching of the SkillsFuture initiative alongside a coordinating agency, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG).

The SSG Chief Executive Ng Cher Pong told GovInsider during an interview: “SkillsFuture movement aims to build a lifelong learning and skills mastery culture” (among its citizens). He says that ultimately the goalposts will change in the future and new technologies such as data analytics and artificial intelligence will permeate industries. With this Singapore strives to inspire its citizens to go for up-skilling and re-skilling so that they can stay relevant. Usually, this could mean some people are making mid-career shifts and others going for complete 180-degree turns.

Singapore leadership grasp that the job market is rapidly evolving. Most employees no longer favor the concept of lifelong employment serving a single role in a single company. A factor that demands from employees’ a constant acquisition of new knowledge and skills and to be flexible enough to thrive in different environments. It also demands the development of a curious, ambitious and knowledge-hungry mindset, and the resources to be able to learn continuously in every phase of life.

Singapore is taking on cutting-edge technologies, emerging job categories and creating exciting opportunities for people with the aptitude and skills to take them. The SkillsFuture movement channels its efforts to helping its citizens remain relevant. It does this through the provision of support programs that enhance continuous re-skilling, job placement, and learning.

Utilizing the SkillsFuture platform, the agency is launching various schemes supporting different aspects of the future of work. Boosting digital skills, for example: “SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace” is meant to assist employees to be compatible to a tech-driven workplace, have an understanding of the importance of cybersecurity, and how to protect their data and information.

SSG Chief Executive Ng Cher Pong says that some employers, especially the smaller ones, have resisted the re-skilling efforts possibly because they are not aware of the training possibilities they can have or do not have the capability to create training plans for their workers. Here, small enterprises are advised to apply for the enhanced funding that offers up to 90% subsidies for training course fees which includes up to 8,000 courses.

SSG Chief Executive Ng Cher Pong also says that they have an SME Mentors program that helps companies implement measures to enhance their workforce skills, help supervisors and managers deepen their coaching and training skills.

A policy-making committee conveyed in January 2016 for the creation of development strategies geared towards the support of long-term economic growth in Singapore. This entity – The Committee for the Future Economy (CFE). A CFE report includes specific recommendations that ensure Singaporeans have access to resources that will enable them to pursue lifelong learning opportunities. As such it encourages educational institutions and training providers to jointly work with the industry to ensure that their courses are aligned with the needs of the market.

In February 2017, CFE, the Minister of Trade and Industry and the Minister of Finance published an extensive report that sensitized on the need for the government to prioritize workforce development. The CFE also recognizes the efforts made by the SkillsFuture Singapore movement citing that in 2016, the program had a record of 126,000 Singaporean using it with over 18000 courses available.

Singapore’s launch of a lifelong learning revolt is an inspiration to many developed countries including Denmark. The Danish government set up the Disruption Council that includes employer organizations, trade unions, ministers, and members of the community. The council will discuss matters revolving on future skills, international partnerships, free trade, emerging business models, the future of technology, and lifelong learning.

Going back to Singapore, SSG Chief Executive Ng Cher Pong hopes that the Singapore citizens will embrace the change in their workforce culture to lifelong learning and skills mastery. The aim is to develop the education and training infrastructure required to support the citizens need to take up responsibility for their skills and the development of their career. Hereafter, learning should not end after graduation but should only mark the beginning.

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