11 June 2013

How can lifelong learning help Singaporeans to achieve their career and personal aspirations?

11 June 2013

It is easy to take what we have here for granted. While still work-in-progress and far from perfect, Singapore's economy is in decent shape and we have been able to generate good jobs for our people. Companies, who provide these jobs, are here because of many reasons: good governance, infrastructure and in particular, a well-skilled workforce at various levels.

This did not happen by chance. It was due to careful planning, sheer hard work and the strong belief that we can always improve and do better. The Government has over the years, built a strong education base and provided much support to encourage lifelong learning. We have invested heavily in our Continuing Education and Training (CET) system to make it relevant to industry needs and accessible to our people. This all goes towards our overall objective, which has been, and always will be, to equip Singaporeans with the right skills and support to find the jobs and opportunities they seek. And in turn, provide for their families and meet their aspirations.

We have now reached a critical point in our development, where our economy must make that successful transition towards higher value-added and more productivity-driven growth. More than ever, Singaporeans need to stay agile and adapt to stay ahead of the intense global competition. It is thus timely to take stock of our lifelong learning efforts and to also ask ourselves how we can do better.

Have we devoted adequate resources in the right areas? Is our current system able to help Singaporeans achieve their career and personal aspirations? Are there improvements we can make to better help Singaporeans? These are questions which the Government alone cannot answer. That is why we are seeking views from more Singaporeans through Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) and other channels.

During last Saturday’s OSC session, we heard some very interesting views on what lifelong learning means for the participants, whether it be improving skills and knowledge to get better jobs and earn more, or broadening one’s horizons to become a better-rounded individual.  Participants also shared ideas on how our lifelong learning landscape could be enhanced, and how various stakeholders like employers and individuals could work together to co-create a lifelong learning culture in Singapore.

Most participants shared the view that we all need to take responsibility for our own development and upgrading journey as individuals. We have to appreciate the importance of continually improving ourselves, and develop the passion to do so. No one else can motivate us to make the most of our opportunities to realise our aspirations in life. I could not agree more – I’ve always believed that training is most effective when it is self-motivated and self-directed. To encourage this sense of responsibility, a number of participants also suggested introducing an individual training account where funds can be parked for each employee to take charge of and design their own learning journey.

The discussion also touched on the responsibility of employers. Employers themselves must recognise that it is in their interest to train their workers, which will raise the capabilities and productivity of their organisations. I am very encouraged that the employers present all raised their hands to support this sentiment.

Yet another common point was that in today’s evolving society and globally competitive landscape, people also need good soft skills, be it networking with your clients, or communication with colleagues. One participant even suggested developing “hybrid” courses teaching a mix of soft and hard skills.

Listening to the ideas and perspectives shared during the OSC session, I was struck by the strong desire of Singaporeans to continually improve themselves. And that is why I am confident that Singaporeans will continue to pursue their lifelong learning to reach greater heights in their careers and lives. The government will do our part to support you, and if the OSC session is any indication, many employers are also on board.

Throughout the session, I saw participants enthusiastically shared their perspectives and stories with fellow Singaporeans, and how others responded in kind to these genuine heartfelt experiences. I was also glad to hear the positive takeaways of some participants.

I look forward to more of such vibrant and heartfelt discussions for the next few OSC sessions organised by MOM. Together, we will create a better Singapore, not just for ourselves, but for our future generations.

Find out more about the OSC sessions here.

Acting Minister for Manpower
Tan Chuan-Jin

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