SkillsFuture benefits employees, media firms, the general economy, and ultimately increases Singapore’s national productivity. In order to remain effective, SkillsFuture must be conscientiously monitored, and regularly upgraded.
According to Minister Lim Swee Say, Singapore’s chief concerns are its ageing local workforce, the international sector’s increasing unpredictability, unmediated technology, and the local economy’s ‘slowing growth’ (Lee, 2016, Para. 4).
SkillsFuture is a national initiative that addresses these issues, as it allows young Singaporeans to identify their inclinations, and to develop pertinent skills (Tan, 2016, Para. 1).
Overview of SkillsFuture
SkillsFuture will help individual members of Singapore’s workforce:
SkillsFuture will also help the community as a whole. Firstly, SkillsFuture allows corporations to build stronger ties with the government. According to Minister Shanmugaratnam, SkillsFuture will bolster alliances between ‘training institutions, unions, Trade Associations and employers’.
Furthermore, SkillsFuture will also facilitate foreign involvement, as foreign subsidiaries have engaged in SkillsFuture (Lam, 2015, Para. 7). Furthermore, local participants may receive career instruction, or may be employed overseas (Yang, 2016, Para. 6).
Since Singapore’s capable workforce is its chief resource, Singapore has to develop a local community that possesses pertinent skills, and its workforce must constantly upgrade their skills to remain competitive in fluctuating industries (Teng, 2016, Para. 32).
SkillsFuture will enable Singapore to meet its national objectives, as Singaporeans will acquire competitive abilities, and will be encouraged to take risks and innovate.
These abilities and values will encourage Singaporeans to engage in entrepreneurial ventures that will increase their standard of living, and Singapore’s general productivity.
However, SkillsFuture also has its limitations. Currently, Singapore’s primary concern is to compensate for its declining productivity rate. Due to this, SkillsFuture may not be a relevant scheme, as it focuses on honing future potential, and its benefits are not presently identified (Tay, 2015, Para. 8).
Despite this, Professor Randolph Tan, a nominated Member of Parliament and professor, insists that SkillsFuture is still necessary, as it ultimately prevents ‘shortfalls in [Singapore’s] future productive capacity’.
If these issues are not addressed, Singapore may face consequences that other economies have experienced, such as ‘lack of competitiveness, unemployment and under-employment’ (Tay, 2015, Para. 15-16).
Critics may question SkillsFuture’s effectiveness, as SkillsFuture may be compared to prior training and development funds that have failed to increase productivity (Han, 2015, Para. 3).
However, this perspective inaccurately gauges the benefits of productivity-driven initiatives, as it solely considers ‘immediate outcomes’ instead of ‘future gains’.
SkillsFuture’s success is not solely based on outcomes that are evident in the present (Han, 2015, Para. 13), such as numerical increases in national productivity. Its intangible benefits (Han, 2015, Para. 14), such as the development of Singaporeans’ behavioral competencies, must also be considered.
Suggestions for Improvement
Although SkillsFuture has its merits, it may still be improved. According to public feedback, SkillsFuture credit should be replenished regularly, and students should be allowed to spend its credit on school modules.
In addition, ‘SkillsFuture credit for company-initiated training’ should be claimed by contributors, as employers will be incentivized to fund corporate training programs (Channel News Asia, 2016a, Para. 12).
SkillsFuture may also be improved through paradigm shifts. In order for SkillsFuture to work ‘lifelong learning, innovation and entrepreneurship’ must be emphasized over academic results (Channel News Asia, 2016a, Para. 13). SkillsFuture should train behavioral competencies, which are ‘increasingly important in job selection criteria and performance appraisals’ (Han, 2015, Para. 5-6).
In order to gauge SkillsFuture’s relevance, it could be measured against current initiatives that prioritize societal development. For instance, SkillsFuture has expanded upon the WSQ training initiative to provide broader educational support for individuals (Channel News Asia, 2016b, Para. 11), and complements the ‘Infocomm Media Masterplan to nurture universal and pertinent skills (The Business Times, 2015, Para. 106).
In order to assess SkillsFuture’s effect on national productivity, clearer guidelines could be created to assess its compatibility with existing schemes.
Although most of SkillsFuture’s benefits are evident in the future, SkillsFuture may still be used to address current issues, such as productivity shortfalls.
In order to do so, SkillsFuture must teach corporate leaders, to maintain their skills, and to sustain existing schemes that tackle these national issues. Simultaneously, it must train the next generation to build upon these schemes.
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