All five public universities in Singapore will this year set up dedicated units to help citizens learn new skills throughout their lives as part of the SkillsFuture programme, it was announced this week.

The five universities are the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore Management University (SMU), Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT).

The new units will help universities prepare themselves to deliver new kinds of courses to mid-career citizens, through shorter courses, more online training and creating deeper ties with employers.

“A key focus of these centres will be to look beyond traditional degree offerings, by offering shorter, bite-sized certificate programmes,” said Ong Ye Kun, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), said in his Committee of Supply speech.

“The purpose is not to offer part-time degrees or master’s programmes to fuel the paper chase, but to help workers stay relevant and competitive,” he added.

“After you graduate, the next upgrade need not be a degree, masters or PhD, but an upgrade in real practical terms – to stay abreast with industry developments and change in technology, or to deepen existing skills”, he said.

Starting from January, citizens aged 25 and above get SkillsFuture credits worth S$500 to spend on training and education. The credits do not expire and will be topped-up, but can only be used for education and cannot be transferred to another person.

New certificate courses offered

There are 12,000 courses available under the programme. In the three months since their launch, 18,000 people have used credits worth around S$5.2 million (US$3.8 million), Minister Ong said.

Admissions to the courses will be based on prior learning and work experience. Some courses can be combined towards certificates.

NUS was the first to announce a lifelong learning unit in October last year – a S$12 million (US$8.89 million) School of Continuing and Lifelong Education. This year it will launch new undergraduate-level certificate courses in engineering.

NTU’s unit will be called the College of Professional and Continuing Education. It will offer courses on power and clean energy, electrical power systems and manufacturing engineering.

SMU will set up the Academy of Continuing Education; SUTD will get an Academic of Technology and Design; and SIT will set up SITLearn.

The government is also restructuring its agencies to deliver the SkillsFuture programme. It will set up a dedicated SkillsFuture Singapore agency by the end of the year. It will absorb the Council of Private Education and take over some functions of the existing Workforce Development Agency (WDA).

WDA’s remaining functions will be given to a new agency, called Workforce Singapore, to help citizens find jobs.

Also read: Four steps Singapore’s universities must take towards SkillsFuture