By Sarah Leong
SINGAPORE, March 16 (Campus Eye) – Singaporeans above the age of 25 can claim up to $500 for approved courses under a government backed project to promote lifelong learning. The project, called SkillsFuture, was announced by the government during the last budget in 2015.
The SkillsFuture credit, which was rolled out on Jan 1 2016, can be used for courses approved or funded by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), selected courses offered by institutions funded by the Ministry of Education, and courses supported by public agencies.
It can also be used for SkillsFuture@PA courses offered by the People’s Association and courses offered by the Infocomm Development Authority’s participating Silver Infocomm Junctions.
The government will provide periodic top-ups in future but no announcement has been made as to when or how much the top up credits will be.
Campus Eye spoke to Singaporeans aged 25 and above from different occupations and age groups, and here are their views on SkillsFuture:
Mel Chua, 50, an entrepreneur from Nuskin Enterprise, said: “I haven’t received the (SkillsFuture) letter, but I’ll probably do something related to computer skills and the Internet. I’m doing my own business and I think social media is something now (that) we can actually leverage on to advance our business. When the money comes in we’ll see.” Chua, whose business venture focuses on skincare products, was interviewed at Starbucks located in Jem shopping mall on March 10. (Campus Eye/Sarah Leong)
“SkillsFuture is a good initiative to use if you want to take any courses. The letter has reached me already and I was surprised because the government gave us $500. I think the money should be enough. For people like us, I think it’s enough. Maybe I’ll learn a language, Korean maybe. At my age, I think learning is still important,” said 60-year-old full time housewife Nur Laila Binte Abdullah. She was interviewed at BreadTalk in Jem shopping mall on March 10. (Campus Eye/Sarah Leong)
Campus Eye spoke to Salijah Salim, a newly promoted senior sales associate at Marks and Spencer, on March 10. “For now I don’t have any time to go, now I’m busy working. For now I have to find money; now my schedule is tight, on weekends we also have to work so I have no time. Hopefully at the end of the year the government will give another top-up. (In) Singapore (for) everything (we) have to upgrade so it’s not bad the $500, but if they make it to $1,000 maybe people can go further? Instead of going for one course, you can go more than one course,” the 27-year-old said. (Campus Eye/Sarah Leong)
“I’m in the semiconductor industry, so probably in the down market right now. We 30-plus year olds, we’re always called the PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians). We’re kind of sandwiched between the hiring managers who think about our age, and they can’t pay as high, so either you take a pay cut or you try something new,” said Joyce Toh, who was interviewed at the Star Vista on March 10.
“If I get retrenched I’ll plan from there, if not, there’s no real push factor (to sign up for courses) because we’re good in what we do. I don’t think the $500 is sufficient as of now, any course itself it won’t be able to offset, but it’s good to make people feel like at least they’re covered for something. Some people really need to upgrade, so the $500 is like a bait, like the baby bonus,” said the 37-year-old, who is a procurement Buyer at NXP Semiconductors Singapore Pte Ltd. (Campus Eye/Sarah Leong)
“With the SkillsFuture dollars, all these restrictions came up. Like for my colleague, she didn’t have POSB or DBS bank accounts; she had a Standard Chartered bank account which can’t be used to claim SkillsFuture dollars, so she had to set up a whole new bank account just to pay,” said Leon Voon, a trainer in innovation at Manulife Singapore.
The 40-year-old said: “For me, I took courses but I didn’t have the time to apply for SkillsFuture dollars. So I like the hype, it’s causing all the industry players to think like hey, maybe we could offer stuff that people can use SkillsFuture for, so there’s some buzz, but the user experience is quite bad. The government should have been more ready before launching it.” Voon was interviewed at Guzman Y Gomez at the Star Vista on March 10. (Campus Eye/Sarah Leong)
Chiah You Sheng, a 27-year-old teacher under the Ministry of Education (MOE), said: “I think SkillsFuture is a good start, (but) the money may not … be enough for a full intensive course; it may not change people or the workforce overnight just because people have extra $500. But I suppose Singaporeans are really practical so they want to make use of the money, so it could be a start for them to realise that hey, upgrading is interesting, upgrading is something worthwhile.” Chiah was interviewed at The Star Vista on March 10. (Campus Eye/Sarah Leong)
“SkillsFuture is more than the $500, the essence of it is really talking about life-long learning. So we got to keep re-skilling, thinking of how to make ourselves relevant for the future,” said G.I. Ng in an interview at the Star Vista on March 10.
The 47-year-old MOE civil servant said: “It’s relevant to everybody, especially those who are in the mid-40s who are working with clients, because well let’s say in middle-management, when you get redundant, what happens to you? Right now for me in my job I’m not so redundant but soon I may be, you never know! If in the future I do need to change (my) job, I would consider taking up physiotherapy, I want to accumulate my SkillsFuture credit so I can take up physiotherapy.” (Campus Eye/Sarah Leong)
“I haven’t used my credit yet. I’m trying to gather my sister and everybody to go for the same course in April; we want to go for the makeup course. And another friend of ours was asking us to go for the Korean cooking, so you just pay and you go for six days, I think? It’s about $300 or something like that, so the credit can cover it. I think SkillsFuture credit is helping people, like most of my colleagues are semi-retired, and they’re all going for courses,” said 47-year-old Madavvy Ganesan. She was interviewed in front of the booth for ‘Wands Tea Ideas’ located at Jem Shopping Mall, where she works as a sales promoter. (Campus Eye/Sarah Leong)
Jessica Loi, 25, an auditor at Grant Thornton Singapore, said: “For people who already have a degree, I don’t think it helps much. It might help for someone who, for example, has an engineering degree and then they want to get an extra certificate to maybe learn accountancy, so yeah maybe it helps. It’s just that I want something further than that, the extra certificates seem to be for business (degree) courses, so if I already have one, what can I do with the extra $500? Even if I want to take my master’s, the $500 is not going to cover much, it’s not helpful.” She was interviewed at Jem shopping mall on March 10. (Campus Eye/Sarah Leong)
Sally Ho, 53, said: “I think SkillsFuture is a good start. With the $500 I can go and upgrade and do something that is relevant to my current business, which is interior design. But I haven’t checked out what courses yet, so although the $500 is not going to pay for my whole course, at least it’s a good start. The SkillsFuture credit really gets everybody started, because it’s like they give you $$500 to spin-off the whole learning curve.” Ho, who is the general manager of Rainforest Interior Design & Furnishing, was interviewed at Din Tai Fung restaurant at Jem shopping mall on March 10. (Campus Eye/Sarah Leong)
“I think SkillsFuture is a fantastic initiative. Like everyone is given the same amount of money to pursue a course or skill of their interest. The flexibility is quite commendable. In short, I find it to be a good initiative for Singaporeans and I’m also keen to wait for periodic top ups to go for different courses I’m might find an interest in,” said 27-year-old Lim Chin Pin, an assistant manager at the Ministry of Manpower. Lim was interviewed at The Projector, a movie cinema at Golden Mile Tower, on March 8. (Campus Eye/Sarah Leong)
In an interview at Golden Mile Tower on March 8, Evelyn Tan said: “SkillsFuture is a great initiative. What would help make it better would be to make the subject matter experts more accessible to the masses for advice, even in the Community Centres perhaps.
“The SkillsFuture site is a good source of information but after reading up on an entirely new program, it can be seen as overwhelming for some. When it comes to money, even for ‘free’ money, people may not know how to spend it as they might be worried that they’ll end up spending it on the wrong things,” said the 25-year-old associate from the Royal Bank of Scotland. (Campus Eye/Sarah Leong)
“I think SkillsFuture is a good idea, since workforce productivity is such a major concern for Singapore’s economic growth strategy in moving us forward for the future. Personally, I feel that automation would be the best way to achieve this, and that having more hard skills courses like IT (Information Technology) and technical courses would be useful in the productivity aspect,” said Elias Chua, an analyst at the Ministry of Defence.
“At the same time, some people may be drawn to other courses that would help grow Singapore in other areas to create an atmosphere of creativity, entrepreneurship and more work diversity in the workforce,” the 27-year-old said in an interview at Golden Mile Tower on March 8. (Campus Eye/Sarah Leong)
(Edited by: Nigel Chen)