Nov 7, 2012

Singapore - Singapore making progress in technical, vocational education

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SINGAPORE: The Institute of Technical Education's (ITE) 10-Year Master Plan will soon be completed with the opening of the new ITE College Central in January 2013.

But the work in Singapore's technical and vocational education sectors is far from over, said Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, Teo Chee Hean, when he opened the Singapore International Technical and Vocational Education Conference.

Speaking at the inaugural conference, Mr Teo, who was involved with the development of these sectors in the 1990s when he was Education Minister, said such training has provided Singaporeans with the skills needed to secure good jobs.

Mr Teo said: "Education is a forward-looking enterprise. It seeks to prepare our youths for a society and economy that will only exist fifteen to twenty years in the future. A good understanding of the key forces driving future trends will therefore allow us to anticipate the competencies that we need to develop in our youths."

But Mr Teo said while Singapore has made good progress in technical and vocational education aspects, work is far from over.

That is because over time, industry demands have evolved as the structure of the economy changed from labour intensive to skill-intensive industries, and now, increasingly becoming innovation-intensive.

Mr Teo said: "Partnerships with industry are becoming increasingly important. With the rapid advance of technology, more and more jobs are being created in new and emerging economic sectors. Start-ups and smaller companies will also offer new and exciting jobs, to complement larger companies and organisations. The models adopted by our institutions have successfully blended theory and practice, but we must always keep an eye on the horizon and stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments.

"For our youths to succeed in tomorrow's world, they will also need greater adaptability and a stronger ability to collaborate with others, including a good measure of cross-cultural intelligence that will enable them to work across boundaries, languages and cultures. They will also need to build up multi-disciplinary knowledge, new media literacy and a total product or total service design mindset."

Today, nearly forty per cent of each graduating secondary school cohort enters the technical and vocational education training centres to further their education.

Upon completing their studies, nearly 92 per cent of them gained employment within six months.

Also, 92 per cent of employers affirmed that these graduates possessed not just the requisite skills, but also good work attitudes.

Mr Teo explained, "This has helped to keep Singapore's youth unemployment rate low, relative to other parts of the world. In 2011, the average unemployment rate of residents aged 15 to 24 in Singapore was 6.7 per cent. In comparison, the global youth unemployment rate was 12.6 per cent, almost double the rate in Singapore.

"Youth unemployment in Singapore was also lower than most advanced Western and East Asian economies, including the United States (17 per cent), the United Kingdom (21 per cent), Germany (8.5 per cent), Hong Kong (9.3 per cent), South Korea (9.6 per cent) and Taiwan (13 per cent). Our focus in TVET has thus been to provide students with a holistic education, to equip them with both industry-relevant training as well as 21st century competencies."

Mr Teo said as the economy transforms, Singaporeans will increasingly be seizing growth opportunities in regional and international settings.

A key component of holistic education at the ITE and Polytechnics has been the community and global education programmes, which include student exchanges, work attachments, community service, and sports and cultural events.

Through these programmes, students are exposed to global trends and developments, and learn to better appreciate cultural diversity and different work practices.

They also internalised values such as respect, responsibility, care and appreciation for others which help students to become socially responsible people.

One conference speaker from an adult learning institute in Melbourne, Australia, said polytechnics and ITEs play important roles in the economy.

"There is a lot of research that has shown that graduates that come through get employability straight away and not only employability, they get income that enables them to participate socially and economically in communities," said John Maddock, chief executive officer at Box Hill Institute (Australia).

For the first time, ITE and the five Polytechnics have joined hands with Temasek Foundation, to organise the Singapore International Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Conference 2012.

The four-day conference, which includes sharing sessions and conducted tours of local technical and vocational training institutions, will see more than 400 delegates from Singapore and all over the world gaining insights and learning points.

- CNA/fa

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