(Delivered in Parliament on 16 August 2016)
Madam Speaker the SkillsFuture Singapore Agency Bill aims to bring about a far-reaching change in our adult education and training landscape by establishing an agency that is solely focused on adult education in ways that are intimately linked to economic goals such as employability, productivity and innovation. In the 21st century, these are all critical arenas for us to succeed in as a people and an economy.
We do need to take adult education and training far more seriously to enhance economic goals and career progression. It makes sense from the standpoint of our economy as well as from the standpoint of individual career progression and self-actualization.
I would like to raise a few suggestions about the goals associated with establishing the SkillsFuture Singapore Agency according to this bill.
Exploring Co-funding models for SkillsFuture financial support
The quantum of Skillsfuture funding that individuals can now draw down in the form of the SkillsFuture credit is too limited to effectively nudge individuals to take up more extended and expensive training courses that would cultivate deep, hard skills in particular future-ready industries.
Will the Ministry consider, as part of the goal-setting process for the SkillsFuture Singapore Agency, requiring the agency to develop a wider variety of co-funding models whereby more extensive government funding will be provided, perhaps with matching funding from employers, industry associations or other stake-holders, to enable individuals to take up such courses that are more expensive?
Measuring return on investment for Skillsfuture programs
Next, part and parcel of setting good KPIs is setting up good measurement systems.
Will the Ministry implement some process to measure the impact of SkillsFuture initiatives on the actual employment outcomes of individuals who benefit from SkillsFuture programs? Would the Ministry regularly publish such indicators for public and Parliamentary scrutiny?
And would such measurement go beyond measuring correlation to measuring causation, that is to say disentangling other causative factors and focusing on the impact of just the SkillsFuture programs normalized for other causal factors?
In this way, we can really enhance the effectiveness and national return on investment of SkllsFuture year by year as opposed to merely highlighting good outcomes that may or may not be tied to the actual programs.
Content Creation for Adult Education and Training in Singapore
Lastly, aside from assessing the quality of training and adult education, will the SkillsFuture Singapore Agency go beyond this to stimulate the development of new training and education content in Singapore?
There is a golden opportunity here. There is a large base of local education and training providers.
With the support of the SkillsFuture Singapore Agency, we could create training content that not only enhances employment outcomes for Singaporeans but will also become exportable services that help drive economic growth and good job creation at home.
There is also an industry that undertakes high-quality translation of such content into Asian languages like Chinese and Malay. The new agency could work with economic agencies to grow this translation agency in Singapore to generate foreign-sourced income streams.
Adult Education for Prisoners
Lastly, there is a group of stake-holders that I hope the SkillsFuture Singapore Agency can address, namely Singaporeans serving prison sentences.
Can the agency consider how to push training and adult education content to those serving prison sentences? This can be done via e-learning or other platforms.
This is not only valuable to facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders. This is also important to ensure that when they have served their sentences and return to the workforce, they can become productive workers or perhaps even entrepreneurs.
I would suggest that these areas be seriously looked at by the Ministry and the new agency. Thank you.