TODAY Online - Skills training sector to be upgraded to better help workers

Move aims to help providers to be more responsive to changing demands in labour market.

TODAY Online

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The skills training sector will be given a push in improving the quality of its offerings, and be scrutinised more closely on how its trainees fare after undergoing training.

Under a new five-year plan, a website called Training Exchange will be set up by October next year, providing information on the quality outcomes of training providers that receive direct funding from the Government, while trainees will be able to share feedback on their experience.

Also, resources will be shared with training providers to help them identify the skills in demand by industry so that they can provide the most relevant courses, and use more technology in delivering lessons.

The effort — in line with the SkillsFuture initiative — is spearheaded by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), and is meant to help the training sector be more responsive to changing demands in the local labour market, amid concerns over the mismatch of jobs and skills within the workforce.

The training and adult learning sector is about 6,000-strong, while more Singaporeans are signing up for Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) courses — 267,851 last year, up from 192,249 in 2011.

Last week, a report by the Monetary Authority of Singapore showed that the mismatch of jobs and skills has deteriorated to a level not seen since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

Announcing the Training and Adult Education Sector Transformation Plan at the Adult Learning Symposium on Thursday (Nov 3) Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung said that training providers need to expand their roles. The plan was developed in consultation with more than 150 industry professionals.

“Many of you know that businesses and individuals are now looking for more than trainers or subject-matter experts. Many may not even know what they need,” said Mr Ong.

“TAE (training and education) professionals must be able to understand the challenges of businesses, their skills requirement, and play a part to help them raise their game.”

The Training Exchange portal will house a directory of SkillsFuture-related courses — which now number about 16,500 — along with quality indicators and training outcomes of individual providers.

Currently, providers and courses are assessed through audits done once in two years, as well as an annual Outcomes Evaluation Survey. SSG said that over the past three years, less than 5 per cent, or less than 30, of WSQ Approved Training Organisations (ATOs) were terminated “due to poor capabilities”.

Going forward, SSG will assess the training providers, said the agency’s chief executive Ng Cher Pong on Thursday (Nov 3), adding that training outcomes will be based on objective data though there will also be room for community feedback.

Asked if the quality of the sector could be improved by tightening accreditation criteria instead, Mr Ng said such a framework would set only minimum standards.

“The next phase of the development must be based on how training providers, how adult educators, help meet specific needs. And we think that comes from information transparency rather than by just raising accreditation standards,” he added.

Training practitioners can also tap the S$27 million iN.LEARN initiative launched last October to adopt “blended” learning — using e-learning tools and mobile devices to deliver lessons.

By 2020, the SSG’s goal is to have three in four full WSQ courses delivered through “blended” learning, up from just over half the courses as of September.

The SSG will also introduce a National Training Management System by 2018 — now in its pilot phase — to streamline administrative tasks such as enrolment management. And as part of efforts to motivate trainers to deepen their skills, the SkillsFuture Study Award will be made available to them.

Practitioners in the field have welcomed the plan, especially the push towards “blended” learning. Ms Jessline Yap, an adjunct adult educator at the Institute for Adult Learning, said: “Economic factors have resulted in leaner teams and sending individuals away from their work to attend training sessions are now more challenging.”

They also noted the challenge of coming up with courses at a faster pace to support urgent learning needs. “Once you identify a learning need, you need to design and develop the course. You need to find materials that would be relevant and understand how the content can be applied to the workplace,” said Ms Praise Mok, deputy chief executive training firm Rohei Corporation.

As for enhancing the assessment of courses and providers, trainers said feedback received can improve quality and type of courses offered, but said that indicators for such assessments must be meaningful.

Said Ms Yap: “How do you define what is a good course or provider? Is a low course fee or good spread of food for breaks a good indicator? The indicators must be well thought of and crafted, and feedback (must be) obtained from different parties to offer a holistic and balanced picture of the course and its provider.”

Source: TODAY Online

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