Two days into his new post as Manpower Minister, Mr Lim Swee Say reiterated his call for workers to upgrade themselves, but acknowledged it will be a challenging task to get employers to change their mindset.
Mr Lim - speaking on Channel 5’s Talking Point on Tuesday evening (May 5) - took questions from panel guests and callers on a range of issues, from the job security of PMETs to issues on underemployment, retrenchment, and academic qualification.
But it was on the topic of education and academic qualifications, brought up by a 53-year-old mother of four who is pursuing a diploma, that had the former Labour Chief repeat his call for skills upgrade and on-job learning among employees.
“There are challenges in the workforce. If I don’t have a degree, my salary will be capped at S$2,000, so that’s a challenge,” said Madam Zubaidah, who is continuing her education with the help of the SkillsFuture Credit programme and government subsidies to better her employability and salary.
Responding to her concerns, Mr Lim said it has never been more crucial for workers to seek an upgrade to their skills amid a glut of degree-holders, uncertainty among PMETs, movements between job sectors, greater computerisation, and the restructuring of various industries.
But it is "a real challenge" to change the mindset among employers, the minister said.
“Yes, academic qualification is one ladder. What we’re trying to do is have a second ladder, known as the CET, the Continuing Education and Training initiative,” said Mr Lim.
“For example, we hope the day will come that a person like yourself has two options – either you go back to school to get your degree or you continue working while continuing with industry-based training.
“But most importantly, your CET must be recognised by the industry and by the employers, so that in time to come, you don’t have to pursue a degree just because you need a degree qualification. But rather, employers should look at you based on your skills and expertise.
"That’s what we’re trying to do with the SkillsFuture movement.
To do this and to protect Singaporeans’ jobs, Mr Lim echoed his May Day Rally call for greater tripartism between government, unions and employers. He said enacting such a change in mindset among employers could be helped along when the three parties are able to work together to address concerns and implement change.
“The intention is that this CET ladder will be recognised by the industry as equivalent to a diploma and equivalent to a degree,” said Mr Lim.
“So in a way, we need to shift the mindset not just among the workers but more importantly, on the part of the employers, and I think that’s what we’re doing on the SkillsFuture initiative – getting the government, employers and unions to come together and to say ‘Yes, these are the kind of skills we need in the future’.”
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