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Going Beyond Retraining to Keep Singaporeans Meaningfully Employed

Being employed is an integral part of anyone’s life in today’s global economy. Like many others, Singaporeans are seeking out employment opportunities that minimally ensure basic needs are being met. Based on Blackbox’s recent study on Singaporeans, “Emerging From The Pandemic: The New Mood In Singapore”, 21% of Singaporeans felt that employment/jobs are a pressing issue for Singapore today. In fact, Singaporeans have ranked employment/jobs as one of the top 3 most pressing issues in Singapore and globally, only beaten by costs of living (54%) and inflation (40%).  Interestingly, the top three issues are heavily interlinked.  

Singapore has done a good job in enabling its citizens to seek out meaningful employment opportunities. Chief among these efforts is a consistent emphasis on learning and retraining. SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) is one of the major government institutions designed to ensure that Singaporeans have sufficient learning opportunities to learn new skills. 

While reskilling is an important policy for Singapore’s labour market going forward, there are risks of learning fatigue whereby Singaporeans are overloaded with the push for reskilling. It is even more dangerous if the push for reskilling does not follow up with better employment outcomes post-training. 

Ensuring meaningful retraining 

There are strong merits behind continuous education and training (CET). Singapore’s education system operates on a front-loading model. Students are taught entire sets of concepts right from the beginning before applying the learnt concepts to various situations.  

However, as students graduate into adults, entering the workforce provides new experiences. While some can adapt, others need constant guidance. Technological progress may also deskill workers, necessitating retraining. There are also Singaporeans trained in specific trades who are now looking to take their professional development and career elsewhere. CET’s principles ensure that Singaporeans are always armed with the most up-to-date and relevant skills to navigate these evolving landscapes and new experiences. 

One concern with retraining is that it does not always lead to better outcomes for those who undergo it. For instance, nurses at Singapore’s National Eye Centre (SNEC) were less keen on retraining courses. While it was beneficial for nurses to undergo retraining courses as it improved patient experience, what was less clear were the tangible benefits for nurses themselves. Will their workloads increase? More importantly, will their salaries increase? 

Outcomes matter 

The scenario with SNEC nurses highlights the importance of ensuring that key performance indicators (KPIs) reflect the real outcomes on the ground. Enrolment is an important KPI that shows courses offered are desired by would-be students.  

However, training providers and government agencies facilitating adult education need to understand the primary motivation to learn as an adult. CET is a pathway to a better outcome. Within Singapore’s context, better outcomes usually imply better remuneration and/or better work experiences.    

Being future-oriented 

Courses, especially those that are more technical and skills-based, typically reflect the needs of industries today. One of the avenues to ensure that the benefits of retraining are future-proof is to facilitate courses geared towards future trends. For example, Python courses only picked up in popularity as programming roles became more lucrative over time and the language entrenched itself in the programming world. Training providers might want to explore what future languages might be trending in the IT industry and develop new educational content to gear towards that future. A similar approach can be taken by other industries.  

SSG has also identified key future trends in skills training. These trends are in line with Singapore’s drive towards growth industries such as the digital economy, environmentally sustainable industries, and ever-present concerns over the ageing population. SSG and many of Singapore’s education institutions are offering future-proof skills such as tech-lite and tech-heavy skills, sustainability management, and skills geared towards promoting holistic care. 

Students and adult learners will most likely get learning fatigue over time, especially with online learning becoming prevalent. Retraining should be an efficient process whereby learners do not need to take too many courses, be selective in their desired courses, and reap the tangible benefits of CET. 

To discover how Blackbox Research can help your government and training providers uncover critical insights about your learners for developing unique and effective CET programmes, write to us at 

Author: Blackbox Research Team


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