Introduction

I am happy to witness the launch of the SingTel Cadet Scholarship Programme.

Many of you, including many of you here, have worked intensively and consulted many stakeholders for ASPIRE – the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review. Our goal for ASPIRE was a simple one – we have an excellent Polytechnic and ITE education but we want to make it even better. We want to make it even more relevant for our students, for our industries and for Singapore.

Building on the work of ASPIRE, the Government set up the SkillsFuture Council to develop an integrated system of education, training, and career progression for all Singaporeans, and to foster a culture of lifelong learning. I know many of you here, like me, believe deeply in the importance of SkillsFuture, that it will help shape a better future for Singaporeans and Singapore.

In the ASPIRE journey, we learnt how valuable it is for everyone to come together on this mission. Not just students, Polytechnics and ITE, but everyone, including parents, employers, and our whole society – for our society to value skills and respect skills. One of the SkillsFuture Council’s tasks is to bring in industry to support the growth of skills and opportunities.

SingTel Cadet Scholarship Programme

Therefore, it is a real pleasure today to see SingTel, Singapore Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic working together to offer this programme.

This programme is particularly exciting as it embodies many of the principles behind the SkillsFuture movement. In particular:

  • First, in developing skills for the future economy;
  • Second, in making the workplace a great learning place; and
  • Third, in committing to lifelong learning and training

First, developing skills for the future economy. It is important for employers to identify existing skills gaps and then take action to bridge that gap. But that alone is not sufficient. I think progressive employers also think ahead. To do that, we need to develop capabilities in the firm to be able to deliver on their promises. So this is where looking ahead, identifying future skills needs, and developing strategies and talent to meet these needs is so important. I would like to commend SingTel for taking this important step.

By working directly with the Polytechnics, SingTel is identifying its needs and going straight to the source to build up its talent pipeline. This benefits SingTel, our students – because our students get exciting learning and career opportunities – and the industry and uplifts the entire sector. As other students go on these targeted courses, SingTel is also injecting its experience and inputs into the curriculum. I think this is the spirit of sharing that allows us to uplift the entire sector and keep our economy competitive.

The second principle is making the workplace a great learning place. There is no reason why we should stop learning after we leave school and enter the workplace. Learning on the job offers new insights and experience that richly complement classroom learning. Our Polytechnics know this and that is why they have been offering the applied learning education pathway.

The programme we are launching today includes an enhanced structured internship experience, where students learn the theory in the classroom, and then apply this in a real-work, real-life setting. This is how you gain valuable experience.

Through attachments with SingTel’s departments, students will gain invaluable experience, exposure and mentorship. It is a good chance to apply technical skills, and also grow intangible soft skills that will help them succeed in the workplace. As I meet many employers, many of them have been saying how important those soft skills are. There is no textbook formula in learning these skills. You can learn some of these skills in the classroom but more importantly, it is how you make use of the day-to-day work experience to practice those skills.

The third principle is in committing to lifelong learning and training. As individuals, we know the world is changing rapidly and knowledge gets outdated very quickly especially in the area of ICT. We must be prepared to learn, un-learn and re-learn all throughout our lives and keep improving.

In this regard, corporations play an important role to foster a culture of lifelong learning and training. Through this programme, SingTel is making a strong commitment to value skills, develop people, and provide pathways for progression. It will provide structured on-the-job training for participants when they join SingTel as full-fledged employees upon graduation as well as further career and education upgrading opportunities if they perform well.

I want to thank SingTel and all our partners here today for a good start. This is yet another important step in our SkillsFuture journey.

I commend SingTel on your active, forward-looking initiative to provide Singaporeans with a pathway to put their learning to best use and realise their career aspirations.

I understand that SingTel is also working with WDA to introduce new place-and-train programmes to provide job placements and structured learning opportunities for fresh Polytechnic and ITE graduates to deepen their skills and advance in their careers. I look forward to more good work from SingTel, WDA, our institutes of higher learning and all stakeholders in support of SkillsFuture.

Conclusion

SkillsFuture is a tripartite, national endeavor. Employers and unions are key partners. There is more that we can do to expand opportunities for applied and lifelong learning to more students and workers, and to help individuals advance based on skills.

The principles I mentioned are replicable in many industries and by many other companies. The Polytechnics and ITE have been working closely with other employers. Not all industry-driven initiatives will take the same form as what SingTel is doing. In fact, over time, SingTel’s involvement and programme may also change. Each industry and each company should develop programmes to best suit its needs. But as long as we follow the spirit of SkillsFuture, each will contribute to a better Singapore for all.

I hope many more employers will step forward to be part of this journey:

  • Think ahead of your future needs;
  • Work closely with our educational institutions;
  • Break the boundary between the workplace and the classroom; and,
  • Put your people first.

With this SkillsFuture spirit, I am confident we will create many meaningful opportunities for our people.

Thank you very much.