Tuesday: Introducing the Singapore Workforce Development Agency
I met with Mohd Latiff Bin Rahmat (left) and Jenny Lee (right) at the WDA's headquarters in the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) building. Jenny and Latiff walked me through the key elements of the WDA's programs, which I'll try to summarize here. They've promised to provide comments if I get anything wrong.
Mission: Enhance employability and competitiveness of our workforce.
Vision: A mountain range of successes for Singapore
WDA's Continuing Education and Training infrastructure is made up of three key areas:
- Employability Skills System (ESS), providing "generic and portable" skills. What we'd call "soft skills" training.
- Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ), providing skill upgrades within specific industry occupations. They focus on industry sectors that are important to the economy and have high labor demand.
- CET Institutions, which are the many different private nonprofit and for-profit institutions the WDA partners with to provide training.
ESS has identified ten key employability skills and offers training through more than 20 partner institutions. Through its ESS, the WDA is also working to develop something that looks to be the equivalent of our GED. Singapore follows the British secondary education system. After finishing school, students take exams, and can pass with an "N-level" or the higher "O-level." If you don't pass this exam, you'll have a hard time landing a good job. The WDA is working to get companies and training agencies to recognize ESS training as a legitimate alternative to N-levels and O-levels. And they're having some success. The Singapore Civil Service recognizes it, as do ExxonMobil Asia Pacific and Carrefour Singapore, among others.
Through the WSQ they've established sector-based Industry Skills and Training Councils that include employers, to develop standardized skills competencies or "frameworks" for each sector. Then they work with private nonprofit and for-profit training providers, who actually conduct the trainings. Twelve have been completed so far, in retail, finance, precision engineering, tourism and others. The WDA is currently working on WSQ Frameworks in, among other sectors, aerospace, human resources and creative industries.
WDA focuses its work on four key outcomes:
- Support industry growth
- Bridge the structural skills gap
- Raise industry standards
- Employability for low-skill workers
It's impossible to talk about the WDA without mentioning Singapore's National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), which partners with the WDA on a wide variety of programs. It's made up of 63 trades unions, and some 460,000 members. The NTUC is closely aligned with the governing People's Action Party, and its head is a cabinet minister. I've heard a joke that ever-bargain-conscious Singaporeans (more proof of how alike we are?) join the union primarily in order to get the NTUC discount shopping card.
Tomorrow I'll explain how the WDA is funded, and explain a little about how employers and workers access WDA-funded training.
Click here for Part 1 of A Week in Singapore.