Budget 2020 - Spotlight on SkillsFuture Next Bound
Budget 2020 - Spotlight on SkillsFuture Next Bound

Posted on 13 March 2020

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The rising demands for technological innovation and, by extension, workers with digital skills, was a large theme of Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s Budget 2020 speech.

While the Stabilisation and Support Package largely focused on retaining jobs for local workers over the Covid-19 outbreak, the Next Bound of SkillsFuture and SkillsFuture Mid-Career Support packages served a different purpose – helping Singaporeans upskill themselves to remain relevant in fast-changing digital landscape.

“With shorter technology cycles and more intense global competition, skills acquired when we are young need to be constantly refreshed,” said Minister Heng. “Career transitions will be more common, even the norm.”

“Our SkillsFuture movement seeks to enable our people to learn, develop new skills, and stay employable.”

In that vein, the Next Bound of SkillsFuture was introduced with three key elements: enabling the individual, enhancing the role of enterprises in developing their staff, and special focus on mid-career workers. We examine the elements that relate to individual employees, as well as the response to these initiatives.

What is SkillsFuture?

Launched in 2015, SkillsFuture has helped more than half a million Singaporeans pick up new skills and develop new developments. Training participation rates rose to 49% in 2019 from 35% in 2015 as a result of the movement.

In his Budget Debate Round-Up Speech, Minister Heng concluded that, “Initiatives such as the SkillsFuture Credit encourage each individual to take charge of their learning throughout life. Together with Government subsidies for CET courses, our workers can access quality programmes with low or zero out-of-pocket payment.”

Under SkillsFuture, different programmes are available throughout all stages of life for students, employees (early- and mid-career) as well as employers. This ensures Singaporeans will be able to tap on a curated list of training programmes to stay relevant and prepare for the future

SkillsFuture Credit Top-Up

During Budget 2020, it was announced that a one-off S$500 SkillsFuture top-up will be made available for every Singaporean aged 25 and above, as part of the Government’s efforts to support workers to develop new skills.

This top up will be available from 1 1 October 2020 and will expire by the end of 2025. Any unused credit from this top up will lapse after 31 December 2025.

“This is to encourage Singaporeans to take action early to learn new skills, and to make the best use of this period of economic slowdown,” said Minister Heng Swee Keat during the Budget 2020 speech.

SkillsFuture Mid-Career Support Package

As the name indicates, the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Support Package has a special focus on mid-career workers in their 40s and 50s to help them stay employable and move on to new jobs or new roles. The aim is to double annual job placements for locals in their 40s and 50s to around 5,500 by 2025.

This is because older workers face greater competition from younger workers and workers overseas. Additionally, some workers in 40s and 50s have not changed jobs or done any sort of professional training since leaving school, leaving them particularly vulnerable to retrenchment or replacement.

Hence, to support reskilling, each Singapore aged 40 to 60 in 2020 will also receive an additional S$500 SkillsFuture Credit this year, in addition to the S$500 offered to all Singaporeans. This additional credit can be used for selected reskilling programmes at CET Centres. It will expire in five years, by 31 December 2025, “to encourage early action”, said Minister Heng.

A hiring incentive will be provided for employers who hire local job seekers aged 40 and above through a reskilling programme. For each eligible worker, the government will provide 20% salary support to the employer for 6 months, capped at $6,000 in total.

Also, a group of volunteer Career Advisors from professional communities will provide mid-career workers with peer-level support and career guidance.

SEP Training Support Scheme

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo announced a new SEP Training Support Scheme on 3 March, which will pay all self-employed persons (SEPs) a training allowance of S$7.50/hour to attend courses under the SkillsFuture Series, as well as selected sector-specific training programmes, over the next three months.

“Not only will this scheme supplement their income, it can help them become more future-ready,” she explained.

Response and Analysis

Singapore's push to better support mid-career workers and get businesses more involved in worker training is the right way to go has been well-received and lauded as the correct direction.

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Low Peck Kem said the latest measures could boost both the demand and supply of trained workers.

"The SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit will help companies train mid-careerists to be relevant and to contribute to their business. The SkillsFuture (Credit top-ups) will help workers beef up their own skills to remain employable to the companies," she said.

However, they emphasised that a key challenge is in deciding which skills to invest in amongst the many options, especially for older workers and those employed by SMEs.

In response, Minister Ong advised against being too “judgemental” about those who use their SkillsFuture credit on ‘leisure’ courses such as baking or flower arrangement.

“What is 'leisure' to me may be a profession to somebody else. (It) may be a home-based business for somebody else. What to me may be a language to understand a drama series may be a work requirement for somebody else," he said.

He also said that since its beginning in 2015, more than 90% of SkillsFuture credit claims that people have made up till now are work-related. The most popular courses are those related to information and communications technology, in line with the need for workers to keep up with technological disruption and changes.

These show the validity and importance of the SkillsFuture movement, and the value in its upgrades during Budget 2020.

References and Further Information

SkillsFuture Next Bound
Budget Speech 2020
Budget Debate Round-Up Speech 2020
Singapore Budget 2020 Full Coverage by Singapore Business Review

 

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