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Vocational training needs boost for better employment prospects

Update: November, 04/2015 - 16:28
Minister for Higher and Education Skills Ong Ye Kung delivers his speech at the International Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Singapore. — VNS Photo

SINGAPORE — Some people still rate vocational training lower than academic training, but vocational training is providing the most stable jobs globally.

This fact was discussed by about 400 international participants during a four-day conference in Singapore to find ways to improve the training.

The International Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), funded by Temasek Foundation since November 3, mentioned the bias of parents for four- or five-year college degrees, preferably one that precedes passing a professional board examination.

According to a report of the Asian Development Bank, a large number of the jobs being created in many economies are in technical or vocational fields, but strong social biases against many of these fields exist.

Singapore's Acting Education Minister for Higher and Education Skills Ong Ye Kung said the bias existed in several countries. In Singapore, the influence of Chinese ideas gives more importance to academics than all kinds of professions.

Meanwhile, the conference also presented data that showed about 80 per cent of employment demand was concentrated in industries such as manufacturing, wholesale and retail, accommodation and catering, and service industries, besides lease and business services and construction. Skilled jobs in companies account for 97 per cent of the demand.

Carrie Yau, executive director of Hong Kong's Vocational Training Council, quoted the World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2015 report that said 74 million young people in the 15-24 age group were looking for work, but many of them were not skills-ready.

According to the International Labour Organisation, the development of vocational skills and promotion of lifelong learning are recognised as a core national strategy in many advanced countries such as Japan and the United States. In addition, small and emerging nations such as Finland, Taiwan and Singapore strengthened their comparative advantage and gained a competitive position in the international market by adapting a ‘select and focus' strategy.

Singapore's Minister Ong said as a young nation, it did not have "deep-seated historical biases or baggage" toward vocations.

For years, Singapore has heavily invested in human capital. It ranked ninth in the United Nations Human Development Index with an average 3.3 per cent of the GDP being spent on education, or $11.57 billion, if calculated from 2014 data. TVET gets a portion of 30 per cent of the education budget every year.

Citing a 2013 Gallup survey, Ong said workers were more likely to be engaged if they were in jobs that made good use of their skills and knowledge. As a result, employees are more enthusiastic and dedicated in contributing to their workplace, and are more likely to drive innovation and growth.

"We ourselves find meaning in a vocation that we have chosen and matches our interests, talents and personality. The challenge is to develop a system that best matches vocation and aspirations, to create a marketplace for this matching, to build the infrastructure that allows us to work through the highest forms of our vocations," Ong said.

TVET 2015 aims to share and exchange Singapore's learning and provide an opportunity to the participants to exchange challenges, ideas and perspectives in coping with the future economic and social needs.

Goh Geok Khim, chairman of Temasek Foundation, which sponsored TVET 2015, said his foundation has funded some 61 TVET programmes across Asia to aid human and social development. — VNS

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