Best Skills Courses for Students in Singapore (2014)

Ryan Ong



Our work culture stuns our students, and you can’t blame them. After 14+ years of being bossed around, we expect them to have personal initiative. Then we expect them to be personable and vocal; which, you may notice, is the exact opposite of what teachers have told them for years (i.e. sit down and shut up). Our students need help, and these skills are a start:


1. Interpersonal Communications Skills

Remember when we explained how to negotiate for a raise? We got a ton of e-mails about that. The typical response was: “I can’t talk to my boss, or do anything that requires my mouth to make sounds to another person. Can you tell me how to negotiate without actually talking?”

According to Human Resource Manager Greg Ang, our communication – or lack of it – is a growing workplace issue:

One thing I notice, about students just entering the workforce, is that they don’t communicate. They rather waste time with long e-mail correspondences than talk. If they have a problem with a colleague, they’d rather gossip or sulk than talk it out directly. It leads to stress and productivity issues.

It’s a shame because most companies have an operational structure that goes sideways, not top-down. We need employees who can collaborate. Even if you are on the technical side, you may need to work with marketing, or the factory floor, on the same project.”

Which is why interpersonal communications courses are catching on. They won’t turn you into a social butterfly – but at least you won’t be butting heads with colleagues, or wasting three hours trying to explain the last e-mail you sent.

You can find courses in interpersonal communications from the WSQ, which covers up to 90% of the cost for Singaporeans.


2. Business English

This was on last year’s list, and it hasn’t changed. In fact, demand seems to be increasing. You want to know just how important? Follow us on Facebook as we reveal some of the worst resume mistakes people have made.

Dorothy Tan, a career advisor for a recruitment firm, says poor English skills are an increasing concern for employers. And in companies where the dominant language isn’t English, there is a strong demand for someone who can read, write, and speak it well.

Recently the companies who approach us (for job candidates) seem to favour those who are good in English. They want someone bilingual, because they mainly speak Chinese in the office, and they need someone who can communicate to clients in English.

It’s also a common gripe among managers that, when they get subordinates to write something, they have to double-check it every time. They always need to make grammatical changes, to the point that it’s as good as writing it themselves.”

TalkEnglish has free online courses. If you’re the sort who must have a classroom and lecturer though, you can try at the British Council, or almost any language school.


3. Basic Accountancy Courses

We’re not talking about full blown accountancy degrees. Those can only be completed by a rare breed of people; the sort who can name every document in their in-tray.

Greg Ang (see point 1) says that “If you can use Excel, handle invoicing, and track accounts payable, you have a considerable edge over someone with the same experience and qualifications.”

Accounting isn’t just useful in the office. Basic accounting skills are useful for managing your portfolio, reading annual reports, understanding business news, etc. And if you ever intend to be self-employed, this skill actually affects how many clients you’ll have (hand-scribble an invoice on the back of a napkin, and see how fast your client makes for the door.)

The WDA offers basic accounting as one module in a larger programme – as do local polytechnics and business schools.


4. App Development Courses

Again, this was on the list in 2013…and it might stay here for a long time. These days, it seems like the only reason a company hasn’t got an app developer is that they don’t know where to find one (there is no app for that).

And even if you don’t have big entrepreneurial dreams, app development is a good way to pick up a few bucks on the side. Alex (not his real name) is a polytechnic student, who’s currently making $200 – $300 a month in side-income from his game apps:

The good thing is that you don’t have to be an IT expert – I’m actually a mass-comm student – and it’s an easier to make money compared to a push cart stall or blogshop. I’ve done both of those before, and this is definitely easier. It’s also good for your portfolio. When I go for interviews I mention my apps and show them off, which is better than just listing a bunch of hobbies.”


Which courses have you done with a significant pay-off? Comment and let us know!


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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.