Singapore is known for efficiency, not so much for quality. Sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. We can get stuff done fast, but when there’s no quality control companies try to cut corners. That’s why our service sector is so dismal—you just can’t measure staff friendliness.
So that’s why a lot of people weren’t that surprised when a WSQ course received flak recently. Here’s the news report if you haven’t already seen it.
If you haven’t used your $500 SkillsFuture credit yet, you might be wary about wasting it on a course that’s full of bull. Here’s what you should do before committing that cash.
Research the organisation rigorously
The trouble with SkillsFuture is that people tend to trust in the quality of the courses, since they’re after all WSQ-approved. Gahmen approved so must be fine right?
Unfortunately, it’s pretty obvious that the government does not have the time and resources to send people down to sit in on every single course.
And even more unfortunately, in a similar spirit to those who tried to exploit the PIC grant, it’s likely there’ll be many companies jumping on the bandwagon with substandard courses, just to get those taxpayers’ dollars.
A quick search on the SkillsFuture site will reveal that there are all sorts of organisations trying to conduct courses, most of which you’ll never have heard of before.
To reduce your chances of ending up with a dud, it’s imperative that you research the organisation you wish to study with rigorously. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it a legit educational institution? If you’re taking a course at NUS or NTU, you can probably rest assured that the quality of the course will not be as bad as the “effective communication” course that appeared in the article. On the other hand, you should think twice before signing up for a dodgy looking SME’s course.
- Does the institution specialise in the subject matter being taught or is it offering an awkward hodgepodge of classes? Let’s say you want to study graphic design. If you took a course at an art school like Lasalle or NAFA, or a private school like Orita Sinclair, you would probably not be too worried about the course being substandard, since these schools specialise in artistic media after all. However, you would want to think twice before enrolling in a course at a company which also teaches HR, effective communication and programming skills. Random courses slapped together in a haphazard manner are usually a bad sign.
- What are the credentials of the people teaching the course? It’s not hard to see how companies can get just about anyone to teach vaguely titled courses like “effective communication” and “emotional competence”. It’s not a bad idea to find out from the institution who exactly will be teaching the course, and why they’re qualified to do so. When it comes to theoretical or abstract subjects, be wary if the course is taught entirely by business professionals rathe than academics. These guys can teach you how to create accounting spreadsheets, but I wouldn’t want to learn how to communicate effectively from someone whose expertise extended only to banging out business emails.
- Is this organisation known in your industry? If an organisation that’s known or reputed in your industry is teaching a course, the course is less likely to be completely useless.
Ask for a detailed copy of the syllabus and course description
Let’s say you work in marketing and want to upgrade your skills in the digital arena. So you sign up for a course on Search Engine Optimisation. How do you know that what you get out of the course is more than what you can read about in 2 hours on the Internet?
Email or call the organisation and ask them to send over a copy of the syllabus and the materials being used. If they sound unwilling to do so, alarm bells should go off in your head. Legit educational institutions will be able to provide you with that kind of information, since they’re in the business of educating people and their instructors should have thought about all of this stuff before hand.
You also want to make sure the course you’re attending is going to give you hands-on practice, if that’s something that’s relevant to the subject you’re studying.
For instance, if you’re learning about SEO, you want to know if each student will create their own analytics reports. Conversely, if the course is just 3 hours long, it’s likely it will consist just of a lecture and no hands-on component.
Don’t be afraid to ask for as much information as you need to feel comfortable with enrolling in a particular course. Remember, most information can be found for free on the Internet anyway. So the onus is on the institution to show that they’re able to offer something of substance.
Don’t be too lazy to shop around for the right course
Search for a subject like “coding” or “marketing” on the SkillsFuture website, and you’ll find that there are multiple companies offering similar courses.
If you don’t want to waste your SkillsFuture credits, make sure you’re comparing courses as carefully as you would if the money was coming from your own pocket. We tend to get lazy when we’re using money that comes free from the government.
If you know anyone who’s taken similar courses, ask for recommendations.
Above all, never assume that since all the courses are WSQ-approved, they’re all “just as good”. WSQ is not responsible for determining whether courses fit your specific needs.
Have you used your SkillsFuture credit? Share your experiences in the comments!