Opinion

What’s So Good About SkillsFuture Credit?

budget 2015 skillsfuture

Peter Lin

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So you may already have heard that the Budget 2015 announcements included some goodies for any and all Singaporeans itching to learn some new skills or upgrade their current ones. Now before you rush out and sign up for a Master’s degree or some PHD program from China, you may want to make sure you know how much was given.

*drumroll*…….. $500.

We got $500 of SkillsFuture Credits. Now the question is really what you can do with this that’s actually going to be useful for your career – To get you a promotion, raise or anything other than some time off to attend a course.

 

What is SkillsFuture Credit?

This is an amount given to Singaporeans aged 25 and above. The initial amount is $500, which will be given to about two million Singaporeans in the first quarter of 2016. Although details have not been given yet, there will be further top-ups in the future at regular intervals.

The Credit can only be used for education and training in Government-supported courses. These include courses at polytechnics, universities and even institutes like LaSalle College of the Arts. You can also use it to subsidise courses by the Workforce Development Authority, or WDA. You know, the people behind the Workforce Skills Qualifications programme, or WSQ. For a full list of courses, check out the SkillsFuture course directory that’s been set up.

They’re the ones who help with mid-career shifts, like into business management or human resources. Do you think you’re able to commit to some 200 to 300 hours of training that leads to an advanced certificate or diploma? If so, then presumably the SkillsFuture Credit will contribute a teeny weeny bit in subsidising your training.

Otherwise, if you use the SkillsFuture Credit to just attend one or two workshops, all you’ll come back with is a pretty certificate acknowledging your attendance.

It’s honestly not going to get you that much closer to a raise, promotion or career switch.

It’s the equivalent of giving you arcade tokens. There’s no cash value, it’ll disappear faster than you realise, and no matter how long you play, the best you can hope for is bragging rights.

 

Okay, so what courses can I use this Credit to subsidise?

At present, nothing has been revealed about exactly what courses at polytechnics, universities and other institutes of higher learning are eligible for SkillsFuture Credit usage. We do know that all the WDA courses are eligible, all 8,841 of them!

They come in all shapes and sizes, from administration to veterinary science. There’s even a course on Staging a Play, for those of you who want to raise your wayang standards in the office.

But seriously, when we looked through the courses available, 5 main points stood out:

 

1. Most individual courses cost under $500

This isn’t really surprising, since most of the courses take up only 2 or 3 days of full-time training. Part-time training is often available too. For some reason, if you’re in a rush to drain your SkillsFuture account, you are probably able to find one or two courses that you can attend for free with the credits.

For example, the “People Leadership Programme”, run by Capelle Academy is a 24 hour course costing $294.00. However, you’ll also find courses like “Develop Human Resource Policy Framework” by Human Capital (Singapore), which is only a 16 hour course but costs $615.00.

 

2. However, many WDA courses are part of a larger WSQ framework

You will be receiving a certificate for most WDA courses. However, many of them are just one module in a WSQ “framework”. There are WSQ frameworks for a variety of categories, including Service Excellence, Retail and Creative Industries.

Within each framework, there are several qualifications, such as an advanced certificate or diploma programme.

The WSQ Professional Diploma in Leadership and People Management programme, for example, is targeted at department managers. It involves about 8 modules, or about a total of 220 – 260 training hours. The cost alone should be about $3,000. It’s quite the commitment, to say the least. And it’s definitely going to set you back by more than what you’re getting in your SkillsFuture Credit next year.

But hey, you got a $500 discount.

3. Are you really learning a skill?

One course, called “Leadership for Results”, organised by the Singapore National Employers Federation, costs $195 for 16 training hours. The objectives of the course are rather numerous, including “establishing performance management standards and success criteria” and “data analysis in monitoring performance”. But we have to wonder, in 16 hours, how much can one really learn?

One could argue that, since this particular course is targeted at senior management, the skills aren’t exactly taught but reinforced. Furthermore, if done over a longer period of time, there might be more opportunity to practice what had being taught.

But in reality, most senior managers don’t have the time to do the course part-time. They tend to get a day or two off for training and then it’s back to the grind. The onus is presumably on the individual to remember what they’ve been taught. Which brings me to my next point.

 

4. Could training providers take advantage of SkillsFuture Credit?

During my short stint in a bakery, I had to first attend a basic food handling course certified by WSQ. It was grandly titled “Follow Food and Beverage Safety and Hygiene Policies and Procedures”.

The course took the whole day, even though we spent more time in the lecture theatre than actually having hands-on practice. By the end of the day, I realised I had spent more time training to sleep with my eyes open that actually learning anything food related. But because I had paid the $150 course fee, I got the Certificate and was now qualified to continue my real learning journey in the bakery.

As it turns out, this same course is conducted by several training providers. I just “lucked out” that I got trainers who were probably more interested in earning my money than in actually ensuring I learnt anything. Could there be opportunities now for more training providers to inflate their course fee, especially since it doesn’t come out of your pocket, but instead out of your SkillsFuture Credit? Time will tell.

 

5. Just how often is SkillsFuture Credit topped-up?

We mentioned earlier that a “WSQ framework” could cost in the region of $3000. Right now, there’s no clear indication yet as to when the SkillsFuture Credit is being topped up. We don’t know how often and by how much. Until such information is made known, it would be difficult to commit to any framework.

Even if such information became available, it might not be topped up at a rate that would match your preferred learning speed. If you planned to finish the above-mentioned Professional Diploma course in 2 years, for example, but did not receive enough SkillsFuture Credit to fully subsidise your learning, you will unavoidably have to pay part of the course fee yourself.

 

So how?! Can these new “Skills” for your “Future” get you any real “Credit”?

It’ll start you off in small steps, with little short courses here and there. Get you a Certificate of Attendance or two, and maybe spark off some interest in a new industry – it won’t however, be a game changer for your career. That’s going to need quite some more work and money, but hey, any Ang Bao is better than no Ang Bao.

What do you think about the $500 SkillsFuture Credit? We want to hear from you.

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Peter Lin

I am the poster boy for reinventing one's self. I've been a broadcast journalist, technical writer, banking customer service officer and a Catholic friar. My life experiences have made me the most cynical idealist you'll ever meet, which is why I'm also the co-founder of a local pop culture website. I believe ignorance is not bliss, and that money is the root of all evil only if you allow it to be.