Singapore’s government is looking to encourage people to move into growth areas like sustainability and digital jobs with the SkillsFuture boost for mid-career workers announced in Budget 2024, said Second Minister for Finance and National Development Indranee Rajah on Monday. “Digitalisation, sustainability, these are key growth areas. And then of course you have our usual ones, electronics and manufacturing – all of these things. Basically, anything where there’s growth, we encourage people to pursue,” she told CNA938’s Asia First. However, digitalisation cannot be pigeonholed, she said, pointing out that the process spans a range of work.

When asked how to ensure that further education improves the employability of workers, Ms Indranee said that the government provides the information for people to make informed choices, but does not dictate what people should do. “What the government can do is identify the growth areas. We’ve now made available the means by which you can pursue further learning in these areas and then we should put out as much information as possible so people can make the choices that feel best for them,” she said.

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong announced on Friday that Singaporeans aged 40 and above will benefit from a new SkillsFuture programme that includes a S$4,000 (US$2,970) top-up in credits in May. The measures also include subsidies for another full-time diploma at polytechnics, Institutes of Technical Education and arts institutions from the 2025 academic year, and monthly training allowances for those who enrol in selected full-time courses. When asked why the new measures focus on getting a diploma, as opposed to a degree, Ms Indranee said it is because the university pathway is usually more academic in nature, but diplomas are skills-based. “The assumption here is that you’ve spent your working life doing something and it could have been on the back of a university degree, it could have been on the back of a diploma,” she said.

Ms Indranee, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said that the measures will help mid-career workers add to an existing educational foundation and working experience. “Going forward, as you look to the next chapter, skills are going to become really important because don’t forget, you’ve already got all the foundation that the degree and the first diploma gave you. What you’re trying to do now is you’re trying to add to that,” she said. “Some may wish to go into social work. Some may wish to go into the childcare industry. Some may want to become life coaches. You don’t need another degree for that, but you may find diplomas that touch on the topics that you’re interested in helpful. So, see it sort of as a layering. It’s not that what you learned before doesn’t matter anymore,” she added.

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