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5 minute read

Upskilling and Reskilling – How SM Lee Will be Using His SkillsFuture Credits!

If you’re curious how SM Lee will be taking on lifelong learning and upskilling after stepping down as Singaporean’s Prime Minister, read on.

During his last few interviews as Singapore’s Prime Minister in May 2024, now-Senior Minister (SM) Lee Hsien Loong spoke on many aspects of reskilling and upskilling that matter to Singaporeans; why even older workers around his age need to continue learning; and what courses he is keen to use his SkillsFuture credits on.

Here’s a closer look at what he said and how local workers can upskill and reskill according to their own needs.

Why should Singaporean workers upskill and reskill

Singaporean workers have to take charge of refreshing and updating their own skills to stay relevant and fully benefit from new jobs and opportunities. Recent enhancements to SkillsFuture for mid-career workers offer more pathways to level up and acquire skills to take up future jobs.

In Budget 2024, it was announced that there will be:

  • Support for further education courses
  • Financial support while upskilling and reskilling
  • Support for the involuntarily unemployed to reskill and upskill

SM Lee shared: “There are a lot of schemes (to aid and encourage lifelong learning and upskilling), there are quite a lot of programmes, and many people have been making use of this.

“I think the unions certainly have got the message. The rank and file, it varies, but when you have a downturn, I think people feel a cold shiver and they take fright and take it more seriously.

“When the (economic) conditions improve and things look better, the fear is a bit less and maybe they relax a little bit.

“But I think with things changing so fast, we cannot afford to relax. So we have to push hard.

“The challenge is to get the mindset (of Singaporean workers) changed, the training executed, the workers’ jobs and livelihood protected and enhanced.”

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Why does reskilling and upskilling matter even more for older workers in their 40’s and above?

Older workers over the age of 40 need to particularly make that mindset change, with the Singapore Labour Force Report 2023 suggesting that of the long-term unemployed, 70-80% are workers above 40.

That’s why reskilling and upskilling support for mid-career workers aged 40 and above is a key initiative in Budget 2024.

For workers like that, they may lag behind workers who are fresh out of school and need to catch up with the latest skills required in their careers.

At that career stage, most may also have reached a certain plateau. Getting the opportunity to acquire new skills provides them a chance to strike out in a new direction or deepen their current job base.

In addition, SM Lee said: “Statistically, your chances of working as an old person in Singapore are very good.

“Because if you look at employment rates by age – not unemployment rates but employment rates by age – the older workers in their 50s, in their 60s, and even in the late 60s, are high, are rising and are actually good compared to many other developed economies.

“Many people are working well into their 60s now and sometimes into their 70s, like me.

“And actually, happy to have that work because it gives you something to do. It is purposeful, it is not just earning the money, but I wake up in the morning, there is something I want to do in life.

“So, the economy needs workers. We are short of workers. Older workers are valued and we should make the best use of them. “

“We have SkillsFuture and we have SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) as an organisation which is pursuing this nationally. We put a lot of effort into this, and we get workers to take it seriously.

“One of the small hongbaos in the big Budget in 2024 was a $4,000 SkillsFuture grant, which everybody 40 and above will receive and can use for some significant training course.

“It is not such a small amount of money, but it is a token of how seriously we take it and how much we want you to go and improve yourself and improve your opportunities.”

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But change isn’t just on workers’ end – employers are also adapting their jobs so they are suitable for older workers.

This involves analysing, restructuring, and optimising roles to meet the evolving needs of both companies and their workers.

As such, the Job Redesign Centre of Excellence (JRCoE) was launched to broaden awareness of job redesign and support enterprises in their job redesign journey.

Workforce Singapore is working with the Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) to drive job redesign initiatives. The JRCoE aims to serve as a one-stop resource centre to direct enterprises to available job redesign resources, best practices, job evaluation tools, sectoral playbooks and grants so that they can be better equipped and supported to drive business transformation through job redesign.

This also allows employers to identify skills gaps within their workforce so that they can provide targeted training opportunities to employees, allowing them to acquire new skills and stay relevant.

SM Lee said: “It is not just a numbers thing, because you also have to adapt the jobs so that older workers can do the jobs.

“You also have to train the workers so that as they grow older, they can do the jobs which are available for them.

“There are new jobs, but the change will continue.

“AI has come. Next time you see a face, maybe it is synthetic, maybe it is a real person, and the real person will be free to do something else. We will work very hard to make sure that he or she can do something else.”

Combining passion, upskilling, and career change

Of course, as Senior Minister, SM Lee will certainly set a good example in using his own SkillsFuture credits. When asked if he had used his credits yet, he replied: “Not yet. One day I will do that.

“I will go on a photography course, or maybe I will go on a course on how to appear on TV and be interviewed and look relaxed”, he joked.

SM Lee is an avid Instagrammer, starting his social media journey 12 years ago on Facebook, and has become popular for his #jalanjalan photos.

Sharing how personal interest can be connected to our upskilling and reskilling endeavours towards a career pivot, he concluded: “There are many (courses available), and I think there are people who will go and attend a course, decide they like it, go deeper into it and then, they turn into a photographer or videographer.

“Some of them turn into social (media) influencers. That is another career which never existed before… Some of them are very successful.”

(Main Image: MCI)

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