Govt Must Fix Failure to Build a Local Talent Pool

…Without Undermining Singaporeans for Perceived Skills Mismatch

It ill behoves Singapore to deflect any blame to its citizenry for the government’s failures.

It is too naïve to believe that a mere $500 Skills Future credit, or thereabouts, can help achieve what a spend of $100,000 on university education could not! If it is as simple as that then employers in Singapore can easily meet their requirements through some quick-fix training for their employees!

The Issue Goes Beyond Skills Gap…

There is no question that skills upgrading and lifelong learning are essential in a market that is constantly evolving. 

What is important is getting the foundations right through university degrees in preferably STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or other professional courses! This can happen only with the support of the Government!

It is becoming a clever habit for the government to hold unemployed Singaporeans responsible for their situation, bringing up the issue of skills mismatch. 

On a daily basis, the last few days we have been reading about Ministers and even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong say that thousands of jobs are available in the country, it is just that Singaporeans do not have the skills to land those jobs.

The Answer My Friend is Blowin’ in the Wind…

Yesterday, it was the turn of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to repeat the message and assert: “The solution lies in part with the workers themselves. They should equip themselves with the necessary skills to fill the jobs that are currently available and will be in demand in the coming years.”

Going by that logic…

  • If hospitals dispense wrong medication, it is the fault of the patients to have taken them.
  • When train and bus services get botched up, a typical escapist response can be: “who asked you to rely on public transport? Don’t you have the sense to make enough money to buy your own car?”
  • If buildings collapse, workers will have to take the blame for any use of cheap construction material.

An Education System that Failed Singaporeans

It is time the Government drops the blame game and looks at its own failings first. Doesn’t the government think it is the failure of the country’s education system that has resulted in the skills gap?

Where should the fault lie for creating a system that only focuses on the cream who make it and ignores those who need help?

STEM Courses

Foreigners are not joining Singapore’s top universities to study history and geography. They take up key STEM courses at the expense of locals.

And whatever happened to the ideal of pursuing education that satisfies an individual’s soul. It is not always right for students to take up courses based on what interests them. 

They do have to pay attention to subjects that will guarantee them jobs. But they cannot do that alone, the Government has a responsibility to enable them to become STEM graduates. 

Keeping them away from those courses and then imagining a Skills Future credit will work wonders is quite unworldly behaviour.

The answer to workforce-related issues is perhaps “blowin’ in the wind”: improve the locals- vs-foreigners ratio and initiate a disincentive process aimed at companies more keen on letting some of their staff go than on training them. It is generally money that drives their decisions, not a skills gulf.

Most of them are not after loads of rocket scientists and top-of-the-range technologists, just routine personnel involving skills that can be acquired. If you give them an easier, cheaper alternative they will only go for it!

G Joslin Vethakumar

My other recent posts on the issue:

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Filed under Employment in Singapore, Singapore Education, Unemployment in Singapore

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