“Imagine a system where business, government and workers think together about how to free these four million people and train them to do the work that emerges in the future,” said Henry. Singapore citizens don’t have to imagine it – that’s what SkillsFuture offers, the nation’s government agency for adult education.
Ong Tze Ch’in, who heads the Singapore program, told POLITICO’s Global Translations podcast that the Singaporean government has built “a national movement focused on the pursuit of mastery of skills and enabling each individual to reach their maximum potential. .
At the heart of Singapore’s training efforts are credit offered to every adult in the country, ranging between $ 375 and $ 950, and “absentee pay,” a government funding scheme of up to 90% of a worker’s salary. covering the missing working time to attend. training.
Singapore also subsidizes its education providers up to 90% of the cost of delivering a course. Classes range from two-day workshops to one-month programs. The original intention was to ensure Singapore’s rapid transition to a digital economy. To deal with the further disruption of Covid-19, the government has increased subsidies for mid-career workers and for courses focused on the professional skills of workers and industries hardest hit by the pandemic, such as housing and aviation.
It takes a whole-of-government mindset to implement a comprehensive system like Singapore’s, as well as a new vision for education, Ong said. School and universities are not seen as the sum of the Singapore system, they are “pre-employment training,” he said. This is a necessary distinction in Ong’s view, as working life is getting longer and “that education alone no longer sustains you throughout your career, simply because industry cycles change much faster.”
The biggest winners from Singapore’s system are small businesses and their workers, who lack the “critical mass and capabilities” to match the training programs of multinational companies, he said.
Ong, who was Singapore’s director of military intelligence before taking over SkillsFuture, has advised US policymakers not to delay their efforts. “You don’t develop an army overnight. You grow it over the years, so that when you need it, you have it. ”
Can the Singapore model evolve across the United States?
The key is to rethink education as a broader set of services beyond school and college, say many labor experts. “A lot of the skills that workers have, or need, aren’t aimed at getting more degrees,” said James Manyika of the McKinsey Global Institute.
Ravi Kumar, president of Infosys, the Indian company famous for spurring the boom in technology outsourcing, told POLITICO that Infosys now runs “the world’s largest business training university” in Bangalore, UK. India.
Each market should be treated differently, depending on the local skill base, Kumar said. In the United States, he said he hires based on a student’s ability to learn, rather than the brand name of his degree. “We move from diplomas to skills with our digital learning program” – which includes “end of studies school infrastructure”, eight to 10 weeks of tailor-made training, at a cost of around $ 20,000 per student .
“We hire community colleges and put them in the apprenticeship program, so they can move from operations to a data scientist, and cyber operations to a cybersecurity consultant. You give them stackable credentials. Over the next few decades, Kumar believes that the changes will be so specific and frequent that individuals cannot manage them on their own.
P-TECH is a large-scale public-private partnership that attempts to meet this challenge. Started by IBM in Brooklyn ten years ago, the partnership now operates in 28 countries.
Joel Duran was among the first class to graduate from P-TECH’s six-year program in 2017, with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. Duran, now 23, landed a job as a technical consultant working for IBM’s federal government clients, an outcome he said would have been more difficult to achieve without the structure and safety net provided. by P-TECH.
“From the first day you started P-TECH in ninth grade, you are matched with a mentor,” he told the Global Translations podcast, and attend regular internships where “the business depends on you. “. With a salary of $ 14 an hour as a teenager in these internships, Duran said he also had an income to help support his extended family, some of whom immigrated to the United States from the Republic. Dominican when Duran was in elementary school, and others who stayed behind.
Duran said the skills he learned were transferable in a rapidly changing job market. Some of its graduates “got their two-year technical degree and went to medical school, they became lawyers. I know there was a student who went to study wildlife. For Duran, the lasting effect was on his approach to work. “I took on the mentality of always keeping on learning, of showing up in a humble room and being able to say, ‘I don’t know about this, but I can answer you’ and I’m pretty confident that I can. learn. “