Skills, experience also crucial for workers: Employers

February 27, 201510:46 am361 views
Skills, experience also crucial for workers: Employers
Skills, experience also crucial for workers: Employers

SINGAPORE: Dispelling the notion that employers here are obsessed with academic credentials, several companies TODAY spoke to said on Thursday (Feb 26) they look beyond paper qualifications when hiring or promoting staff. They also urged polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education students to see a new Government-supported apprenticeship programme as a means to an end rather than an end in itself.

In fact, students should also cast off the mentality that there is a cut-off point when one stops studying and starts working, the employers said.

Home-Fix DIY managing director Low Cheong Kee pointed out that non-university graduates will catch up with degree holders at the workplace if they perform well and take on training opportunities to upgrade their skills. Firms also sponsor good performers for higher education, who serve a bond after they complete their studies, he said.

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Following the announcement of the details of the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn programme, some students interviewed by TODAY had expressed reservations about the scheme as it would delay their plans to further their studies. They felt the mindset of employers and society at large should be changed before they can embrace the programme.

The work-study programme under the SkillsFuture initiative aims to give ITE and polytechnic graduates a head-start in careers related to their studies, allowing them to go on paid apprenticeships and earn industry-recognised qualifications.

Mr Desmond Chan, South Asia managing director for Menlo Worldwide Logistics, said that in the logistics industry, companies value workers with specialised knowledge of the sector. He added that in order to change students’ misperception, it should be communicated to them that starting out as an apprentice would not hinder their ambition to further their studies.

Yang Kee Logistics managing director Ken Koh reiterated that having relevant job experience and the requisite skill set are just as important as possessing paper qualifications. “The contribution (of someone with experience and the right skills) will be more valuable to the successful implementation and execution of projects.”

Mr Michael Tien, chief executive of audio-visual retail company Atlas Sound and Vision, highlighted the need to manage expectations of fresh school-leavers who have the wrong impression that academic credentials alone will guarantee high pay.

The employers acknowledged the reality that university graduates command a higher starting pay than non-graduates and that some jobs require professional degrees. However, they stressed that companies reward workers based on job performance after they have been hired. Increasingly, employers are also looking at work experience during the hiring process.

Mr Low noted that there are market guidelines on average salaries for diploma holders and university graduates. Firms have to pay competitive wages to attract talent, he said. Genki Sushi corporate development director James Chan suggested having some salary guidelines based on work experience.

On their part, some companies provide scholarships to polytechnic students. They also reach out to students to dispel misperceptions and raise awareness about job prospects for non-degree holders. Mr Tien said he conducts talks at schools and partners with Temasek Polytechnic to set up a retail shop for students to learn about the sector.

Mr Koh said the logistics industry is often an unpopular career option. His firm organises site visits and internship opportunities to reach out to students. “The mindset that logistics is a tough, dirty and ‘unsexy’ business is a challenge,” he said.


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