SINGAPORE: The Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) framework is undergoing a revamp to give Singaporeans more opportunities to deepen skills as they progress in their careers.
It will cover more sectors and more Professional, Manager and Executive or PME-type jobs. The plans were revealed by the Workforce Development Agency’s (WDA) Chief Executive Ng Cher Pong in an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia.
Launched in 2005, WSQ is a national credentialing system which trains individuals in key competencies that companies look for in potential employees. It is all about allowing workers to progress in their jobs based on skills acquired. As of September 2014, there are 1.2 million WSQ-certified workers across 34 industries.
With the renewed focus on a skills progression pathway to support an advanced economy – as set out by the SkillsFuture Council chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam – the WSQ is getting an upgrade.
Currently there are six levels within the WSQ framework. There are plans to add on more levels to cater to the deepening of skills.
WDA’s Ng Cher Pong said: “When we think about the WSQ frameworks, what its essential is, is that it describes how jobs are clustered in that particular sector and we’ve attempted to cluster the jobs in different levels.
“Jobs which are perhaps a little bit less complex are targeted at the rank-and-file level. So we describe a job, what it may be called across different companies and what are the skills, competencies and knowledge required to do these jobs, at that level. And this is how we systematically build up WSQ.
“So, the reason today why we have six levels is partly because we have not included some of the top jobs in that sector. So for example, a chief research officer will not be included in today’s WSQ framework. But when we look ahead and think about how an advanced economy looks like – which is what we are moving towards – we think that there is scope to map some of these out.”
This will mean more PMEs will be covered under WSQ. Mr Ng said: “So today the WSQ frameworks do cover PMEs but not comprehensively. We are hoping that through the development of these new skills frameworks we can do so much more comprehensively.
“For individuals who are thinking about what their career choices should be and if they enter that sector, how they can progress in their careers, these frameworks will be quite useful.”
The labour movement’s Assistant Secretary-General Patrick Tay welcomes plans to expand WSQ to PMEs. He said skills upgrading should be extended to PMEs because as seen in previous downturns, they are the ones increasingly susceptible to layoffs.
Mr Tay said: “I support the move as it will make the WSQ more inclusive and extensive to cover PMEs, a group which is growing rapidly and whose employment and employability are crucial.
It’s important because the workforce profile is changing rapidly and PMEs may form the majority of the workforce in the next decade.
“Similarly, skills upgrading and second skilling should be extended to PMEs because as seen in previous downturns, PMEs are increasingly susceptible to layoffs. Skills upgrading and second skilling will help future proof and future ready our PMEs, especially the mature PMEs, by enhancing their employment and employability.
“In light of job obsolescence, that is certain jobs become obsolete while jobs that did not exist a decade ago have appeared…acquiring a second set of skills is vital.”
To ensure that training is seamless from the time a person is in school till the time he is working, the WDA will enlist the help of employers as well as polytechnics and ITEs to develop these skills progression pathways.
From 2015, staff from all polys and the ITEs will be seconded to the WDA for a two-year term to help in this endeavour.
“We are working on having officers seconded from the polytechnics and ITEs to WDA so that we form a new group. This new group will work on these skills framework, so that we take on the best in the systems – the pre-employment training system as well as the CET system, the WSQ framework – integrate them into these new skills framework,” said Mr Ng.
Eventually, the aim is to allow institutes of higher learning as well as approved training providers to issue their own WSQ certificates.
Mr Ng said: “We think there is some scope to do a more fundamental review to see how we can de-link credentials from the skills framework so that it is a lot more open. It will allow for different credentials to be issued based on these frameworks.
“So for the frameworks that we have today, which are called WSQ frameworks, you can only issue WSQ diplomas or WSQ advance certificates. But going forward, because these are national frameworks, we will have different institutions who will be appointed and be able to issue qualifications based on these frameworks.
“Polytechnics will issue qualifications based on these frameworks, likewise ITEs.”
Driving this effort at the national level is a working group, formed under the SkillsFuture Council. Mr Ng will chair the workgroup looking into the development of the skills progression framework.
Mr Ng also spoke about a one-stop national portal that will feature tools and resources to help guide individuals with their training and career choices. To be ready by early 2017, the portal will also incorporate the National Jobs Bank. A tender for it will be called next year.
Mr Ng said: “It’s a major portal because it’s not just going to be used by the workforce, not just by WDA. Actually it will be used for kids as well, starting from schools. For schools, as part of the delivery of education guidance, they will use this portal, give kids exposure to what the different jobs mean. It will also tap into the skills frameworks…And obviously it’s important to involve employers too because they will tell us what jobs are available. Through this portal we will also be able to make available labour market information to all Singaporeans.”
news source & image credits: channlenewsasia.com