Earn and Learn programme gives Singapore’s graduates a head start in their career

Author: Ek Heng Ng | Date: 17 Aug 2016

SkillsFuture initiative has already tripled the sectors it covers since launching last year

A work-study programme launched in Singapore last year is picking up pace, with the scheme now covering 21 sectors.
 
Singapore’s Earn and Learn Programme (ELP) is one of several schemes launched as part of SkillsFuture, a national initiative aimed at fostering a culture of lifelong learning and skills mastery within the city state.
 
The ELP scheme is open to graduates from five polytechnics within the country and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). It is designed to give fresh graduates a head-start in careers related to their discipline of study.
 
It offers them full-time employment as well as structured learning, leading to higher qualifications after 12 to 18 months within the scheme. To qualify, graduates must be permanent resident,s while citizens are given a sign-on bonus of SGD5,000 (US$3,731) on successful completion. Substantial subsidies are built into the programme for employers.
 
“Working and studying at the same time, makes concepts and theories a lot easier to understand,” said Nicole Chin, a polytechnic trainee in retail. “ELP also triggers my observation and analytical skills. I can see how I can make the transition from poly grad to a working adult with managerial skills.”
 
Its emphasis is on promoting industrial and professional capabilities that are sought after by employers, instead of generally basing entry requirements on university education. It reflects the removal of degree classification from entry criteria by Ernst & Young earlier this year, when the management consulting giant said there was no evidence a university education equals success.
 
A pioneer in the ELP scheme, the food manufacturing sector marked its participation in April last year with 12 companies taking in 19 polytechnic graduates. The first batch from the sector will be completing their 18-month programme in September this year.
 
In addition to on-the-job training and mentorship, participants also have to complete a project at their workplace. Those who are successful receive an advanced diploma in applied food science and stand to gain from having a clear career progression pathway.
 
A different approach has been adopted for the retail sector, where students undergo enhanced internships prior to being accepted – after graduation - into the ELP. It marks the integration of two schemes for the first time, testifying to the responsiveness in meeting specific industry manpower development needs.
 
Launched earlier this year, the integrated programmes are open to polytechnic and ITE students. Because they are required to participate in a 20-week enhanced internship, the tenure of this ELP is reduced from 18 to 12 months. Polytechnic graduates join as management trainees while ITE graduates join as supervisor trainees. Successful participants will acquire a Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) specialist diploma or advanced certificate in retail.
 
One of the employers, executive director Helen Khoo, of Wing Tai Retail, said the integrated programme facilitates the rotation of participants through different work areas, including store supervision, visual merchandising and human resources. “We want to build a pipeline of talent to join retail, not necessarily to stay with us forever but to raise the professionalism of the industry,” she said.
 
The programme now covers sectors as varied as hotel operations, retail, accountancy to precision engineering and semi-conductor manufacturing as well as visual communication, gaming, infocomms technology and maritime industries.