SkillsFuture Bill- Speech By Kwek Hian Chuan Henry, MP for Nee Soon GRC in Parliament on 16 Aug 2016.
The speech was delivered in Chinese, read it in Chinese here.
• Ag Min Ong Ye Kung said before in this House, “Our children are growing up in a new world, striking paths into a Singapore that is more inclusive, all-embracing, a place where we can celebrate diverse talents and gifts. Education must be at the heart of this journey, guiding them in purpose, equipping them with skills and helping them seize the opportunities of their age.”
• I couldn’t agree more with the vision Ag Min Ong set out. We need to support Singaporeans to find and pursue all kinds of dreams.
• This is vastly different from a traditional education system, so SkillsFuture Singapore will have to change mindsets. This is a very important mandate that can’t be achieved overnight.
• I have two suggestions.
1. Future-oriented skills from a young age
• As Ag Min Ong pointed out during the COS debate, the government has the duty to understand global trends, and to signal to the people what are the areas to pursue.
• I am confident that as the SkillsFuture agency will be able to effectively spot the trends and include them in the course mix.
• While we do so, I hope our educational system at the upstream can also take in future-oriented skillsets and let our children learn them early.
• For example, we all know that Programming, learning to deal with machine learning and artificial Intelligence is important.
• The rest of the world is not staying still. Malaysia will start incorporating computational thinking skills & computer science in Primary 1, Form 1 & 4 curriculum next year.
• We also need to incorporate such future-oriented skillsets into our curriculum. I hope that SkillsFuture can provide insight on this.
2. Integrating with Industry Transformation Maps
• Government has mapped out Industry Transformation Maps for certain industries. SkillsFuture needs to align with the Maps and support Singaporeans to develop mastery that the market needs. This step will probably take some time.
• So I hope that our public gives SkillsFuture agency more time to work hand in glove with our economic agencies, our manpower ministry, and other stakeholders, so that we can get our plans right as much as possible.
Mature and Disabled Workers within the Sharing Economy
• I hope to highlight the possibility that the sharing economy has for mature and disabled workers. Perhaps SkillsFuture, in tandem with WDA, can look at it.
• We all know about the challenges for matured workers and workers with certain disabilities to find employment. Our government has done a lot, by co-paying for the salary of matured workers and disabled workers, and by raising the age of re-employment from 65 to 67.
• Despite our efforts, the challenge remains. Some employers do not want to risk hiring matured workers, even with all the incentives and laws in place. Many matured and disabled prospective workers I talk to don’t even get the chance to get interviewed.
• The sharing economy can be the light at the end of the tunnel for them. Because many consumers are willing to take the risk.
• This is because the risk that each consumer undertakes, when they parcel out a micro-job for the task, is far less than the companies are when they hire a full time staff.
• If you are taking a ride from Uber, or finding someone to do electricity work or plumbing on ServisHero, the consumer does not ask about the age or unrelated disabilities of the person providing service. What matters is whether they get good reviews. Already, Uber has some hearing-challenged drivers and is using technology to overcome the communication barriers between them and the passengers.
• At the same time, the sharing economy provides choices if someone cannot or doesn’t want to work full time.
• And while such micro-jobs for the sharing economy are currently largely service related jobs, over time, the opportunities created could be more diverse.
• At the recent Future China conference, I learnt that a portal has started allowing someone to buy general advice online for 99 RMB. But there’s an interesting kicker. The person who buys the advice has the right to resell it for 1 RMB, so this creates incentives for people to buy advice they need, because if they are asking important questions, over time they will get the advice for free, or even make money off it.
• So in the future, the sharing economy could also provide significant advisory opportunities.
• And if there is a gap, SkillsFuture can come in by offering our matured workers course on digital literacy to get on these platforms, to manage their own online profile and reputation, and to improve on customer service.
• Of course, many matured and disabled workers will still need full-time jobs. But the sharing economy can perhaps play an important complementary role. Together with SkillsFuture courses, they can provide an additional choice, or a stepping stone towards their ideal jobs.
• I believe that dreams can’t be just castles in the air. We must have the knowledge, skills and determination to make them come true. So I support this bill. Thank you Madam Speaker.