"It is important we continue to narrow these differences to ensure social cohesion is not impacted," Minister of Manpower Dr. Tan See Leng said.
Singapore's Minister of Manpower (MOM) Dr. Tan See Leng has addressed the pay gap between Institute of Technical Education (ITE), polytechnic, and university graduates over the course of their careers, in his response to a question raised in Parliament.
To start off, he reassured that various government agencies, including the Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Trade and Industry, and MOM, have been working together to tackle the issue of wage differences amongst graduates, in addition to ongoing efforts with companies.
"It is important we continue to narrow these differences to ensure social cohesion is not impacted."
Diving deeper, Minister Tan first highlighted the need to enable ITE and polytechnic graduates to enter good quality, in-demand jobs, leading to good career prospects and sustained wage growth. This is being done in a few ways.
Singapore's ITEs and polytechnics regularly review their curricula to ensure their industry relevance. This includes aligning with skills frameworks and the Industry Transformation Maps. They also work closely with employers and sector agencies to provide internships to students, equipping them with skills to enter good jobs related to their training.
Additionally, MOE is scaling up Work-Study Programmes where fresh polytechnic and ITE graduates are placed into jobs where they can deepen their skills through a structured training programme that includes on-the-job training, while pursuing careers related to their disciplines of study.
MOE regularly tracks the effectiveness and relevance of these work-study programmes.
As shared by Minister Tan, more than 95% of graduates were employed within six months after completion of the programmes, and based on MOE’s latest survey findings, median salaries had also increased compared to what they received at the start of the programme. For example, ITE is growing its Work-Study Diploma programme from 1,200 places to 1,500 places each year by 2025 so that more graduates can benefit from Work-Study Programmes. This is complemented by new sector-specific programmes launched last year.
As part of efforts to engage with employers, IMDA, together with industry players, has set up the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) for ITE and Polytechnics Alliance (the TIP Alliance in short) to equip polytechnic and ITE graduates with the skills to kickstart their careers in tech. The TIP Alliance will work with participating companies such as Accenture, Google and Singtel to provide internships and apprenticeships.
MTI has also introduced the Accelerated Pathways for Technicians and Assistant Engineers (Manufacturing) (“APT(M)”) to support manufacturing companies with progressive HR practices in hiring and training ITE graduates for technician and assistant engineer roles, and providing them with career, skills progression and competitive salaries.
Secondly, Minister Tan touched on the need to support ITE and polytechnic graduates to continuously upskill and progress in their careers.
"As our economy continues to restructure and continues to transform, jobs and careers will also keep evolving."
As part of this, the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning (NACE) helps companies to strengthen their workplace learning capabilities, so that workers can upskill on the job. ITE and polytechnic graduates can pursue modular upgrading or part-time full qualification programmes at the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) while they are working. These modular courses can stack up to diploma, post-diploma and degree qualifications.
Minister Tan also acknowledges workers may also consider pivoting to new careers over time as interests change and new opportunities emerge. He cited Workforce Singapore's (WSG) Career Conversion Programmes (CCPs), across about 30 sectors, to help workers to transition into new in-demand jobs. More than 12,000 Polytechnic and ITE graduates have benefitted from the CCPs in the last five years and moved into new jobs, into sectors including air transport, financial services, and early childhood.
Lastly, he called on employers to consider ITE and polytechnic graduates fairly for job and promotion opportunities, instead of being pigeonholed unfairly based on their starting qualifications.
The Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices set out fair and merit-based employment practices that all employers should adopt when making employment decisions. The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) has been supporting employers with advisory services and resources to implement fair practices.
In addition, the Institute for HR Professionals (IHRP) works closely with enterprises and HR professionals to strengthen overall HR capabilities, such as via the Human Capital Diagnostic Tool (HCDT) to identify developmental areas and upskill HR in fair and progressive practices via IHRP skills badges.
Minister Tan further added in a Facebook post: "Narrowing wage differences is a whole-of-society effort. Let’s do our part to recognise and value one another as we embrace a broader definition of meritocracy."
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