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Polys, ITEs give students career head start

The Straits Times, Singapore, 9 November 2015 - Be it beefing up internships or career counselling advice, the five polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) have embarked on various SkillsFuture initiatives to give students a head start in their careers.

These institutions have, for instance, started sending students on longer and more structured internships. These enhanced internships, with defined learning outcomes and better mentorship, are a component of full-time diploma courses, Nitec or Higher Nitec courses offered by the polytechnics or ITE.

Internships will be enhanced in at least half of polytechnic courses by the end of this year, and at least 70 per cent of ITE courses by the end of next year. All ITE and polytechnic courses will have enhancements to their internships by 2020.

Earlier this year, Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), for example, signed agreements with 50 industry partners in sectors such as business, engineering and health sciences to offer a structured internship programme.

The programme, which is already under way, aims to offer clear job scopes and learning points, such as developing technical and soft skills relevant to industry needs. NYP plans to partner another 20 firms for the programme early next year.

NYP registrar Thambyrajah T. said: "There is value in the company mentors guiding the students because these are people in the industry and doing the real work."

He added that initiatives like this allow employers to assess the students, many of whom may be offered full-time jobs.

Mr Albert Toh, director of Republic Polytechnic's SkillsFuture office, said unlike in the past, internships now allow students to take on more meaningful activities during their stints, such as projects with their attached firms.

The SkillsFuture Earn and Learn scheme takes this one step further, allowing fresh polytechnic and ITE graduates to work and further their qualifications at the same time.

Under the national SkillsFuture movement, education and career guidance will also be made available. Institutions - from primary schools to universities - have since adopted measures to help students make informed decisions on such matters.

For instance, at polytechnics, students are able to access activities such as lessons, mentoring sessions and industry visits under the Education and Career Guidance curriculum. To conduct such activities, polytechnic lecturers have started going for training in skills such as helping with career goal-setting.

In line with SkillsFuture, educational institutions have unveiled skills-based modular courses to enable individuals to stay current.

There are also other SkillsFuture programmes, meant to help workers who want to upgrade their skills and stay relevant in their jobs.

Among them is the SkillsFuture Study Awards, which Singaporean workers can tap to subsidise course fees. Applications for the first phase of the study awards opened last month, with more than 500 cash grants made available. The first eight sectors which are ready to receive applications include construction, social services and retail.

The awards, worth $5,000 each, are bond-free and can be used on top of existing government course subsidies. Up to 2,000 awards will be handed out yearly.

Another initiative, the SkillsFuture Credit, will soon be made available to provide Singaporeans aged 25 and older with $500 to enrol in courses to upgrade their skills. More than two million Singaporeans will receive the training grant next year.



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