SkillsFuture looks for new ways to measure outcomes of training

CEO of agency says this is so that it is more transparent about the gains, and to shape policy thinking better


EFFORTS to measure the outcomes of training courses are being ramped up, in a bid to increase transparency and to enable more informed decisions to be made, said SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) chief executive Ng Cher Pong on Monday.

"We are looking for more ways to measure the outcomes of SkillsFuture to ensure they make a difference to individuals and enterprises, and to help us form our policy-thinking and our programmes," he added.

The government agency intends to publish the results on the MySkillsFuture portal, which he said was a "TripAdvisor equivalent", in a reference to the travel website that is driven by user-generated reviews.

Mr Ng was speaking to reporters at the SSG's annual year-in-review, during which he gave an update on the agency's activities.

He disclosed that the SSG started conducting the training quality and outcomes measurement survey last year. The exercise comprises two surveys: The first is sent to a participant right after he or she completes a course to get immediate feedback; this is followed by a second survey six months after, to find out whether the training has made a difference in their work.

Of the 3,500 people who responded to the survey, more than 80 per cent indicated that the training had helped them, he said.

But he also noted the limitations to survey results, which is why the agency has partnered with the Ministry of Trade and Industry to undertake a longitudinal study on the impact of training on workers.

One key preliminary finding was that unemployed individuals who attended training under the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) system were more likely to find employment than a control group of unemployed individuals who did not go through such training, he said.

Employed workers who went for WSQ training also registered positive wage returns.

More details will be released later in the week, when the full report is released.

Mr Ng acknowledged that measuring training outcomes is the most difficult part of SSG's work, but also the "most important".

"This is difficult to measure because all of us know that the relationship between training and enhanced career prospects or wage increases is not so simple.

"There are many different reasons why somebody gets a promotion (or) gets a job, beyond skills."

Factors such as an individual's soft skills, timing and opportunities also come into play, he added.

But aside from measuring the outcomes of training courses, another indicator that the SSG uses to track progress is the training participation rate through the Ministry of Manpower's annual Labour Force Survey.

Some 48 per cent of survey respondents said they had gone for some form of structured training in the last 12 months, up from 35 per cent in 2015, when the SkillsFuture movement was launched.

The latest figures by SSG indicate that in 2018, about 465,000 Singaporeans and 12,000 enterprises benefited from training subsidies. About 431,000 Singaporeans have used their SkillsFuture credit since it was launched in January 2016, up from the 285,000 cited in the previous year-in-review report.

Mr Ng also noted a "significant and sharp ramp-up" in the take-up rate of SSG's work-learn programmes.

Since its inception in 2015, over 3,500 individuals have taken part in these - with half of them having done so in 2018, he said.

Cumulatively, more than 30,000 Singaporeans have attended short courses in emerging skills areas under the SkillsFuture Series; in the preceding year-in-review report, the figure was 2,100.

Among the various categories, infocomms and technology or ICT-related courses remained the most popular, Mr Ng said.

"There's a strong demand for data across among enterprises, so we constantly hear the feedback that for a lot of companies as they transform, one of the key things they want to do is to make better use of data… It requires their workforce to be equipped with data skills."

This year, some of the SSG's plans include ramping up the SkillsFuture Series, especially in areas such as advanced manufacturing and artificial intelligence.

Other priorities include the rolling out of more work-learn programmes, such as bootcamp-style short-term courses, and the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning, which was launched last year to help more firms build work-learn capabilities.

Mr Ng said: "We will continue to push ahead with engaging enterprises, particularly the SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), helping them to understand the range of support and resources that are available as they transform their business."

This is to ensure that when firms think about enterprise transformation, they realise that workforce transformation is a "critical" part of it, he added.