Employers’ focus on paper qualifications a roadblock: Students

SINGAPORE: The fixation among employers on academic qualifications would have to be addressed before students are able to embrace the new Earn and Learn programme, said several Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnic students whom TODAY interviewed.

They added that if employers’ mindset remains, the scheme would delay plans to further their studies and this would deter them from applying for the programme.

Nevertheless, other students and some parents recognised the benefits of the initiative, pointing out that getting higher academic qualifications could wait. In fact, having work experience could boost the chances of getting admitted to university, they noted.

The work-study programme under the SkillsFuture initiative aims to give ITE and polytechnic graduates a head-start in careers related to their studies, by allowing them to go on paid apprenticeships and earn industry-recognised qualifications. There is also a S$5,000 sign-on incentive for each student.

Mr Shanjayan Muniappan, 21, a Republic Polytechnic (RP) second-year mass communications student who aspires to become a sports journalist, was adamant about pursuing a degree in London to gain overseas exposure.

“Those who are really in need of the money would probably (apply to join the programme),” he said, adding that it would not be the right path for poly students like him who want to get a degree.

Likewise, Ngee Ann Polytechnic final-year biomedical science student Esther Tan, 20, said she would prefer to further her studies.

“Yes, the Government encourages diploma students to go to work but, if the mindset (of society) and employers (remains unchanged), I still need to have a degree,” she said.

ITE College Central year 1 Higher Nitec student Jasmine Tay, 19, said she felt the “minimum qualification” in Singapore society is a diploma, which is why she aims to get the qualification before looking for a job.

Still, Mr Ubaidullah Najemudeen, 22, a final-year mass communications student at RP, said he would put off plans to pursue a degree and apply for the programme in the hope of securing a job. “Getting work exposure is important, I can earn a living for myself… If I want to further my studies (in the future), I can do so,” he said.

Parents whom TODAY spoke to said they would encourage their children to get hands-on experience via the Earn and Learn initiative before furthering their studies.

Mdm Jennifer Chow, 48, who has an 18-year-old daughter in Singapore Polytechnic, said: “The decision will be my daughter’s, but I will suggest for her to go (for the programme),” said the administrative assistant. “If she wants to study after working for a while, she can do so.”

Mrs Anita Nankani, 50, said she would also encourage her son, who is studying at Temasek Polytechnic, to apply. “It may be easier for him to apply to university in future with his work experience,” said the administrative clerk.

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