Straits Times Online Forum, 22 March 2016
Singapore faces the challenge of preparing our young people for jobs of the future.
While a university degree is suitable for some jobs, there are other jobs where skills and working experience are more important.
In the early 1980s, I visited an insurance company in Germany.
It had two categories of employees: permanent employees and apprentices, who left secondary school and started work in the company on a three- or four-year apprenticeship programme.
The apprentices spent half their time doing actual administrative work in the office and the other half attending an insurance course in a school or polytechnic.
After completing the apprenticeship successfully, the apprentices were absorbed as permanent employees of the company.
I understand that the apprenticeship system is adopted in many types of occupations in Germany, Switzerland and other countries in Europe.
There are some advantages to the apprenticeship system.
First, the employer has a supply of apprentices who can do the actual work, for a modest allowance.
Second, the apprentices learn skills and gain experience needed for their future careers.
In Singapore, many polytechnics and universities send their students for three-month internships to get working experience. This is not the same as the apprenticeship system.
Under the apprenticeship system, the apprentice joins an employer first and is sponsored by the employer to attend a professional or vocational course.
The employer has a regular supply of young workers who know how to do the work that is needed. Most employers are happy to offer full-time careers to apprentices who have completed the apprenticeship.
I hope that the Singapore Government can provide funding for an apprenticeship system and do it effectively.
We can follow the experience of the countries that have implemented this system well.
Tan Kin Lian