Photo: Minister of State for Education Gan Siow Huang
The Singapore University of Social Sciences' Institute for Adult Learning (IAL) has launched a five-year strategic roadmap to improve workforce employability by increasing the effectiveness of training and adult education nationally. IAL, which is currently one of the main driving institutions in the domestic training and adult education sector, highlights three key areas of focus to boost the sector: development of research and industry standards, support for enterprises, and digitalization.
Professionalizing the adult learning sector
IAL's roadmap identifies two main ways of professionalizing the sector: firstly, through research into the multiple aspects of learning which can then form the basis for the sector's future growth. During the roadmap's launch last week, Minister of State for Education Gan Siow Huang also touched on the importance of researching lifelong learning and workplace learning in order to understand and assess the skills needed in the sector.
She said: "Our vision is for IAL to be the go-to authority on TAE, as a key supporting pillar for the SkillsFuture Movement. IAL will strengthen adult education research capabilities and translate research findings into programmes."
The second approach outlined in the roadmap is to upskill trainers and provide them with credentials. In line with the concept that adult learning can take various forms and have various outcomes, the institute plans to offer three different pathways for trainers:
A work-learn pathway which recognizes general work experience and informal learning
A skills pathway which recognizes competencies and experience in the sector
A qualifications pathway for those who wish to pursue formal learning and possibly educational qualifications
The ideal outcome, as described by an IAL spokesperson, is to develop a training and adult education community that is "valued and well-respected by industries", and that will be able to weather the challenges of the future.
Support for enterprises to move forward
IAL's roadmap sets out plans to expand some of its existing initiatives, including its push for SMEs to connect and share best practices in workplace learning—back in 2018 it launched a Learning Enterprise Alliance network with a hefty funding incentive for members that want to carry out workplace learning transformation projects, and over the next five years it intends to expand the network and ideally the number of enterprises that upgrade their learning systems and processes.
It has also been pushing digitalization for the training and adult education sector, including launching an initiative in September to help training providers convert their courses to an online learning format. Another IAL initiative, iN.LAB, acts as an incubator for startups in the learning technology field, and is also projected to expand its activities.
The need to upgrade the training and adult education sector—and thereby the workforce—is driven at least partly by urgent external pressures, according to the IAL spokesperson, who said:
"In our current climate, economic restructuring is fast becoming a necessity for markets to survive the current Covid-19 crisis. And workforce training needs have never been more important and have never evolved more rapidly as they are today. At IAL, we believe that the next phase of development for TAE sector in Singapore will be driven by this imperative to support the building of a resilient and adaptive workforce for the new economy."