SkillsFuture (SSG) has grown alongside the Singaporeans it serves. You’re not alone if you have taken an SSG course — about 660,000 people took part in them in 2021 alone.
Here, new amendments to the SkillsFuture Bill and the Skills Development Levy Bill are coming. These amended Bills will make oversight of SSG more robust.
Briefly, those black sheep misusing SSG financially will be fined and/or imprisoned.
The SkillsFuture Singapore Agency (Amendment) Bill allows SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) to enforce and investigate those who misuse its funds.
Legal penalties against false advertising are also possible.
“The training provider may be held liable if the court ascertains that the training provider had known, or ought to reasonably have known, that the advertisement is false or misleading,” said Minister of State for Education and Manpower Gan Siow Huang in Parliament yesterday (Jan 10).
Concurrently, the Skills Development Levy (Amendment) Bill tightens the law to let investigators question suspects and take into their possession documents which will aid investigations.
All this while you (and the rest of our workforce) safely get equipped with, well, skills for the future.
“We are continuously strengthening the quality of the continuing education and training ecosystem in Singapore,” said MOS Gan.
“The amendments that we are making today will equip SSG with the necessary powers to take action against errant parties who mislead others or abuse SSG’s funding system.”
Legal action a last resort
The legal action these Bill amendments allow, though, is a last resort.
“SSG appreciates that administrative errors and missed deadlines can occur from time to time,” clarified MOS Gan.
“These are not regarded as offences, but areas of improvement to be worked on.”
In fact, most of the 93 training providers which SSG took action against in 2021 fall into this category.
“The majority of these cases were related to breaches of SSG’s funding terms and conditions, such as failing to submit the required annual returns to SSG,” said the MOS.
“Since these were mostly administrative lapses, most of the 93 training providers were suspended from SSG funding for six months without further repercussions.”
The erring party gets a chance to correct his/ her behaviour in these cases. For instance, a problematic advertisement could be taken down.
“However, if the facts of the case constitute an offence, or if there are recalcitrant persons who refuse to comply with SSG’s directions, SSG will have to refer the case to the AGC (Attorney-General’s Chambers) to determine the next course of action,” said MOS Gan.
This stringent, case-by-case framework is a safeguard. It removes bad actors from the SSG ecosystem while helping to attract genuine ones.
The result: a vibrant and trustworthy CET (Continuing Education and Training) ecosystem for vendors and learners alike.
A clearly-communicated change and appropriate powers for investigators
SSG will communicate the amendments clearly to training providers, noted MOS Gan.
“SSG has existing channels of communication with training providers, including circulars, engagements and feedback channels,” she said.
“SSG intends to have dedicated sessions to explain to training providers the intent and substance of amendments, and engage them on any clarification that they might have.”
“We will do our best to communicate this change,” the MOS assured, while adding that training providers also should ensure that they, their partners and their staff adhere to the law.
At the same time, the Government calibrated the new powers of investigators appropriately.
“Broadly, the principle is that investigative powers should commensurate with the nature of the offence,” explained the MOS.
“The enhanced investigative powers in the SSG Act are similar to those that SSG currently has in exercises to investigate offences under the Private Education Act.”
“There is a robust process to appoint only a selected group of SSC officers as inspectors to exercise powers to investigate offences and the tenure will be subjected to regular review, she elaborated.
Continuing that lifelong learning journey
It would be an understatement to say that SSG has impact.
Those 660,000 people mentioned earlier? They’re benefiting from the SSG alongside approximately 24,000 enterprises and 25 SSG “queen bee” companies.
“There are now close to a thousand training providers providing about 25,000 causes,” MOS Gan further outlined.
This round of legislative changes shows the Government’s commitment towards building a vibrant, safe, and trustworthy training ecosystem with course providers that are up to the mark.
This lets Singaporeans better direct their learning, staying relevant in this economy with a new, refreshed skill set for the Future of Work.
“Building a strong continuing education and training ecosystem is a shared responsibility with learners, enterprises, training providers and the government,” MOS Gan added.
“I’m confident that we can collectively strengthen the SkillsFuture movement and enable more Singaporeans to acquire the skills that they need to seize the opportunities ahead.”
Time to take that next step in that lifelong learning journey then.