Transforming the Singapore Workforce Through a National Cet System

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The GDP of Singapore at purchasing power parity per capita is the 4th largest in the world1. Yet, Singapore is small and vulnerable to global storms and was the first East Asian country to fall into a recession in the 2008 economic crises. Biggest impact of recession is the escalating job losses that have become a national dilemma, as resident unemployment hit highs of 3.8% (1999), 4.9% (2002), 5.2% (2003) and 4.3% (2009) during downturns2.

Shorter economic cycles, increased competition due to globalization and restructuring of companies is a continuous problem to employment in Singapore. Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong said, “Continual training is the only way forward… We are establishing two new campuses for continuing education and training3 (CET)…” And that was the task of Dr. Gary Willmott when he commenced as Deputy Chief Executive (CET) of Workforce Development Agency4 (WDA) of Singapore on October 2003.

As an academic and armed with over 10 years of experience in the Australian education and training sector, and involved extensively during the 1990s in establishing the Australian national training system, Dr. Gary led the development and reshaping of the CET system, instrumental in helping unemployed Singaporeans to re-skill for new jobs. He proposed this national training system, benchmarked against United Kingdom’s NVQ System5 and Australia’s AQF6 System as a solution to Singapore’s long term strategy to develop, enhance and maintain a highly skilled globally competitive workforce. The result, a successor to the National Skills Recognition System (NSRS), is the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications7 (WSQ) system that was officially launched on 27th October 2005. WSQ is built on the key elements of industry specific and generic competency-based skills frameworks with 7 levels of qualifications that is nationally recognized, industry-led and backed by a quality assurance system. Today, WSQ has trained more than 100,000 workers with a record of...
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