Singapore Country Information

Singapore Country Director:
Sing Chee Wong
Career Success Consulting

Singapore Country Report, April 2017 by Sing Chee Wong

Singapore’s only asset is human capital. In order to sustain the country’s growth, this asset is developed continuously. Initially, Singaporeans favoured academic pursuits above everything else to aid in this endeavour. Academic excellence not only ensured stable, well-paying jobs but it also touted the much-desired symbol of one’s social status. Regretfully, it sometimes resulted in mismatches between individuals and their jobs. Hence, it became essential that this entrenched social culture be changed.

Several shifts are advocated, and these shifts are acknowledged as “the building blocks of transformation” that would set the stage for Singapore’s continued progress for the next 20 years.

  1. A career mindset that aims to fulfil hopes and aspirations, rather than just leading to good jobs and lifelong employability.
  2. A culture that embraces lifelong education and learning. Adult training has to be bite-sized and concise, and relevant for the development of one’s job and career at different stages.
  3. Imparting of skills, and not just information, is important. This is because information could often be “Googled”, but skills cannot.
  4. It is therefore essential that one “learns by doing” rather than “learns for doing”.

To support the lifelong learning and skills development culture, the Singapore Government initiated the “SkillsFuture” in 2014. Its aim is to develop Singaporeans to their full potential, and empower them to achieve their aspirations by developing mastery in what they do. Led by the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, SkillsFuture wants to develop an integrated system of education, training and career progression for Singaporeans. It will also promote industry support for individuals to advance based on skills, and foster a culture of life-long learning.

The four main thrusts of this initiative are:

  1. Help individuals make well-informed choices in education, training and careers
  2. Develop an integrated high-quality system of education and training that responds to constantly evolving needs
  3. Promote employer recognition and career development based on skills and mastery
  4. Foster a culture that supports and celebrates lifelong learning

There are several schemes in SkillsFuture for different groups of population.

SkillsFuture Credit

The most well-known scheme which benefits every Singaporean above the age of 25 years is the SkillsFuture Credit. This scheme aims to encourage individual ownership of skills development and lifelong learning. Everyone will receive an opening credit of $500 which will not expire, and there will be periodic top-ups so that individuals could pursue lifelong learning. The scheme which started in 2016, noted that 126,000 Singaporeans have made use of this fund in its first year. Information and Communications Technology was found to be the most popular training area across all age groups. Currently, there are more than 10,000 approved courses which could use the SkillsFuture credit for payment of fees.

Students, “Leaders of Tomorrow”

Since students are the nation’s future leaders and economic pillars, trained Education and Career Guidance Counsellors are appointed in every school and Institute of Higher Learning to guide and help students make informed choices regarding academic courses, training and careers. This is to ensure that they select courses and careers that would maximise their potential, and make them more ‘future ready’ when they enter, and contribute as members of, the workforce.

Mid-career Employees

Globalisation as well as technological disruption and changes accelerate the rate of skills obsolescence. Workers who want to keep abreast with technological advancement and growth have to deepen or learn new skills continuously. A Skills Framework has been developed to provide up-to-date information on employment, career pathways, occupations, job roles, existing and emerging skills, as well as relevant education and training programmes. This would facilitate workers’ career planning as they take ownership for their development, with assistance from career professionals where required.

A wide range of short, skills-focused modular courses relevant to various industries are available to provide Singaporean workers with more opportunities to acquire required skills. For workers who want to switch careers, there are also many heavily subsidised programmes for them to learn and adapt to new careers. All these courses may be paid for by the workers’ SkillsFuture Credit. Advisors and mentors working in the industries are appointed to guide and help these mid-career switchers identify suitable careers, as well as support them when they adapt to their new careers.

My SkillsFuture

MySkillsFuture, is a one-stop education, training and career guidance online portal that will empower every Singaporean to plan their education and training for their working life. Using this portal they could discover their interests, abilities and career aspirations, as well as explore various education pathways before they enter the workforce. Individuals could also use MySkillsFuture to search for suitable jobs and manage their careers. For individuals in mid-careers, MySkillsFuture serves to inform individuals of skills gaps that they may need to address to remain relevant in the workforce.

My SkillsFuture is expected to be available in 2017.

Employers’ Role in SkillsFuture

People are the greatest asset of any business, so companies need effective strategies to attract and retain valued employees. Employers’ role in facilitating workers’ acquisition and deepening of skills is therefore recognised and encouraged. Incentives are available to employers to empower their employees to excel and discover opportunities to fulfil their potential with training and career advancement opportunities. All levels of staff should have access to achieve their skills mastery. Other more senior and experienced staff in the company could also contribute as Mentors and Advisors to their colleagues. Ultimately, a skilled worker not only contributes to the company’s growth but also to the industry at large.

With transformation shifts and development of the SkillsFuture, exciting times are ahead for the practice of career development in Singapore. Career professionals should aspire to be “top of the class” practitioners in this nascent industry!

For more information on SkillsFuture, please refer to

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Singapore Country Report, May 2016 by Sing Chee Wong

Singapore has attained the status of “Global Career Development Facilitation – Singapore Chapter.” On April 15, 2016, career professionals who completed the “Advanced Certificate in Career Development Facilitation (ACCDF)” course were awarded their Certificates at a Ceremony. These recipients are now eligible to apply to become Global Career Development Facilitators approved by the Centre of Credentialing and Education (CCE), USA. Ms Patricia Gates, Vice President of CCE was at the Ceremony to present the Certificates.

The Institute for Adult Learning, training division of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, initiated the ACCDF course in 2015. Currently, the participants of this course are mainly career coaches working at career centres operated by the Workforce Development Agency and National Trade Union Congress; Education and Career Guidance Counsellors working in schools and educational institutions; Human Resource Officers; and Recruitment Executives. So far, more than 100 career professionals have attended this course, and many more people who are interested in becoming career professionals, are expected to enrol for the course in the near future. The registration fee for this course is heavily subsidised by the Singapore Government to encourage more people to complete the training needed to provide career guidance.

The contents for the ACCDF course were written by a local GCDF Master Trainer and career practitioner in accordance with specifications by CCE. The materials were contextualised to better suit the Singaporean/Asian culture. As far as possible the course contents, including case studies and materials, were written with Singaporean/Asian users in mind, so that they could identify and apply the contents more readily and realistically with their clients. Additional training courses in career development soon will be introduced to provide continuing education opportunities for career professionals who completed the ACCDF course.

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Singapore: Career Development for a Fast Changing World by Gerald Tan and Jeremiah Wong

This article was written to share our ideas with fellow career development professionals on how to help clients who may not be familiar with the career development process. In today's fast moving economy, clients can no longer afford to be passive in their current jobs. It is all about exploring, learning, connecting and maximising their potential opportunities! The steps proposed are based on Dr John Krumboltz's Happenstance Theory.

Click here to read the full article.

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November 2015 Singapore Country Report by Sing Chee Wong

Singapore has designed and constructed its own "Advanced Certificate in Career Development Facilitation" for the training and development of career professionals in Singapore!

The Institute for Adult Learning (IAL), a training division of Singapore Workforce Development Agency, worked collaboratively with the Center for Credentialing and Education (USA) to develop this career development programme. The aim is to train career professionals so that upon successful completion of the programme, these career development facilitators will be able to:

  • Assist individuals in career management and planning, and obtaining meaningful work
  • Analyse and apply career development theories, models, assessment tools and techniques relating to career development at all life stages
  • Interpret labour market and occupational information and trends in facilitating career guidance
  • Apply job search strategies and placement techniques in employment facilitation

The programme curriculum has incorporated Asian values, culture, and practices, so that it will be more suitable for use in Singapore. It also serves as the basis for the development of a framework for career services in Singapore.

At the 2015 Asia Pacific Career Development Association (APCDA) Annual Conference in Japan, Singapore was proud that her efforts were recognized by APCDA with a commemorative plaque "For developing a framework for career services for an entire country".

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Equipping Singaporeans with Skills for the Future by Sing Chee Wong

Singapore has made significant economic progress since becoming an independent nation 50 years ago. Workers with quintessential skills are important for its continuous progress. However, skills mastery is more than just having the right paper qualifications and being good at what the person does currently; it is a mindset of continually striving towards greater excellence through knowledge, application and experience.

A new program called SkillsFuture was developed as a national movement to provide Singaporeans with opportunities to develop their fullest potential throughout life, regardless of their starting points. Practically, there will be a full system of career guidance to help individuals make choices in education, training and careers, starting from educational and career counselling in schools, and extending throughout a person's working life. It will also foster collaboration between the Government, industry, and educational institutions to provide individuals with exposure to a wide range of occupations and industries from young, and ongoing information on the changing needs of the labour market.

A generous training allowance is given to all workers so that they can participate in life-long learning. Every Singapore citizen aged 25 years and above will receive an opening credit of $500 to support his or her learning needs at every stage of life, including those seeking to re-enter the workforce. The credit can be used for work-skills related courses. Periodic top-ups to individuals' account will also be made. This is in addition to the current highly-subsidised training programmes available to all workers.

To address challenges in anticipating manpower needs and to encourage higher productivity among workers, the Singapore Government appointed a committee "Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review" (ASPIRE) to strengthen Singapore's applied education pathways. ASPIRE will work with students in postsecondary schools and institutes and to provide more opportunities for Singaporeans to realise their full potential and aspirations. ASPIRE has recommended that more career guidance services be available for both secondary and postsecondary students. As a result, approximately 300 Career Guidance Officers will be hired and trained to provide ASPIRE's proposed services within the next few years. A new "Specialist Diploma in Career Counseling" has been launched by The Republic Polytechnic, a government institution, to train some of these Officers.

A second career advisor training program is also offered in Singapore. The Institute of Adult Learning, the training wing of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, offers the Career Development Facilitator course. This course is similar to the one developed by NCDA, but its curriculum has been contextualized to suit the Asian culture. The Institute of Adult Learning's program requires candidates to acquire the 12 competencies required by the US's Center for Continuing Education (CCE) to qualify for the Global Career Development Facilitator accreditation. The Institute of Adult Learning is currently working with CCE to accredit this course.

It is an exciting time for career professionals in Singapore!

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November 2013 Singapore Country Report by Sing Chee Wong

Historically, Singapore was a patriarchal society. Hence, it was common for children to learn and follow the parents' trades, or to continue the family businesses, especially during the era when Singapore was dependent on its entreport trade and related economic activities. However, after becoming an independent nation in 1964, improved economy, better education with emphasis on meritocracy, and higher employment rate changed the livelihood of the people. Career guidance was not deemed necessary then as industrialization and manufacturing provided abundant employment opportunities and workers could hop from job to job till they landed in one that they liked. Lifelong employment was also the norm, so it was not unusual for a worker to work in the same job for his entire work life.

But globalization and changing social values and lifestyles have altered such traditions. Singapore's economy has further evolved, resulting in a demand for workers with high-end and specialised knowledge and skills, e.g. research and development, banking and finance, etc. Hence, job search has become more complex as job seekers attempt to find the fit between themselves and their careers. In addition, globalization has resulted in greater competition, both locally and globally, making it necessary for workers to know themselves and their potential contributions to the companies if they want to excel in their careers. The aging population and low unemployment rate (2%), require older workers to remain in the Singapore workforce to augment manpower needs.

Career guidance is fairly new in Singapore. Educational institutions provide career guidance to students to prepare them for working life after completion of their formal education. Some bigger companies, i.e., multi-national companies seek and identify talents among their staff and endeavour to develop them. For the majority of the Singapore working population, access is available to career guidance at career centres belonging to the Workforce Development Agency and the National Trade Union Congress. At public institutions career guidance services are provided without cost to job seekers. Training is also available for job seekers to upgrade their skills, or to equip them for career transitions, at minimal costs. Job fairs are organized regularly for job seekers to apply for employment opportunities, learn about different kinds of jobs in the labour market, and network with employers.

Singapore's changing economic and social conditions call for greater demand for career guidance services!

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September 2013 Singapore Country Report by Sing Chee Wong

Career Guidance or career advisory is a relatively new technique in Singapore, and not yet well-established. But as Singapore’s demography, population profile, economy and socio-economic values change the employment scene in Singapore, these changes have given impetus for the interest and development of its career services. This is particularly notable in a small country like Singapore where human capital is its only resource. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the Singapore workers are well-trained and developed, so that their talents are optimally utilized, and potential contributions maximized working in suitable careers.

Since gaining political independence in 1964, Singapore’s economy has changed from trading to manufacturing. The current focus is on high-end, knowledge-based industries like Research and Development and Biotechnology. Other established industries include the finance, manufacturing, and service industries like health care. Like many other developed countries, Singapore’s population has not grown in proportion to its economic growth which has an unemployment rate of less than 2%. Demographically, Singapore’s shrinking population size necessitates workers to postpone retirement where possible, and to work beyond the retirement age of 62 years old. Singapore also advocates an “inclusive society” policy, and people from different sectors of the population are encouraged to participate in the labor force so that they can be gainfully employed and self-financing. Among them are retirees, housewives, people with disabilities, ex-offenders etc. They are given heavily-subsidized training programs to equip them for work in the different industries.

Although employment opportunities are plentiful, many of them would satisfy the career aspiration needs of job seekers and workers in career transition. Yet many of these opportunities are not rigorously pursued. This is because job seekers often lack self-knowledge necessary for making career decisions. They are uncertain of their career interests, strengths, skills/competencies and work values, and may lack the confidence to select and pursue suitable careers. They are not familiar with Singapore’s Labor Market Information, and the range of occupations available in various industries. Hence, they tend to limit themselves to a narrow range of job openings, even though many more other choices are available to them. Some job seekers are reluctant to come out of their “comfort zone”. They prefer to stick to familiar jobs and not venture to unfamiliar ones even though the latter may be better options for them. Job seekers frequently lack job search/employability skills. This is especially true of older workers who were not required to have these skills when they started work many years ago. Consequently, the older workders may not have developed the skills.

As a result there is a great need for career professionals who can help job seekers achieve better self awareness and understanding of themselves in order to make good career decisions. Job seekers need to develop the ability to manage work expectations realistically, as well as have the confidence to venture out of their comfort zone to transit to other careers if necessary. Job seekers require reliable labor market information, knowledge of suitable career options, employment opportunities, resources, and other information that could facilitate a more effective job search. Coaching on job search skills would be helpful for job seekers who lack the skills. Since there are many training programs available for workers to upgrade and widen their range of skills, career professionals’ guidance and referrals to suitable training programs would greatly benefit job seekers and workers in career transitions.

Career guidance is gaining importance in educational institutions, and career guidance personnel are required in schools as well as post-secondary school institutions like the universities and polytechnics.

Currently, training of career professionals is rather limited in Singapore. Most of the time, interested personnel only receive on-the-job training, and attend ad-hoc courses on job search skills like how to critique resumes, conduct interviews, etc. Some may learn administration of some psychometric tests like MBTI, DISC, etc. Several Institutions of Higher Learning offer career counseling as an elective in their counseling programs. The Career Development Facilitators (CDF) course developed by the National Career Development Association was recently introduced in Singapore. This is a more comprehensive course to develop career professionals, and is gaining popularity. Some companies offer career coaching courses.

Generally, career guidance and career counseling as a profession is new in Singapore, and has yet to achieve the recognition and status that this profession has in other countries where it is better established. Nevertheless, the techniques have been introduced, and recipients of the techniques have benefitted. Career professionals in Singapore are now challenged to develop this profession to a higher level of professionalism, through demonstrations of knowledge and skills pertaining to career guidance and development, and the assistance they give to job seekers. Its impact will be recognized when Singapore workers’ talents are better managed; workers themselves are happier and better adapted to their work, and contribute more significantly to Singapore’s economy.

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