Ong Ye Kung is in the spotlight again.
This time, it is about his comments at the St Gallen Symposium in Switzerland, where he talked about capping the proportion of graduates in a cohort at about 30 to 40 per cent in Singapore, while training the rest for vocations in various industries.
OYK received some whacking from netizens and opposition leaders for these comments. Not surprising, really, especially when the comments come from a PAP minister?
Earlier this year, he was also wacked when he spoke about ‘what if Singapore become a one-party or two-party system’ during a seminar organised by the Institute of Policy Studies.
Let us examine the facts for his latest statement.
OYK talked about how the education system needs to be aligned with the structure of the economy so that people will continue to be armed with the required skills to find jobs in the current age of disruption,
He explained that the education system needed to shift and adopt a “dual-education track”, in which young people can become craftsmen in a wide range of fields.
Are people angry with this point because it is coming from a minister? Would they have been more receptive if it came from a layman instead?
In Taiwan, they have about 300,000 graduates every year, most of whom remain unemployed after their graduation. Taiwanese government statistics show that graduates with college and master’s degrees are more likely to stay unemployed, compared to people with lower levels of education.
In India, the number of graduates more than double those figures. Unemployment too remains high.
In 2014 alone there were 15,376 graduates from NUS, NTU, SMU and SIT.
You are competing with thousands of other graduates (including foreign ones). An education system focusing on skills which OYK talked about will help people find jobs and improve their lives.
Technology disruption inevitably automates almost everything. The difference between hiring you or replacing you with a machine are your hard skills and your experience.
This is your value and your unique selling point.
The number of degree holders now is at least 10% more than a decade ago. This is not possible if our government do not value education.
They are however cautioning you against the paper chase.
A skilled person with no degree will likely find a job.
A degree holder with absolutely no hard skills will most likely be unemployed
Focus on getting them skills, then get a degree and continue to upskill yourself.
That is what it is all about.
“Today there is a strong emphasis on skills, and there is a logic to that, Information and knowledge are all on the Internet. You can Google everything in the world, but skills you get from experience, you can’t Google for skills.”