Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday at the Institute of Technical Education’s (ITE) 25th anniversary celebration that ITE graduates are “well sought after” in the industry. The Ministry of Manpower in publishing data on graduate starting salary for 2015 said fresh ITE graduates who have secured full-time employment earn a median gross monthly salary of between $1,450 and $1,700.
The government has gone into overdrive recently to drive home the message that a degree is not required to be successful in Singapore. For example, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung pointed out that degrees do not enable people to earn a living and that only skills carry a premium. But does the government walk the talk?
Just look at the available careers in the Singapore Public Service (SPS). The SPS is the country’s largest employer, with 143,000 officers in 16 Ministries and more than 50 Statutory Boards, and a cursory check in its job portal reveal that while 695 jobs are available for job seekers with a degree, only 5 are available for ITE graduates.
Every year, four in ten students fail to make it to the polytechnics after the O levels. Of this number, half will end up entering the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to gain vocational skills in preparation for skilled work.
Although it is still possible for ITE students to earn a place in the polytechnics after two years of vocational education, students must be within the top two per cent of their 32,000-strong cohort.