SINGAPORE: President Tharman Shanmugaratnam said that Singapore must continue to build institutions that enable all Singaporeans to upgrade their skills and engage in lifelong learning.

The head of state warned that failing to do so could lead to entrenched inequality if the responsibility is solely left to the market forces, he said in a speech at the SkillsFuture Award Ceremony on Monday (30 Oct). Asserting that lifelong learning can either reduce or lead to inequality, he said: “Without a national system, if we just leave it to the market of enterprises and we leave it to individuals, it can very well become a source of inequality.”

The priority, Mr Tharman said, is to ensure that lifelong learning remains “an equaliser across the workforce and an equaliser across firms so that small firms are not disadvantaged compared to large firms, which is again what will happen if we just leave it to the market.”

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The SkillsFuture movement plays a crucial role in supporting workers and companies across all sectors in their skills-upgrading endeavours. This initiative strives to ensure that learning opportunities are equally accessible to all, irrespective of the size or scale of the business, thereby promoting a level playing field for individuals and companies.

President Tharman also acknowledged the need for additional support for individuals and groups who may not remain continuously in the workforce. He particularly mentioned women who temporarily exit the workforce to raise their families and caregivers who play a vital role in society.

A total of 24 companies received the SkillsFuture Employer Award from President Tharman during Monday’s ceremony. These firms were recognized as exemplary employers who have excelled in nurturing the skills and capabilities of their employees and in fostering a culture of lifelong learning within their workplaces.