This 2020 report by Singapore’s Institute of Adult Learning (IAL) presents findings of the first national study to gather baseline information about the organisations and professionals working in that country’s VET sector. Around 325 providers participated in their survey.
The report looks at the profiles of these providers and their professional staff. It also examines the skills of staff, their participation in professional development activities and their perceptions of job quality as well as their use of blended learning approaches and technologies.
“Singapore places significant emphasis on education and continuing education to support skills development and develop a resilient and future ready workforce that is both relevant and competitive in a rapidly changing global economy,” according to this 2020 report authored by IAL’s Zan Chen and her colleagues.
Profiling training providers
Like Australia, Singapore has a fair number of providers. According to the IAL’s survey, close to 95% of the responding training providers are small-medium enterprises with less than 200 employees. “Almost half (45.8%) of these had less than 10 employees … while a third of the TPs employed between 10-49 employees.” This sort profile of provider size is pretty much the picture for Australia too: lots of relatively little ones.
Profiling their VET professional staff
The report characterised providers’ staff as Adult Educators (AEs) often with multiple job roles, training managers (who look after program management, curriculum assessment, training resources, learning systems, quality assurance, compliance and administration) and those with a human resource development role – which includes “learning and development, talent management, performance management, organisational development and human resource planning and implementation.”
The study found that the main reasons AEs joined VET was because of a passion for training and adult education, a second career opportunity and for a better work-life balance and flexible working hours. Money was not a big thing, the report found. In fact:
“Many AEs come to the … sector with enthusiasm to share their knowledge and diverse industry experiences, which helps to make learning more relevant to the learners.”
A significant number – about a third – also still hold an industry position. For others “there are concerns over their industry expertise and how to keep their industry knowledge current is critical for quality of AEs.” Again, this sounds a lot like what one hears in Australia.
What about job quality?
The report found that:
“The majority of adult educators reported favourable scores in almost all six dimensions of job quality namely autonomy, complexity, security, career prospect, and pay (i.e., except for job intensity—majority of AEs reported [a] highly intense job).”
This outcome did not compare as well as it could with others in full-time professional occupations, however. One solution put forward was to concentrate more on improving work autonomy given the correlations between all the factors, but a focus on job security would be an easier policy lever to pull, the report suggests. A focus on both these factors would seem to be sensible to us!
And finally, in relation to skills and professional development
The adult educators and training managers surveyed reported that they felt competently equipped with the necessary skills sets to perform their current work, but were, perhaps, “least proficient in tech-enabled learning, entrepreneurship and learning analytics” including “digital and technology related skills.” So, “support for PD and lifelong learning activities become more important.”
The report suggests that, “in addition to the PD structure and monetary support, we should look at how training organisations could create naturally-occurring learning opportunities for their adult educators and professionals to grow their expertise at work.” Further, the existing VET literature on CPD provides:
“a good starting point when it comes to thinking and designing about professional development of adult educators, particularly now that we know how much and what type of learning activities that adult educators have participated in, how they learn in formal, non-formal and informal settings, and what skills they found important, impactful, and are in need of further professional development.”
Often, we don’t make effective use of what is already known, however.