During the Budget Speech 2020, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a S$500 top-up to the SkillsFuture credits of all Singaporeans aged over 25 years, while mid-career workers aged 40 to 60 will get a further S$500 top-up. It was expected that, and indeed most recipients did, use their SkillsFuture credits on courses relevant to their jobs or skillsets.
Training opportunities abound in “growth sectors” such as advanced manufacturing, Industry 4.0 and 5G. There will be 2,300 new training opportunities in advanced manufacturing alone, some offered by leading companies in such as Bosch, Nvidia, Omron, PBA Robotics and Siemens. Other courses are in “hot” sectors like security, nursing and logistics.
However, previously, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung was quick to caution against looking down on those who decided to spend their $500 (or $1000) on learning flower arrangement, cooking or how to arrange a terrarium.
“What is (considered as) leisure by me may be a profession to another… What to me may be a language to understand a drama series, may be a work requirement for somebody else. So I don’t want to prejudge,” Mr Ong said.
As many of us are poised to receive the second $500 SkillsFuture top-up, or have received it already, his words are an important reminder about learning the right skills, for yourself. While your career track may demand a certain certificate, there is also value is following your heart and exploring your passion for botany, art, or music.
Indeed, many of the older generation are using their SkillsFuture credits to explore hobbies they never had time for in the past. Everyone has an aunty or uncle eager to show them their latest watercolour painting, carved soap in the shape of an animal, or some other such curio as the reward for a couple hour’s work.
And ultimately, these pursuits bring happiness and a sense of fulfillment. They also can contribute a valuable change of perspective. Instead of banging your head against the wall trying to memorise formulas, a course in meditative thinking might show you a new way to approach your problems and life.
Another value in so-called “leisure” pursuits is that they have a way of benefitting you in more holistic ways. A language you studied to understand a certain drama series may end up being useful when you entertain clients from that country. And the news is dotted with stories of people who turned their hobbies into successful businesses – from clothes, to watches, to 3D printing.
So when thinking of a course to take in your free hours, by all means list all the pros and cons… but listen to your heart as well.