Embracing a mindset of continual learning at the NUS Lifelong Learning Festival 2022

As the future of work continues to evolve, and we move towards the future economy, the need to upskill, reskill, and grow one’s knowledge base to remain relevant in the workplace is no longer optional, but an imperative. This was the resounding message by over 30 experts, industry leaders and academics at NUS’ inaugural Lifelong Learning Festival (LLF) 2022, held on 19 July at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House on Kent Ridge campus.

Organised by the NUS School of Continuing and Lifelong Education (SCALE), the Festival was part of the ongoing SkillsFuture Singapore Festival, aimed at promoting and supporting lifelong learning. With both in-person and online sessions, the NUS LLF was a nod to the hybrid nature of the future workplace, with over 2,500 participants attending the various masterclasses, panel discussions and presentations.

Addressing about 220 guests in person, Minister for Education Mr Chan Chun Sing called on Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) like NUS to scale and expand their continuing education offerings to meet the needs of adult learners, so as to keep pace with rapid industry transformation and disruption. He also reiterated that IHLs and industry must work closely together to help Singapore’s workers upskill and reskill at scale.

“We will need our industries, trade associations and professional bodies to articulate and aggregate their demand for new skills for us to activate the supply of new training by our institutions, including our Autonomous Universities,” said Mr Chan.

“We also need to shorten the cycle from when demand is aggregated to when the supply is activated, and the training is completed. And in today’s fast-paced world, this loop needs to be completed in months, and not years.”

Forging a strong nexus with industry

NUS continues to work closely with industry partners to facilitate a national culture of lifelong learning, with NUS LLF 2022 seeing strong participation from the University’s long-time industry partners, especially those involved in NUS’ flagship All-You-Can-Learn (AYCL) Initiative. Through AYCL, NUS has been working closely with companies to design courses specific to their employees’ learning and corporate training needs, spanning areas as diverse as satellite technology, coastal engineering, Internet-of-Things, and additive manufacturing.

Training resources for these courses are drawn from the offerings of NUS’ colleges, faculties and schools, and range from workshops to modular courses. Since 2018, NUS has trained close to 3,400 participants from various organisations, including DSO National Laboratories and United Overseas Bank (UOB).

Speaking at the ‘FutureWork’ panel discussion at the Festival, UOB Managing Director and Head of Group Human Resources, Mr Dean Tong, emphasised that it is crucial for all organisations to invest in skills development, especially in-demand skill sets like data analytics, so as to attract and retain the best talent. Fellow panelists Professor Fong Kok Yong, Singhealth’s Deputy Group Chief Executive (Medical and Clinical Services), and Mr Frank Koo, LinkedIn’s Head of Talent and Learning Solutions in Asia, agreed that employees’ expectations have shifted, with many making the decision to leave companies that fail to provide them with adequate opportunities for growth, learning and development.

Maintaining a lifelong relationship with alumni

Addressing the many NUS alumni in the audience, Professor Ho Teck Hua, NUS Senior Deputy President and Provost, gave a live demonstration and walk-through of the newly-enhanced NUS Career+ mobile app jointly developed by NUS and JobTech. He highlighted key components in the NUS Career+ app, an AI-powered learning and career development tool exclusively available to NUS students and its over 330,000 alumni. These include settings which allow users to pick their desired job roles based on their career aspirations; a function that identifies, through trawling millions of job postings online, the relevant skills required for the user’s desired job, as well as gaps in competencies; and finally, course recommendations from various IHLs for upskilling or reskilling that are bespoke to users’ skill gaps.

Launch of new lifelong learning initiatives

During the Festival, NUS also launched new initiatives to help more individuals – alumni and non-alumni alike – fulfill their lifelong learning needs.

These include an automatic 10% tuition fee rebate – 15% for NUS alumni – for every Singaporean and Permanent Resident, applicable for enrolment to nearly 70 Masters by Coursework programmes at the University which are not subsidised by the government.

NUS will also increase the number of places for learners to be admitted to the University’s existing slate of Graduate Certificate programmes, and roll out new Graduate Certificate courses to meet increasing demand. The Graduate Certificate, which is more bite-sized than a Master’s programme, allows learners to acquire state-of-the-art, in-demand knowledge and skills for upskilling and reskilling. All learners who excel in Graduate Certificate programmes will be considered for admission into associated Master’s programmes. These include highly sought-after programmes like the Master of Science in Digital Financial Technology and the Master of Science in Industry 4.0.

Encouraging participants to tap on these new initiatives, NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said, “At NUS, we desire for our learners to rise up to the challenges and ride the opportunities that this fourth industrial revolution offers. This is why, back in 2018, NUS made a pivotal shift to integrate lifelong learning into our education model and mind set… For our alumni and the Singapore workforce, NUS offers a range of courses to empower adult learners to fulfil their career aspirations, make job pivots into emerging areas, or pursue new interests and avenues.”

News about these initiatives were well-received by NUS alumni. Ms Pavita Puansari (Class of 2022), an operations executive who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Technology in Industrial and Management Engineering, said, “With the tuition fee rebates, NUS has addressed a concern of many who intend to pursue postgraduate studies, myself included – the financial impact and potential return on investment in upgrading ourselves. These new initiatives are beneficial and will give many an extra push to pursue further studies.”

Read the press release here.