SINGAPORE – The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) is looking to provide its students with more opportunities to go beyond an ITE certification and more options to attain a diploma.

The pathways include the polytechnic route and the work-study diploma programme, which was launched in 2018 as an alternative route for ITE graduates.

Under the work-study diploma programme, which typically lasts between 2½ and 3 years, about 70 per cent of curriculum time is conducted at the workplace, and the rest at ITE.

ITE chief executive Low Khah Gek said on Monday (Jan 20) that by 2025, there should be about 40 work-study diplomas offered, which should take in about 1,000 students a year.

This is up from 24 diplomas offered currently, with about 500 in the coming intake.

Ms Low was speaking to the media at ITE headquarters in Ang Mo Kio, where she laid out the institution’s sixth strategic road map, or five-year plan.

The previous road map, laid out in 2015 and which coincided with the launch of the national SkillsFuture movement, marked a shift from a technical skills-based education to one that centres more on a student’s career.

This year’s plan aims to expand on the previous one, but it will also focus on enabling career mobility and adapting to changes in the industry.

New trends have surfaced, such as the creation of hybrid jobs, said Ms Low, where workers are expected to have the skills to do two to three roles at the same time.

Jobs will also be increasingly digitalised, with technology disrupting jobs. Data analytics and artificial intelligence will also play a bigger role in the future workplace.

To prepare its students for these trends, the ITE will introduce new courses in fields such as data engineering.

All students – the ITE has about 28,000 students across its three campuses at any one time – will also have to take compulsory modules related to data analytics.

These modules can range from an introduction that teaches them how to consume data at an individual level, for example tracking their daily expenditure, to specialised modules that teach them to develop software and algorithms.

Starting this year, every student will also have to undertake a compulsory three- to six-month internship. This was announced in the 2015 edition of the strategic road map; before that, only 7 per cent of students were involved in internships.

On Monday, ITE also shared a new finding in a 10-year graduate employment survey that tracked the same group of graduates from 2007 to 2017. 

Five per cent of the 3,500 graduates surveyed managed to get degrees from local public universities after graduating from ITE, while 10 per cent held degrees from private or overseas universities.

The institution had not provided the breakdown between public and private or overseas universities previously.

Other findings of the survey, commissioned by ITE to look at its graduates’ salary over time and whether they furthered their education, had been reported by The Straits Times in 2018.

Another 44 per cent of graduates had eventually attained a higher qualification than an ITE certificate, though they did not go to university. 

Some 25 per cent listed their highest qualification as a polytechnic full-time diploma, while 19 per cent said they attained diplomas not offered by polytechnics.

Their median salary also increased from $1,200 in 2007 when they left ITE to $3,000 in 2017, ST reported.

Second-year ITE student Krishnan Isaac, who is doing a Nitec in visual communication and design, wants to be an art teacher. 

He has his mind set on going to Singapore Polytechnic – he needs a minimum grade point average of 3.5 out of 4 to qualify – to read experience and communication design, and to the National Institute of Education after.

Said the 18-year-old: “If I can’t make it to a polytechnic immediately, I’ll do a Higher Nitec in ITE first (which will take another two years).

“Without the skills and interest in a particular field, a diploma is just another certificate. But for me, I see a purpose.”

Said Ms Low: “We want our graduates to be equipped to have career progression, and be able to seize opportunities that come their way.

“When our graduates leave us, they still have the next 40 years or so of working life ahead of them – we don’t just prepare them for (immediate) employment, but for the future as well.”