Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students will soon have more opportunities to earn a diploma on top of their technical certifications.

ITE chief executive Low Khah Gek said that by 2025, there should be about 40 work-study diplomas offered, which should take in about 1,000 students a year. Only 24 such courses are offered now for about 500 students in the coming intake in April.

The work-study diploma programme, which was launched in 2018, typically lasts between 2½ and three years. Students are hired by partner companies as full-time salaried staff, and 70 per cent of the curriculum time comprises on-the-job training. They are awarded diploma certificates after the stint.

Students can also opt for other pathways to a diploma, including the polytechnic route, as well as ITE’s own three offerings in automotive engineering, culinary arts and machine technology. In total, about 100 students opt for the three technical diploma offerings in a year.

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

The hope is that the work-study diploma will gain traction in time, even though there seems to be “a preference for full-time studies where everything is conducted in an institution”, said Ms Low.

ITE’s previous road map, set 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.

The latest plan aims to expand on the last one, but it will also focus on enabling career mobility and adapting to changes in industry.

New trends have surfaced, such as the creation of hybrid jobs, where workers are expected to have the skills to do two to three roles at the same time, said Ms Low. She pointed out that 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 such trends, ITE will introduce new courses in fields such as data engineering. All students – ITE has about 28,000 students across its three campuses at any one time – will also be exposed to data analytics in class from this year.

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

Ms Skye Toh, who is doing a Higher Nitec in engineering and business, found out how data analytical skills were useful when she took part in a competition that was recently organised by Nanyang Technological University.

She and some friends had come up with the idea of a thermometer for military use – a device that could fit into the ear of a soldier that allows supervising officers to monitor and collect data on his body temperature.

“Temperatures can get very hot in Singapore, with cases of national servicemen experiencing heat exhaustion. This data could help avoid such scenarios and improve safety,” said Ms Toh, 20.

From this year, every student will also have to undertake a compulsory three-to six-month internship in line with the announcement in the 2015 strategic road map. Some 82 per cent of ITE students have taken up internships thus far. Before the 2015 announcement, the figure was 7 per cent.

Ms Low said: “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 – we don’t just prepare them for (immediate) employment, but for the future as well.”