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Editor’s Take: Why Learning New Skills Has Never Been Just About Pay Or Career Growth

It’s always been about the individual, and what we want to learn.

Lifelong learning in Singapore

As a dad to two young boys, I find myself using the word “no” a lot. I can’t just let my children create unnecessary havoc…right?

Recently, I found myself questioning why I do this so frequently. On a recent trip back home from the supermarket with my older son, there was a big, muddy puddle of water straight ahead on our path. I knew exactly what he was going to do. So, just as we approached it, I yanked him out of the way – saying “no, don’t jump in the water”.

Surely, I should not let him jump in it, and wet his (and my) clothes and shoes.

How Else Do Kids Learn?

The reason why I started to question saying “no” all the time is mainly because of a piece of recent parenting advice I came across: How do young children learn?

Left to their own devices, children learn by being curious about the environment around them.

Kids would not have much experience with what really happens when they jump into puddles of water. Beyond the fact that it looks immensely fun, it’s also natural for them to be curious about it. Learning about the downward force on an object, such as a body of water, is a much more fulfilling way to learn – compared to studying it in a book.

Of course, the repercussions will add to their learning experience too!

How Do Adults Learn New Skills Then?

As adults, we’re not so different either, especially when learning something we have limited experience with.

But, whenever there is a conversation about picking up new skills in Singapore, it is usually implied that it is meant for us to progress in our careers.

As the only resource in our country, people here (including you and me) have to be capable workers. This attracts the biggest companies from around the world to set up offices and invest in Singapore. In turn, this continues to provide good jobs for us and a quality standard of living.

The government and employers are equally aligned to maximise their resources – ensuring that we are better workers. Thus, there are many avenues providing support and even funding for our learning endeavours.

That said, being a lifelong learner must be a mindset. It goes back to being curious about the things we do not yet know. This pushes us to learn about it and apply it in our lives and our work. A big difference is that lifelong learning has to be self-directed (i.e. it comes from the person, rather than the government or employer) to be effective and sustained.

It is not about ticking off a box on a piece of paper – because our employer or the government says we should.

We Need To Stay Curious About The Environment Around Us

For any of us to remain relevant in the job market and business landscape, we have to adopt a curious mindset. Much like how children are passionate about learning about their environment by jumping into puddles of water, we need to display equal enthusiasm for the “puddles” we jump into.

One recent puddle I jumped into was picking up data analytics without any coding skills – which I detailed in an article on DollarsAndSense. It’s a skill that I think will allow me to look at our content and the revenue we are able to generate from it from a different perspective.

Fortunately, living in Singapore, we have access to many “puddles”. Today, we can choose to learn diverse skills if we want to.

By simply going online, we can learn an endless amount of information on just about any topic. If we need more guidance, there are also many paid and unpaid courses that we can sign up for.

On the government’s part, they support residents by providing funding support to pick up in-demand skills. Beyond this, they also provide funding to subsidise course fees, on the course provider’s end.

Taking the 4-week, 8-lesson Data Analytics course from Smartcademy that I recently attended as a reference, we are able to receive up to 90% funding support under the IBF Standards Training Scheme (IBF-STS). We are also able to tap on our SkillsFuture credits to pay for the remaining course fees.

Smartcademy courses

Apart from Data Analytics, we can also take courses in Digital Marketing, User Experience (UX) Design, Blockchain, Design Thinking, and more. The Smartcademy website also states their alumni work in some of the most successful companies, including Google, MasterCard, HubSpot, DBS, SalesForce, Shopee and more. You can visit the Smartcademy website for more details and information about the courses that they provide.

At the same time, we should not be learning a skill for the sake of just being able to put it on our resume. If we were never curious about learning a skill and its applications in the first place, it would not be surprising that our ability never progress beyond a superficial level – that adds no value to us or our employers.

As parting advice for myself, my children, and hopefully you: Always look for new muddy puddles of water to jump in!

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