Teaching & Curriculum - SMU Academy
This was something that was in its very nascent stage when I moved to SMU and the whole space was a little bit preliminary and nascent. I had the opportunity to try and get a hold of this and to shape it. This is not to say that we haven’t had professional and continuing education at SMU. We have always had that. We have had our executive development programs, and we have had our Centre for Professional Studies, and we have had institutes that do the outreach and educational programs and such. What I wanted to do and have done now is to say, come folks, let’s work together, and let’s devise a clarity of mission, and how we have organized it now is there’s executive development, and there’s SMU Academy.
SMU Executive Development is for the professional education of those who are senior executives, those with high potential. Whereas the SMU Academy is much more speaking to the Skills Future movement that has started in Singapore, led by the government, and it is much more skills-based, and it is much more rank-and-file who do need the upskilling and reskilling. So that is the conceptual division and the organizational structure. With the SMU Academy, what I did together with Arnoud was to bring together the different pockets on campus, that were doing a little bit of this work, and to consolidate it, and to devise a framework where this new SMU Academy works with the schools, works with the institutes in a collaborative way.
We have done several things. First, we have identified the four areas that we were particularly going to focus on. One is on human capital development and leadership. Two is on finance, and indeed the Skills Future statutory board has identified us to be the institution leading the finance area. Three, it is about the sort of information technology area. And four is about operations. We are devising courses. We are doing courses from the beginners, to the intermediate, to the advanced. We have devised certificate courses that can stack up to a graduate diploma or a diploma. You could do several certificates and then you could then get a diploma or a graduate diploma. And you could, in fact, stack up a certificate with a diploma, do a little bit more and get a master’s degree, for example. So, all those are possibilities, and the flexibility is particularly intended for the working adult who has constraints of time, family commitments, so do what you can in bite-sized ways that are helpful to you, for your work, and then over time as you collect the credentials, you could actually stack up.
There is one other dimension that we have done, and we have piloted that very well. I think, and we were going to do still more of it. And that is something called the Professional Conversion Programs—PCP for short. It is not a creation by SMU. It is something that the government agencies have devised, but we have experimented with it and showed that it is possible to do. And this is where somebody is perhaps unemployed, is committed to go into another area of work. The employer has identified that this person has potential, if not the expertise. This person is hired by an employer, placed with us for the training and then goes to the new employer. The individual who undergoes the training is assured of a position, or it could be the same employer who has staff whose areas have become redundant. But this is a really good employee that the employer would like to keep, and it is about giving the person a chance to go into another area within the same company. This person comes to train with us and goes back to the company. It is called Professional Conversion Program because it converts them from one profession to another. The difference from the open enrolment type courses is that the individual already has a job in hand. The matching has to be done before the person goes for training, and it is work to get it done, but it is gratifying when you listen to the testimonies of these individuals who feel that they have had a second or third lease of life as a consequence of the programs. That to me, is meaningful impact.