by Vincent Low
Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo told Channel News Asia in an interview last Tuesday (30 Jan) that the "Adapt and Grow" initiatives, which were designed to help Singaporeans affected by economic slowdown and restructuring, have achieved its goal of helping those in need.
"We should not just merely look at the numbers to determine whether the programmes are meeting its expectations," she said.
Under the "Adapt and Grow" initiatives, the government has come up with programmes like that Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) to help PMETs undergo mid-career changes. CNA highlighted a PMET, Ms Nahariah, as one of the 3,300 Singaporeans last year who had successfully gone through the PCP.
Looking at the numbers, Ms Teo said that the initiatives have achieved its goal of providing support for those in need. Of the more than 24,000 individuals placed, more than half are PMETs.
As companies continue to restructure, skills mismatch proves to be a challenge.
"Of course we are well aware that companies and industries continue to restructure, and there is still the potential for job-skills mismatch. Which is why it is so important for us to press on with some of the programmes we've put in place," she said.
"As long as they are willing to adapt, we are going to provide them with every support they need."
PMET fails or drops out from PCP course will end up paying heavy liquidated damages
However, there is also a downside in taking the PCP courses, which Ms Teo did not reveal to CNA. In some of the courses like the PCP nursing course which helps PMETs to become nurses, those who fail or can't take the heavy course load will end up paying huge liquidated damages.
One of these unfortunate PMETs related his story on HardwareZone under a pseudo-name "Kyoji83".
He dropped out from the PCP nursing course conducted at NYP halfway because he couldn't take the heavy course load. As a result, he is now in heavy debt.
"Yes, my debt was accrued by dropping out from the PCP nursing programme," he told the other netizens. "A lot of PCP-RN dropouts did not share their experience in public due to various reasons like 'do not want to remember the unhappiness', paiseh (embarrassed) & etc."
He also disclosed that the failure rate is very high, "Majorly of us are Degree holders & some are Polytechnic Diploma holders before we enroll to PCP-RN. So why are there always around 18% to 20% of failure rate for each intake? WSG don't bother to ask & so nothing has changed."
He revealed that while a regular full-time poly student will take around 5 core modules per semester, PCP students are to take 9. And this is because full-time poly students will take 3 years to complete the nursing course but PCP students only have 2 years.
Lousy lecturers at Nanyang Polytechnic
The PMET also complained about the lecturers, "When NYP Lecturers feel that you cannot perform, some of them will start to tort you by verbal and emotional abuse to affect your mental health. They will keep harassing you by stressing the increasing huge amount of liquidated damages when you stay longer in a course and keep asking you when you intend to quit."
"Some of the NYP lecturers only like to teach youngsters so that they can smoke them. Those NYP lecturers do not like adult class because adults will questions them back. My classmates who are trained in medical told me these lecturers try to smoke us but when asked further, lecturers just use this technique to stop student from asking further: 'We are learning to be a Nurse & not a Doctor'. KNS!" he added.
"NYP lecturers read line by line from their presentation slides/module materials but expected to assess us out of module context! Double standards!"
Liquidated damages can be as high as $170,000
A check on government website indeed mentioned about the heavy liquidated damages imposed on PCP students:
"A participant who withdraws from the programme, whether during the course of study or during the service period of the bond, shall be liable for liquidated damages payable to the sponsoring company. The amount payable will be pro-rated based on costs incurred by the sponsoring healthcare company and funding bodies (e.g. WSG and the Ministry of Health) in accordance with the terms of the training deed(s).
Total liquidated damages (including full course fees, training allowances and career transition bonus) at the point of training completion could amount to roughly $112,000 to $131,000 for PCP-RN. This estimation excludes additional costs that may be levied by the sponsoring company, such as uniform costs and administrative charges."
Note that if a PCP student fails the course, he will also need to pay for the damages. The PMET revealed that in actual fact, because of those additional costs, the sponsoring company may require the PCP student to pay as high as $170,000.
He also notes that the higher one gets for one's allowance during the course, the LD will be even higher.
"We do not have the option to reject the allowance too. Majorly of my batch including me do not hope to get allowance if possible." wrote the PMET and pointed that one is forced to sign a letter of undertaking before being able to scrutinise the contract.
"Before you get to see the Contract, you are force to sign Letter of Undertaking for $1K of Liquidated Damages (LD) if you decided not to take up PCP sponsorship after NYP offer you a seat.
Who would like to pay $1K for nothing & since applicants are interested in PCP, of course, they will proceed to sign the contract because they don't expect to fail since they never thought that training provider and the assessment is this kind of standard."
He added, "I have actually ask FTs who are under sponsorship for 3 years normal Diploma courses & their reply is they do not know their actual amount for LD. Their surety are FTs who mostly like their parent in their home country like China. If they run away, by right Singapore Government (sponsors) needs to engage Lawyer at China to demand for LD payment. However, I never hear any sponsors doing that."
"For PCP, there is no way to run cause both student & surety are local," he lamented.
"So I will advise those who are interested in PCP, better check & think again if it is worth your investment (time, current job wages & LD)... There are a lot of PCP students/graduates regret signing up."
And he advised, "I hope to share this so that those who are interested to join PCP will think again cause it is not that simple as it looks."
Then said another netizen who read the unfortunate story of this PMET, "I am thinking of taking up PCP course until I saw your post... I need to think twice now. Thanks for the information"