Vocational and Industrial Training Board (VITB)



The Vocational and Industrial Training Board (VITB) was formed on 1 April 1979 with the merger of the Industrial Training Board (ITB) and the Adult Education Board (AEB). The functions of the latter two statutory boards in the areas of vocational and industrial training, and continuing education, were rationalised and integrated under the VITB, which became the single national authority responsible for the training of skilled manpower in the commercial, industrial and service sectors.1

The VITB was replaced by the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), a post-secondary institution, on 1 April 1992 as part of efforts to upgrade vocational training in Singapore.2

Background
The Vocational and Industrial Training Board Act was passed on 5 March 1979 and brought into force on 1 April 1979.3

The VITB aimed to prepare and train school-leavers for employment and to provide working adults with opportunities for continuing education and skills upgrading. It sought to make vocational training more systematic and professional by setting national standards, as well as conducting tests, examinations and certification.4

A number of developments shaped the demand for vocational training and role of the VITB. By the late 1970s, a tight labour market and rising wages had led to a shift in the economy away from low-skilled, labour-intensive manufacturing towards more capital-intensive, higher-technology industries. Companies were encouraged to send their employees for training to upgrade their skills and improve productivity, fuelling the demand for relevant programmes and schemes.5

At the same time, there was an urgent need to raise the quality of education and solve the problem of high attrition rates in schools. The government was then studying the recommendations of the landmark Report of the Ministry of Education 1978, which was approved on 30 March 1979, paving the way for a more flexible education system that catered to diverse abilities. The implementation of the New Education System (NES), as it was known, generated a need for more post-secondary vocational courses for those who were less academically inclined, equipping them with employable skills.6

The activities of the ITB and AEB had increasingly overlapped due to the convergence of industrial training and continuing education. As expanding the school system catered to the demand for language and academic education, the AEB, formed on 22 April 1960 to promote continuing education, began to focus more on vocational-type programmes. This veered into the domain of the ITB, which had been set up on 1 April 1973 to oversee industrial training.7

In light of the drive to improve and expand vocational training, a decision to amalgamate the two statutory boards was made so that training and continuing education could be brought under a single system and organisational framework.8

Dr Ahmad Mattar, then Acting Minister for Social Affairs, was appointed the first chairman of the new board.9 The VITB operated on tripartite lines where its members included representatives from government, employers and industry, and labour.10 In addition, the VITB also continued the consultative practice of the former ITB to appoint Trade Advisory Committees (TACs) comprising persons with significant technical expertise and experience in their respective fields.11 These committees advised the VITB on the types of skills and courses, as well as facilities and equipment, required in their areas of work.12

The VITB adopted a total approach to vocational training wherein every person should be trained for a job-function prior to job-entry, on initial employment, and continually throughout their working life. Such training could take the form of institution-based courses, industry-based training (for example, apprenticeships), and continuing education – or a combination.13

Vocational Training and Certification
One of the VITB’s earliest achievements was the streamlining of all curricula into modules.14  Each module was a self-contained learning programme leading to an “employable skill”, that is, the student would be able to carry out and be employed in a specific job. Workers could upgrade themselves by enrolling in a series of modules in a lifelong process and obtaining certification after completing the appropriate modules.15 This modular approach became the basis for the design of on-going and new courses.16


The VITB upgraded and expanded vocational training. For example, in April 1980, following the advice of the Applied Arts TAC, the VITB converted two Industrial Technician Certificate (ITC) courses, namely Advertising Art and Interior Design, into full-time diploma courses to better meet the skill requirements of the industry.17

Next, the VITB launched the first full-time National Trade Certificate (NTC) Grade 2 courses in July 1980.18 Previously introduced in 1973, the NTC system comprised three tiers of attainment: Grade 3, which certified the attainment of basic knowledge and skills equivalent to a semi-skilled trainee or apprentice; Grade 2, certifying the attainment of full knowledge and skills equivalent to a trained and competent craftsman; and the highest level of attainment, Grade 1, equivalent to the level of a master craftsman.19

The NTC curricula was subsequently adjusted to better align with the NES, enabling school-leavers who did not pursue further academic studies after primary or secondary education to develop their potential through vocational training.20 From July 1982, GCE ‘O’ level holders who met the minimum number of passes were eligible for direct entry into NTC-2 courses.21 Primary school-leavers who did not qualify for secondary education were automatically registered with the VITB, where those with an aptitude for vocational training could continue on to NTC-3.22

Given that most of the trainees joining the VITB would have completed either primary or secondary schooling, it was expected that they would be able to keep up with the training and therefore make better skilled workers.23

From October 1983, the VITB awarded certificates of attainment to those who passed individual NTC-3 and NTC-2 modules as a means to motivate workers to regularly upgrade themselves.24 The first NTC-1 course (in Precision Engineering) was launched in 1987.25

Continuing Education
The VITB was perhaps best known for its series of broad-based programmes for older workers with little education or technical training.26

The Basic Education for Skills Training (BEST) was started in 1983 to improve basic literacy and numeracy among workers up to Primary Six level to prepare them for further skills upgrading.27

This was followed by the Modular Skills Training (MOST) scheme in 1984, which encouraged employers to sponsor workers for training in specific skills one module at a time; MOST was expanded into a national programme in 1986 and encompassed NTC-3 and NTC-2 courses.28

In 1987, Worker Improvement through Secondary Education (WISE), built on the BEST scheme, was started to enable workers who preferred to continue their education on a part-time basis up to Secondary Four level to prepare for the GCE ‘N’ level examinations.29

In 1991, the Training Initiative for Mature Employees (TIME) was launched to encourage workers aged 40 and above to regularly upgrade their skills to remain relevant. To attract as many such workers as possible, TIME courses were offered in the four official languages – English, Mandarin, Malay or Tamil – and there were no formal entry requirements.30

Outcomes and Challenges
From 1979 to 1991, the VITB trained and certified 112,000 skilled workers, or 9 percent of the total workforce.31


The majority of secondary school leavers who joined the VITB went on to complete their NTC-2 courses and worked in jobs relevant to their training. In contrast, it was found that 40 percent of VITB trainees with only a primary school education managed to complete NTC-3, and of these graduates, only 25 percent worked in jobs relevant to their training.32 Overall, employers preferred VITB graduates who had at least secondary school education as they were quicker at learning and adapting to new technology.33

Another major concern was the poor public image of vocational training and its trainees.34 A 1990 study commissioned by the board revealed that some people saw the VITB as a place for “school-dropouts” and its trainees as unruly and undisciplined.35 These prejudices had to be addressed for vocational training to be successful in the long run.36

There was a need to upgrade the education and vocational training system in order to ensure the quality of the workforce, which was critical to the competitiveness of Singapore.

The Ministry of Education mounted a review of the education system in 1990, which instituted two changes that affected vocational training. First, all students would undergo 10 years of general education, including four years of secondary education, to equip them with a stronger foundation for further studies and skills training. Second, a new secondary level – Normal (Technical) stream – was introduced to prepare pupils who were more technically inclined for vocational training.37

A VITB review committee was formed to study the implications of these changes and propose plans to raise the quality and standing of vocational training.38 It was decided that the VITB should be restructured and upgraded into a post-secondary institution that provided higher-level vocational and technical courses. The VITB should also be renamed to reflect its new identity. This culminated in the establishment of the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to replace the VITB on 1 April 1992.39



Author
Janice Loo



References
1. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1983). Commemorative magazine: 10 years of vocational training in Singapore (1973–83). Singapore: The Board, pp. 6–7. (Call no.: RSING 370.11309595 COM); AEB and ITB under one roof. (1979, March 6). The Business Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 91/92. Singapore: The Board, p. 6. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA-[AR])
3. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1983). Commemorative magazine: 10 years of vocational training in Singapore (1973–83). Singapore: The Board, p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 370.11309595 COM)
4. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1983). Commemorative magazine: 10 years of vocational training in Singapore (1973–83). Singapore: The Board, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 370.11309595 COM)
5. Law, S. S. (2015). A breakthrough in vocational and technical education: The Singapore story. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, p. 61. (Call no.: RSING 370.11309595)
6. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1979–1980. Singapore: The Board, p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA); Law, S. S. (2015). A breakthrough in vocational and technical education: The Singapore story. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, pp. 61–62. (Call no.: RSING 370.11309595)
7. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1983). Commemorative magazine: 10 years of vocational training in Singapore (1973–83). Singapore: The Board, pp. 6–7. (Call no.: RSING 370.11309595 COM)
8. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1979–1980. Singapore: The Board, pp. 1–2. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
9. Mattar is Board chairman. (1979, 1 April). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1979–1980. Singapore: The Board, pp. 4–5. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
11. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1979–1980. Singapore: The Board, pp. 5–6. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
12. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1979–1980. Singapore: The Board, p. 6. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
13. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1979–1980. Singapore: The Board, p. 9. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
14. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1983). Commemorative magazine: 10 years of vocational training in Singapore (1973–83). Singapore: The Board, p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 370.11309595 COM)
15. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1979–1980. Singapore: The Board, p. 14. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
16. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1983). Commemorative magazine: 10 years of vocational training in Singapore (1973–83). Singapore: The Board, p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 370.11309595 COM)
17. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1980–1981. Singapore: The Board, p. 18. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA); Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1983). Commemorative magazine: 10 years of vocational training in Singapore (1973–83). Singapore: The Board, pp. 17–18. (Call no.: RSING 370.11309595 COM)
18. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1980–1981. Singapore: The Board, p. 18. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
19. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1979–1980. Singapore: The Board, p. 38. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA); Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1983). Commemorative magazine: 10 years of vocational training in Singapore (1973–83). Singapore: The Board, p. 19. (Call no.: RSING 370.11309595 COM)
20. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1982–1983. Singapore: The Board, p. 7. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
21. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1982–1983. Singapore: The Board, p. 15. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
22. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1982–1983. Singapore: The Board, p. 7. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
23. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1982–1983. Singapore: The Board, p. 7. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
24. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1983). Commemorative magazine: 10 years of vocational training in Singapore (1973–83). Singapore: The Board, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 370.11309595 COM)
25. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1987–1988. Singapore: The Board, p. 8. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
26. Chiang, M. (1998). From economic debacle to economic miracle: The history and development of technical education in Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING 607.5957 CHI)
27. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1982–1983. Singapore: The Board, pp. 8, 36. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
28. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1984–1985. Singapore: The Board, p. 18. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA); Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1985–1986. Singapore: The Board, p. 7. (Call no5: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
29. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1986–1987. Singapore: The Board, p. 19. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
30. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1991–1992. Singapore: The Board, p. 23. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
31. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1991–1992. Singapore: The Board, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
32. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1991). Upgrading vocational training. Singapore: The Board, p. 1. (Call no.: RSING 370.113 UPG)
33. Chiang, M. (1998). From economic debacle to economic miracle: The history and development of technical education in Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 51. (Call no.: RSING 607.5957 CHI)
34. Law, S. S. (2015). A breakthrough in vocational and technical education: The Singapore story. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, pp. 64, 67. (Call no.: RSING 370.11309595)
35. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1989–1990. Singapore: The Board, pp. 8, 28. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA); Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1991–1992. Singapore: The Board, p. 7. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA); Law, S. S. (2015). A breakthrough in vocational and technical education: The Singapore story. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, p. 64. (Call no.: RSING 370.11309595)
36. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1991). Upgrading vocational training. Singapore: The Board, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 370.113 UPG)
37. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1991–1992. Singapore: The Board, p. 4. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)
38. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1991). Upgrading vocational training. Singapore: The Board, p. v. (Call no.: RSING 370.113 UPG)
39. Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1991). Upgrading vocational training. Singapore: The Board, p. viii. (Call no.: RSING 370.113 UPG); Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board. (1980–1992). Annual report 1991–1992. Singapore: The Board, p. 4. (Call no.: RCLOS 331.79407105957 VITBSA)



The information in this article is valid as at September 2018 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Singapore. Vocational and Industrial Training Board
Education and state--Singapore
Politics and Government>>Education
Education
Vocational schools
Vocational education--Singapore
Occupational training--Singapore