THE public service can and will do more in offering more career opportunities for those without degrees, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally address.
It will put more emphasis on how people perform their jobs and the relevant skills they have, rather than their starting qualifications, he said. The Government, as an employer, will do its part, as it encourages companies to value workers and advance them based on skills.
The public service will also merge more graduate and non-graduate schemes so that everyone will have equal opportunities on the same career track.
And non-graduates will be promoted faster to positions that were traditionally considered "graduate-level" jobs, once they prove they are capable.
Mr Lee highlighted Keppel Offshore and Marine as an example of a company that has provided structured career pathways for its employees, including non-degree holders.
Some government bodies, he said, have also offered fulfilling careers to non-graduates.
For instance, the People's Association, a statutory board, has a single scheme of service for both degree and diploma holders.
Staff advance based on merit, and that has allowed diploma graduates to move on to senior manager positions based on their abilities.
Another example is in nursing, where many senior nurses started out without degrees and worked their way up. "Some of them have earned degrees along the way but as a nurse, we assess you on your knowledge... ability, commitment, and not so much on where you started."
Mr Lee added that he hoped recent moves to give public sector nurses pay rises of between 5 per cent and 20 per cent in the next two years, and better career progression, will help them go further in their careers.
The Singapore Armed Forces also recognises people for their leadership qualities and abilities, and not just academic qualifications, he said, adding that it has "many paths upwards for non-graduates and military experts".
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat welcomed the moves to help Singaporeans gain deep skills on the job, but said in a Facebook post last night that the shift away from a paper chase would not be easy.
"It requires a societal mindset change and we need all our stakeholders - government, companies, unions, students and families - to come together on this," he wrote.