PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call for a "culture shift" towards putting greater emphasis on skills rather than paper qualifications could not have come at a better time ("Building opportunities by matching skills to jobs"; Monday).

Many job advertisements today still emphasise the need for academic qualifications, especially for middle management jobs.

Opportunities for apprenticeship are rare, especially in what some consider to be sunset industries.

I consider myself among the lucky few who were recruited as apprentices in the late 1960s, armed with only O-level (then called Senior Cambridge) qualifications.

Over the years, I was lucky to be sent to local and overseas institutions to upgrade my skills and management know-how.

With the support and sponsorship of my employer, I obtained a technical diploma overseas and a diploma in production management here.

Along the way, I was promoted and went on to become a vice-president in a big public-listed company. My technical competence was never in doubt despite my lack of a professional academic certificate.

I retired in April after working for 46 years.

I hope Mr Lee's timely call will spark a mindset change in every company, to provide equal opportunities for all.