THE Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will add more places to its more advanced Higher Nitec courses, starting with 100 spots from next year.

Most of these extra places will go to the engineering and info- communications technology programmes.

The five polytechnics here will also review their internship programmes, including possibly extending their duration.

These measures are aimed at equipping students with stronger skills, said Ms Indranee Rajah, chairman of the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (Aspire) committee making the recommendations.

"There is a need for real skills. The employers tell us this, OECD reports point this out and our study trips abroad confirm this," said the Senior Minister of State for Law and Education at a press conference yesterday.

The increased number of Higher Nitec places will allow more Nitec graduates to deepen their skills before they begin work, the committee said in its report.

It added that some industry sectors have said having longer training at the ITE would better prepare students for work.

Now, about one-third of Nitec students progress to Higher Nitec. The authorities hope to raise the figure to half.

The committee also said in its report that the internships at the polytechnics and the ITE are "generally good".

But the experience "can differ significantly from student to student, depending on how the internship is carried out by the host employers".

An internship should have a clearly defined outcome, and the student's job scope should contribute to that goal.

These enhancements may lead to students going on longer work attachments.

For instance, students in Ngee Ann Polytechnic's marine and offshore technology programme take part in a three-month internship in their third year. But by 2016, the internship will be six months long.

Students agreed that completing a longer internship would allow them to learn more and may make companies more willing to hire them.

Third-year marine engineering student Mong Jun Hao, 18, completed a six-week internship at engine manufacturer MTU Asia.

The Singapore Polytechnic student spent his time last year in an engine servicing workshop where he learnt how to disassemble, inspect, clean and re-assemble engines and their parts.

"I learnt a lot. You could see what was inside the engines when you opened them, and when you clean them, you really learn about the different parts," he said.

"If the internship was longer, say, six months, I imagine I would learn a lot more."