DEGREES are still the gateway to better opportunities, said some Sikh graduates at a ceremony to recognise their academic achievements yesterday.

Of the 41 who were part of the ceremony at the Colonial at Scotts, a good number had chosen to pursue a degree after spending some time in the workforce, while seven did post-graduate studies.

Now in its seventh year, the annual event by Singapore's Young Sikh Association and the Central Sikh Gurdwara Board aims to encourage continual learning.

Senior human resources and administrative executive Kamaljeet Kaur, 26, who just completed her part-time Bachelor of Commerce degree, felt the need to upgrade herself after six years in the workforce.

"You have to, otherwise you will lose out to better qualified people. It was tough juggling a part-time degree with work but I'm now in a better position to look for good jobs at the managerial level," she said.

There has been debate on the need for a degree, with the Government pointing out other options and paths to success.

But Mr Jivan Sidhu, 31, a former credit analyst who did a Master of Business Administration programme in Cambridge, said competition is tough both among Singaporeans and foreigners.

Higher qualifications will put a person in better stead for better paying jobs, he added.

"Arming yourself with a specific qualification, to complement your career goals, opens up doors and demonstrates to potential employers your willingness to upgrade yourself," he said.

Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Minister of State of National Development and Defence, said at the session that the Government has developed new education pathways for Singaporeans to acquire more practice-oriented diplomas and degrees.

It will also work closer with industries to promote workforce upgrading efforts and develop "more peaks of excellence" for people to aim for new types of jobs, beyond the traditional ones, he added.

At the event, Dr Maliki also praised the Sikh community for their achievements and contributions to Singapore, pointing out their sense of ethnic identity, strength and unity. There are about 11,000 Sikhs in Singapore today.

Mr Malminderjit Singh, president of the Young Sikh Association, said it is important for Sikhs, like all Singaporeans, to upgrade themselves to stay relevant to the workforce and take advantage of global opportunities.

"The Sikhs have always been a vibrant group, actively contributing to Singapore's economy and we should also leverage on these opportunities provided by the Government to upgrade ourselves," he said.