FROM Aug 1, non-degree holders joining the civil service to perform management support roles will be hired under the same scheme as most university graduates.

The move will close the gap in career prospects between university graduates and non-graduates, who currently come under different schemes and have different starting salaries.

With the extension of the Management Executive Scheme to include them, non-degree holders will start at a lower grade, with lower pay, than graduates.

But they will have greater opportunities to advance, and when they reach a specified grade, they will be assessed for performance and potential in the same way as their graduate colleagues at the same level.

The change is the result of a Public Service Division (PSD) study, announced last August, on ways to merge its main graduate and non-graduate schemes, and give officers a chance to progress on the same career track.

In announcing the change yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said: "Both degree holders and non-degree holders will be recruited on, and progress along, the extended Management Executive Scheme."

He added: "All officers in the same grade will be assessed for performance and potential in the same way."

Mr Teo, the minister-in-charge of the civil service, was speaking during the debate on the budget of the Prime Minister's Office.

Last night, PSD said in a statement that 5,700 officers on the existing Management Support Scheme can apply to transfer to the new scheme.

Currently, degree holders are mostly employed under the Management Executive Scheme at a starting pay of up to $3,260 a month, according to the Careers@Gov website. Diploma holders and those with A-level, higher Nitec or Nitec qualifications join the Management Support Scheme. Their salary starts from between $1,230 and $1,850 a month.

The new extended scheme was prompted by the Government's aim to do more to support the aspirations of non-graduates, following a call from a committee reviewing the career prospects of polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education graduates.

Mr Teo said yesterday the civil service is committed to helping its officers acquire deeper skills for their jobs, in line with the upcoming SkillsFuture initiative.

He also said, in his reply to Mr Inderjit Singh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), that the civil service looks beyond academic qualifications when recruiting officers. It also considers such factors as character, commitment to public service and interpersonal skills.

PSD social media officer Kaye Zhao, 32, welcomed the new scheme that gives management support officers a chance to contribute more at work.

Mr Yeo Chun Fing, general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees, said the change "gives hope to non-graduates, who in the past were perceived to be stuck on a different scheme".

"Now, if you're good, you'll have a fair chance to progress," he added.

Human resource analyst Martin Gabriel, of local firm HRmatters21, said the civil service is "actually playing catch-up" to the private sector, where academic qualifications are less important than work performance.

But the Government's move is important as it sets the tone for all bosses to do the same, he said.