Sun, Apr 01, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Council raises subsidies for continuing education

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) is urging workers to go back to school -- while still on the job.

An upgraded subsidy package is designed to encourage workers to take classes in everything from digital photography to financial management.

REIMBURSEMENT

Upon successfully completing approved continuing education courses, the council will reimburse workers for up to 80 percent of tuition. Each individual can claim up to NT$30,000 for tuition every three years.

All workers with labor or farmer's insurance status who are between the age of 15 and 65 can participate in the "industry talent investment project." Similar programs are already in place for those who are unemployed.

Although it will be difficult to measure the program's benefits for society and the economy, the council's top official said he is confident that investing in the workforce will pay dividends for the nation's economy.

RAISING PRODUCTIVITY

"We have increased the amount [of subsidies] from NT$20,000 over five years to NT$30,000 over three years to encourage workers to keep learning," CLA Chairman Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) said.

"A knowledgeable pool of workers raises productivity and eventually the gross national product," Lee said.

More than 4,000 classes have been approved for the program, primarily taught at extensions of higher-education institutes across the nation, although starting this year unions are also allowed to offer classes related to the professional expertise of their members.

Soochow University has been cooperating with the program and its precursors since 2005 and expects 400 to 500 students for its latest offerings.

HIT CLASSES

Some of the more popular classes, such as business English, fill up the same day registration opens.

Yvonne Chang (臧國芳), a bank teller, is taking a class in real estate investment at Soochow University.

"The financial service industry is a fast-moving industry and I'm sure that what I have learned will help me and my company," she said.

Her employers, Huatai Bank, will pick up the tab for the out-of-pocket portion of the NT$16,000 course in order to encourage more employees to participate.

"I am in the same course as my manager," Chang said.

"We actively work with companies to tailor many of our course offerings to their requirements," said Lin Ping-wen (林炳文), the director of Soochow University's school for continuing education.

"All our instructors have real-world experience and the course is planned with practical applications in mind," Lin said.

BRANCHING OUT

A broad range of classes are available and workers can either choose something that will immediately benefit their work or something completely unrelated.

"We don't want people to specialize too much," Lee said.

"I've met engineers who wanted to take art classes," said Chen I-min, (陳益民)the director-general of the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training.

"They say that it might help them design a better cellphone," Chen said.

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