Bruce Poh: Developing Human Capital Through Skill Development & Promotion Of Skills

Bruce Poh: Developing Human Capital Through Skill Development & Promotion Of Skills

 Bruce Poh,   Chief Executive Officer

Bruce Poh

Chief Executive Officer

Educational leaders play a vital role in shaping the success of students and positive outcomes for communities. Society is changing at a rapid pace, creating a need for practical leaders who can innovate new learning methodologies and meet the needs of the changing times.

Bruce Poh was the CEO of Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Singapore, from 5th Feb 2007 – 1st Feb 2017 before his current appointment as CEO of ITE Education Services (ITEES), an international arm of ITE. As CEO of ITE, he championed Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Singapore, impacting the lives of 30,000 youths annually through skills development. His current role entails the promotion and recognition of skills for careers and mobility, and development of human capital through skills in developing countries. Under his leadership, ITEES’ services have meaningfully impacted people and TVET organisations from diverse cultures and nationalities from 29 countries in Asia, Africa, Middle East and Latin America.

In an indepth conversation with CEO Insights Asia magazine, Bruce shares with us his professional journey and lessons he has gathered along the way. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

ITE is a principal provider of career and technical education and a key developer of national skills certification and standards for the future economy in Singapore. ITEES is the international arm of ITE providing global consultancy in TVET tapping on the successes and expertise of ITE

Tell us about your professional background and how would you define ITE Education Services as an organization? 
After graduating from University, I worked for Hewlett Packard as an engineer. Subsequently, I joined Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) where I was trained in many state-of-the art technologies overseas. Soon, I was appointed Assistant Director of the French-Singapore Institute and Japan-Singapore Technical Institute. In 1992, I helped set up Singapore’s fourth polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP). For the next 15 years, I held concurrent appointments as Deputy Principal, Director of IT, Design, Business Schools and Centre for Quality.

In 2007, I was appointed by Singapore Ministry of Education as CEO of ITE, where I spent ten years until my retirement in 2017. Currently, I am the CEO of ITEES that provides consultancy services to foreign governments and private entities to establish excellent TVET systems in their countries.

What makes ITEES unique from other competitors in the sector?
ITEES was set up because many foreign governments wanted our help to upgrade their TVET systems. Our unique approach is on helping partners develop in-house capability through knowledge transfer akin to 'teaching them how to fish' instead of 'providing the fish'. For example, we don’t train overseas students directly, but train leaders on governance and train teachers to be effective trainers. We aim to impart an excellent and sustainable TVET system for our partners.

What are some of the market opportunities that ITEES will be exploring going forward and what does the timeline of plan for ITEES look like in the future? 
ITEES’ work focuses on transforming the entire TVET system of countries. Depending on the request, some can be as simple as training the trainers while others involve establishing mega institutions. We did many big projects in India and Myanmar, including one in Nigeria, where we assisted our partners establish institutions via six core consultancy services covering development in infrastructure, leadership, capability, academic, quality and certification. Over the years, we expanded our global network consisting of foreign governments, private entities, foundations and development banks. In many ways, we are like a global social enterprise supporting social and economic growth of countries through skills development. Today, we are highly sought after by many countries to transform their TVET systems and transform lives, particularly of youths. Looking into the future, the focus on TVET will increase tremendously as governments worldwide recognise the importance of developing human capital through skills.

What is your take on the dynamic technology trends in the education sector and how would you describe its intervention in your organization? 
It is imperative that TVET system must be upgraded in tandem with industry changes. For example, lecturers teaching a particular subject in Engineering must be updated with industry changes so that students can acquire knowledge relevant to the industry. At ITE, we set up Authentic Learning environments simulating the real world and employ appropriate educational technologies in training ITE students from e-Learning to Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality and using Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence for better learning outcomes.

What is your success mantra and as a leader what would your advice be to educationists who are starting anew in the domain?
I have always been very interested in pioneering work and a major part of my career at EDB, NYP, ITE and ITEES is where I ventured into new areas. They were all exciting experiences. I like to do new things and explore new pathways. I think what is important is self-competence when you are starting your career but as you go higher, you have to work with people. Working with people is essential; how to harness this potential is what would generate superior results. At the leadership level, you have to work through people. It is like being a conductor bringing out the best in each musician and synergising the Symphonic Orchestra to create the most beautiful music. 

My advice for people in the educational sector is to focus on people and always be close to the industry. Be agile, curious and try to learn something new every day.

Bruce Poh , CEO, ITE Education Services
Bruce Poh is the CEO of ITEES, Singapore. He brings to the table forty years of experience working in various sectors and aims to empower the global economy by empowering youth through innovative and relevant learning methodologies.

Favorite Hobby:  Playing Golf, Swimming, Evening Walks
Favorite Book: The Bible
Favorite Travel Destination: Japan

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