The case for executive education

Vivien Shiao Shufen 14 Feb 2013

Executive education is one of the few things in life that is unlikely to ever go out of fashion. Its demand has remained strong throughout the ups and downs of the economy, making it one of the classic must-haves to move up in any industry.

This increasing trend of executive education is not likely to abate anytime soon. According to the 2012 JobsCentral Learning Rankings and Survey, 71.5% of professional workers intend to pursue further education, compared to the 69.6% who indicated a similar intention in 2011.

“More professionals are getting MBAs because it helps them get ahead in their organisations,” says Peter Lewis, vice president of Kaplan Singapore. “A Masters or MBA has become the basic requirement for most PMET (professionals, managers, executives, and technicians) in organisations.”

David Pooi, Senior Manager – Corporate Division, Training Vision concurs with that assessment.

“Some 30 years ago, if you had a Bachelor’s degree, you were considered one of the best in the lot,” explains Pooi. “Now, two in three PMETs already have a basic degree. The market is extremely competitive – if you want to go up to senior management, most people are looking for someone with a Master’s degree.”

The case for further education

Just what is so great about an MBA that makes it so highly coveted by those who aim to scale the corporate ladder?

According to Lewis, there are many benefits to an MBA. “It enables a professional to upgrade his skills, keep himself up-to-date with industry best practices, network with executives from all over the world, and have a solid foundation for a management position,” he notes.

“These give MBA graduates an edge over other professionals, making it possible for them to ask for higher salaries during negotiations,” he adds.

For others who choose to embark on an MBA, it can be used as a vehicle to switch careers.

“Aside from those who wish to ‘upgrade’ themselves , some wish to change careers altogether,” says Nicanor Lazaro Soriano, director of Marketing and Admissions, The Nanyang MBA, Nanyang Business School. “For example, an engineer may want to become a consultant or a banker. Some may wish to change industry, or even change work location.”

Another advantage of getting an MBA is to enhance critical thinking and problem solving skills that are deemed so valuable in today’s workplace. Such qualities are crucial in bringing about innovation – a resource all companies need to stay ahead of the competition.

“This is what differentiates an MBA from other Master’s degrees which focus on obtaining hard and technical skills,” explains Soriano. “In an MBA, [the emphasis is on] critical thinking, problem solving and innovation, in addition to technical skills. It is more holistic, and has more to do with management and leadership.”

What’s out there?

For those who are keen on an MBA, a reputable university programme is a must.

The Nanyang MBA is one such programme that is recognised worldwide due to its stringent criteria and quality of course content.

It is a 12-month programme conducted in Singapore, with options for further international exposure. It involves nine core courses, four electives, either an overseas or local business study mission, an industry project, and a leadership module which is spread over two trimesters.

The programme is also starting to place more emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving. Starting from its 2013 cohort, the Nanyang MBA will give participating executives two tracks to choose from. The first is the banking and finance track, while the other is the strategy and innovation track.

The Nanyang MBA with the strategy and innovation track is designed for people who are interested in pursuing specific roles with strong emphasis on strategy and consulting work, as well as roles that allow graduates to create or manage the creation of new products or processes, growing existing businesses or even start up new businesses.

For executives who cannot commit to a full MBA programme which is typically spread over a longer time frame with higher costs, shorter-term executive training is another attractive option. It imparts knowledge and skills in a shorter time period that may appeal to the busy executives of today.

To stimulate critical thinking, Kaplan Professional offers the Strategic Thinking for Business Transformation programme, which provides participants with a comprehensive overview of strategy concepts.

“The programme also helps them to enhance their overall strategic thinking skills and become innovative business leaders, which is what many organisations are looking for,” says Lewis.

Training Vision also offers various training programmes for executives to sharpen their problem solving skills.

Its Career Ascent managerial courses are suitable for professionals, managers and executives, and are certified by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.

One programme offered is Systems Thinking in Problem Solving and Decision Making. This short course teaches participants to apply systems thinking strategies to assess problems, and formulate and then implement solutions that address the sorts of organisational issues usually encountered by those in managerial roles. For the time-pressed manager or executive, this programme may be ideal as it is only 16 hours long, compared to the usual one year commitment of an MBA.

Coming up next

When asked to look in the crystal ball to examine what will be some of the executive education trends in 2013, most experts agree that MBAs will continue to be high in demand.

“Advanced courses in information technology will (also) become more popular, in light of the technological advances made in many Southeast Asian countries,” predicts Lewis.

For Low KT, Principal Consultant of Training Vision, programmes that aim to boost productivity will be more popular than ever, thanks to the Singapore government making this a priority.

“Productivity is always a big challenge to any company. When you measure your productivity, your output is in the numerator. Your costs are in the denominator. Costs, like labour and material cost, keep going up. So if your sales stop growing, and everything else stays on trend, your productivity immediately turns down. It’s a very sobering thought,” says Low. “There is a need for constant measurement of productivity, and continuous improvement in processes. The government is making productivity a key focus by subsidising such programmes.”

Soriano meanwhile, believes finance, marketing and leadership modules will continue to be hot in executive education this year.

“This is because these are the traditional skills necessary to bring the companies to higher levels of performance. However, this also depends on what industries need too,” he notes.

With the positive outlook of MBAs and executive training, it is safe to say that such programmes will remain relevant and valuable in the workplace for years to come.


Programmes for critical thinking

The Nanyang MBA is starting to place more emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving. Starting from its 2013 cohort, the programme will have two different tracks: one focusing on banking and finance, and the other looking specifically at strategy and innovation. The Nanyang MBA – strategy and innovation track is designed for those looking to work on business strategy or consulting, as well as those hoping to create and manage new processes or businesses.

Kaplan Professional offers the Strategic Thinking for Business Transformation programme, which provides participants with a comprehensive overview of strategy concepts.

Training Vision offers a programme on Systems Thinking in Problem Solving and Decision Making. It teaches participants the systems thinking approach to assessing business problems, formulating and implementing solutions.


Hot trends in exec education to watch in 2013

•        Advanced IT courses will become more popular

•        MBAs will continue to be in demand

•        More Chinese students will come to Singapore to study Business English

•        Marketing, finance and leadership modules will also be in favour

•        Programmes that aim to boost productivity will be a new emerging trend



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