Professional Development

9 Ways Media Freelancers Can Claim Free Money for Skills Upgrading

Who's in for some free training money?

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If you’re a media freelancer, you may hesitate to go for training even though you know you should.

After all, courses are expensive and you have to foot the bill yourself. It’s not as if you have an employer who can drop a couple hundred or thousand bucks on a 3-day course for you.

However, there is a way out of this problem: the Singapore government offers many subsidy schemes (read: free money) so you can upgrade your skills without blowing a huge hole in your pocket.

These subsidies are also pretty generous, ranging from a few hundred dollars to up to 95% of your course fees!

In this (non-sponsored) post, you’ll find out 9 ways the government is offering you free money to go upgrade your skills. These schemes have different eligibility requirements, so check whether you qualify.

1. SkillsFuture Credits

Relevant government agency: SkillsFuture Singapore

You’ve probably already heard of the SkillsFuture Credits. As long as you’re a Singapore Citizen and at least 25 years old, you get $500 in SkillsFuture Credits to spend on any SkillsFuture-approved training course you want.

The course doesn’t even have to be related to your freelancing craft. For example if you suddenly feel like learning a new language, take your Credits and sign up for that language course!

SkillsFuture credits don’t expire and you’ll get more from the government every now and then. And unlike the other schemes mentioned in this post, you don’t need to apply for or meet any requirements before you can get these credits.

So if you haven’t already spent your credits, take a look at the available courses on the MySkillsFuture website here. I’ve also compiled a list of digital marketing courses whose fees can be fully covered by SkillsFuture credits.

2. SkillsFuture Study Awards

Relevant government agency: SkillsFuture Singapore

SkillsFuture Credits are good for courses which are relatively inexpensive. But if you’re intending to take a more expensive course relevant to your industry (e.g. one that will lead to a diploma, degree or post-grad qualification), consider applying for the SkillsFuture Study Awards.

Successful applicants will be awarded $5,000 which they can use to offset their course fees. There is also no bond!

There are different SkillsFuture Study Award schemes for the different industry sectors. Find the one that’s relevant to you here.

If you’re a media freelancer, the SkillsFuture Study Award for Media Sector administered by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) is the one you should be looking for. Here’s a summary of the requirements:

  • At least 3 years’ freelancing experience
  • You haven’t received any SkillsFuture Study Award before
  • The course you’re taking leads to a diploma, degree or post-grad qualification

Check out the SkillsFuture Study Award for Media Sector here.

3. Post-Secondary Education Account Funds

Relevant government agency: Ministry of Education

(Singapore Citizens only) Remember that Edusave account you had as a schoolkid, which you used to pay for field trips?

After you graduate from secondary school, your Edusave account is converted into a Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA). Any remaining funds (including interest earned) in your PSEA can be used to pay for programmes and short courses run by Singapore’s educational institutions.

Before you get excited about using your PSEA money, check how much you have in your account first! You can do so by calling the Edusave/Post-Secondary Education hotline at +65 6260 0777.

Visit this MOE webpage for more information on the educational institutions you can use your PSEA funds at and how you can withdraw the funds to pay for your course.

Note that your PSEA will close when you turn 31 years old, with the balance funds being transferred to your CPF Ordinary Account. When that happens, you will not be able to use that money to pay for courses anymore.

4. Talent Assistance Specialised Training Grant (T-Assist)

Relevant government agency: Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore

IMDA will subsidise up to 90% of your course fees (max $3,000, and excluding GST) if you attend an approved T-Assist media-related course. Media freelancers also get a training allowance of $7.50 per hour, which helps lessen the opportunity cost incurred while going for training. You can get up to $6,500 in training allowance every year, as counted from 1 April to 31 March.

You must be a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) in order to be eligible for T-Assist. Media freelancers must also prove they have worked on at least one freelance media project in the past 6 months.

To find out more about T-Assist, visit this IMDA webpage. Alternatively, view the list of approved T-Assist media-related courses here.

5. Workfare Training Support Scheme for Individuals

Relevant government agency: Workforce Singapore

Under the Workfare Training Support Scheme for Individuals (WTS), you can get a 95% course subsidy when taking WTS-eligible courses. The following are WTS-eligible courses (check the full list here):

  • Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) courses
  • Approved Academic Continuing Education and Training (CET) courses offered by polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE)
  • Certifiable Skills Training Courses accredited or supported by SkillsFuture Singapore

Individuals paying for their own training (which you will likely be, as a freelancer) also qualify for a training allowance of $4.50 per hour.

Plus, if you complete your WTS-eligible course, you will automatically be awarded a Training Commitment Award of $200 (max $400 per year)!

The WTS is only open to Singapore Citizens aged 35 years and above earning not more than $2,000 per month. Find out more about the WTS here.

6. Union Training Assistance Programme

Relevant government agency: National Trades Union Congress (NTUC)*

*NTUC isn’t part of the government but it’s close enough to be I suppose

Let’s say you’ve successfully snagged a government subsidy for your course. If you are an NTUC member and your course is supported by the Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP), you can get a 50% subsidy of the balance course fees! This subsidy is capped at $250 per year.

Here’s an example: you’ve gotten a 90% government subsidy for a WSQ course worth $2,000. Instead of having to pay the $200 balance by yourself, UTAP will pay 50% of this remainder. Your final bill for the original $2,000 course: only $100!

There is also a special UTAP scheme for Online/Blended Courses by Institutes of Higher Learning. (During online/blended courses, at least part of the course will be conducted online instead of face-to-face.)

First, sign up for a UTAP supported online/blended course run by by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS). This separate scheme will then subsidise up to 75% of your remaining course fees (after applying any other subsidies obtained).

The UTAP is funded by the NTUC-Education and Training Fund. Find out more about the different UTAP schemes here.

7. Capability Development Grant

Relevant government agency: National Arts Council Singapore (NAC)

The Capability Development Grant (CDG) is relevant to Singapore Citizens and Singapore PRs in Singapore’s arts and culture scene. It covers up to 70% of your expenses (max $20,000 per year) for professional training and skills development programmes, or on-the-job training activities such as work attachments.

Apart from course fees, the CDG also covers the cost of return airfare, visas and accommodation if you’re taking an overseas programme.

Applications for the CDG are open 6 times a year. However, grant priority is given to individuals who can contribute to certain areas identified by the NAC. As of writing, these areas include creative writing, and technical design and production management.

Visit this NAC webpage for more information on the CDG.

The CDG cannot be used to subsidise the cost of full-time degree programmes. The relevant sponsorship programme to apply for instead is the NAC Arts Scholarship (see next point).

8. NAC Arts Scholarship

Relevant government agency: National Arts Council Singapore (NAC)

If you’re a Singapore Citizen or Singapore PR looking for sponsorship for your full-time arts degree programme (e.g. Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree or Doctorate), consider applying for the NAC Arts Scholarship.

There are 2 scholarship schemes: Undergraduate and Post-graduate. Both schemes will cover up to 90% of your study costs (including one-time return airfare if you’ll be studying overseas), capped at $110,000. However to qualify for the Post-graduate scholarship, you’ll need to have a Bachelor’s Degree and at least 2 years of relevant industry experience.

The NAC Arts Scholarship also comes with a service commitment requirement of up to 2 years depending on much money you’ve been awarded.

Read more about the NAC Arts Scholarship here.

Note that this scholarship does not cover film or media courses. If you’re intending to apply for one of such courses, you should check out IMDA’s Media Education Scholarship (see next point) instead.

9. Media Education Scholarship

Relevant government agency: Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore

The Media Education Scholarship (MES) is open to Singapore Citizens keen on pursuing (or are already pursuing) media-related undergraduate or post-graduate programmes.

The scholarship covers all tuition fees and compulsory fees billed by your university. It also comes with an annual living allowance of $7,000 to $14,000 depending on which country you’re studying in.

If you are awarded the MES, you will be bonded for 3 to 5 years depending on how much money you are awarded. You will have to serve your bond with one of IMDA’s co-sponsoring organisations.

MES applications are open January to March every year. So if you’re interested in applying for the MES, be sure to mark this window in your calendar. Read more about the MES here.

This table summarises what you can get under each government subsidy programme and the main eligibility criteria for them:

Name of Subsidy Programme Subsidy Amount Main Eligibility Criteria
SkillsFuture Credits $500 in SkillsFuture Credits for spending on any SkillsFuture-approved training course
  • Singapore Citizen
  • At least 25 years old
SkillsFuture Study Awards $5,000 for spending on courses relevant to your industry

No bond

  • Check the eligibility requirements for the SkillsFuture Study Award you are applying for
Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA) Funds Use your PSEA funds to pay for programmes and short courses run by Singapore’s educational institutions. The amount you can use depends on your PSEA account balance
  • Singapore Citizen
  • Less than 31 years old (your PSEA account closes when you turn 31)
Talent Assistance Specialised Training Grant (T-Assist) Up to 90% course subsidy (max $3,000, and excluding GST) for approved T-Assist media-related courses

Training allowance of $7.50 per hour for media freelancers (max $6,500 per year)

  • Singapore Citizen or PR
  • Media freelancers must have worked on at least one freelance media project in the past 6 months
Workfare Training Support Scheme for Individuals (WTS) 95% course subsidy for WTS-eligible courses

Training allowance of $4.50 per hour for individuals paying for their own training

Training Commitment Award of $200 after completion of course

  • Singapore Citizens
  • At least 35 years old
  • Earning not more than $2,000 per month
Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP) 50% subsidy of post-subsidy course fee balance for UTAP-supported courses

75% subsidy of post-subsidy course fee balance for UTAP-supported online/blended courses run by NTU and SUSS

  • NTUC member
Capability Development Grant Up to 70% of your expenses (max $20,000 per year) for professional training and skills development programmes, or on-the-job training activities
  • Singapore Citizen or PR
  • Training programme must be arts-related
NAC Arts Scholarship Up to 90% of your undergraduate/post-graduate study costs (max $110,000)
  • Singapore Citizen or PR
  • (for Postgraduate study) Bachelor’s Degree and at least 2 years of relevant industry experience
  • Degree programme must be arts-related
Media Education Scholarship All tuition fees and compulsory fees for your degree programme

Annual living allowance of $7,000 to $14,000 depending on which country you’re studying in

  • Singapore Citizen
  • Degree programme must be media-related

With the Singapore government giving you so much free money for training and courses, you really have no excuse to not upgrade your skills.

What are you still waiting for? Go for it!

Do you know of any other subsidy schemes that media freelancers can make use of? Leave a comment!

Tan Siew Ann
Fuelled by a long-standing interest in media, Siew Ann ventured into digital marketing while in law school and has not looked back since. Being inspired by the struggles that she and others have faced while freelancing in Singapore, Siew Ann started lancerX to help freelancers turn their craft into sustainable and meaningful full-time businesses.

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