Skills Today, Jobs Tomorrow
“Where do you see yourself five years from now?” may not be as easy to answer for the average Joe now as it might have been five years ago. Thanks to digital technology and all the disruptions that have come with it, the face of the Singaporean workplace continues to evolve, rendering today’s cutting-edge breakthroughs obsolete in just a few years, or even in a few months.
Evolving alongside technology are the businesses that have become all but dependent on it. Even the most “traditional” enterprises such as those involving agriculture, food or handicrafts use a computer in some aspects of their business. This has led to changing business models and processes, which in turn have changed the skills that these businesses need their employees to have.
Adapting to the march of technology has, in fact created thousands of new positions waiting to be filled, particularly in IT and technology industries. The question has therefore become whether there are enough qualified individuals to take those jobs on.
As more businesses continue to transform, more Singaporeans find themselves having to move from employer to employer, often having to take on very different roles at each work place.
The skills set of the average Joe therefore needs to evolve alongside businesses and the technology they use.
Now this is easier said than done. Because of the uncertain economic climate at home and abroad, more employers have had to restructure or downsize their staff. Many businesses, particularly in manufacturing, have resorted to hiring conservatively, which includes relegating the tasks normally performed by employees to computers or AI.
And even if a worker should update his skills set, a single skills set, however updated, is no longer enough. A growing number of employers have lately shown a preference for hiring multi-skilled workers to decrease staff count. Employees now have to be willing and able to perform multiple roles to allow businesses to cut staffing costs.
So just what are the skills that today’s businesses need, and that Singaporeans should have?
Not surprisingly, many of these skills have to do with digital technology. Skills used for cyber-security, cloud computing, ICT and automation will not only be very much in demand, but are expected to evolve continually. And as the role of data in various industries increasingly comes to the fore, the need for data analytics skills, in particular, will continue to grow.
Digital marketing and sales skills are likewise highly sought-after and are expected to remain so for the foreseeable future.
Other industries looking to hire workers with relevant skills include IT risk management, banking, accounting, human resources, regulatory or government affairs, and management of critical facilities. Fintech and compliance have likewise been singled out as industries that job seekers might want to prepare for by acquiring the necessary skills.
What may come as a surprise is that while technology seems to have all but taken over the human element of the workplace, it is skills that require the human touch that employers value above all else. These skills include communication, collaboration, negotiation and management, or simply being able to work well with others. Critical thinking, problem solving and creativity are likewise in high demand.
And while many technology skills tend to be industry specific, these soft and social skills are essential in every field, especially in industries that need that human touch such as education and healthcare. Given that many workers are switching industries these days, having great people skills is an absolute must.
To equip Singaporeans with these skills, education is now more important than ever.
And it doesn’t just stop with a diploma; indeed, more Singaporeans have come to realise that a degree is no guarantee to finding a stable job or earning a steady income.
Far from being lost on the authorities, this trend has been met with nationwide efforts to both prepare the future workforce, and assist the workers of today in acquiring the skills they need.
The traditional school system’s emphasis on learning by the book, written work and high marks is now being reassessed in light of the need for more group projects and other means for developing interpersonal and adaptable skills.
The role of schools in preparing students for interacting in the working world, and being able to adapt to new situations can’t be emphasised enough. Educational institutions must likewise be aligned with real-world business developments to be able to provide relevant and up-to-date guidance for students. Such guidance includes student exposure to the different levels within an organisation, as well as to various world and workplace cultures.
This especially holds true with regional as well as global interaction being part and parcel of business operations across the board. Today’s as well as tomorrow’s workers have to gain the confidence and the competency for communicating not just with their peers in other countries, but with the different levels of management. They must also develop the flexibility to respond to changes within and outside their organisations.
Initiatives such as the Professional Conversion Programme and the Attach and Train programme are in place to help ensure that those who need to acquire new skills or whose skills need updating will be better able to find work. Other initiatives include internships, work-study arrangements, career counselling and study awards.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s 2017 May Day Rally speech presents a summary of the government’s efforts to address the country’s skill shortage.
To this end, SkillsFuture offers a Series of programmes to provide Singaporeans with training that enhances their employability in eight key areas. Participants will be armed with the requisite skills for a career in Data Analytics, Finance, Tech-Enabled Services, Digital Media, Cybersecurity, Entrepreneurship, Advanced Manufacturing, and Urban Solutions.
SMU Academy is the lead institution for the SkillsFuture Series’ Finance courses, which are offered in Basic, Intermediate and Advanced tiers. Generous funding of up to 90% of course fees is open to Singaporeans or Permanent Residents.
Contact SMU Academy and discover how SkillsFuture Series training is a giant step towards a future-ready career.