The Government and the labour movement are doing their best to create jobs and offer skills upgrading, but workers need to step up to the plate to help themselves, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.
Speaking at the May Day Rally yesterday, Mr Lee said: "We are going all out to help all workers upgrade and uplift themselves, get new jobs, and get better jobs.
"The unions are doing all (they can), the Government is working hard. What is necessary is the third thing: individuals, workers, you - please help yourselves."
Mr Lee noted that retrenchments are on the rise in spite of a tight job market, and that economic restructuring is making workers in more traditional jobs redundant.
"Every day, with new jobs in new industries, we are losing old jobs," he told 1,000 unionists and guests at Downtown East. "(They are) displaced by software, by robots, by offshoring, jobs moving elsewhere to countries with lower costs."
He pointed out that the problem is not that there are not enough jobs, but that workers' skills and expectations do not match what is needed in the market.
On the bright side, a steady flow of quality investments looks set to create more jobs here, he said, citing the example of solar power company Renewable Energy Corporation, as well as information and communications technology (ICT) giants Google, Facebook and Apple, which are all expanding here.
"We need programmers, coders, people who know about cyber security, people who design user experience," he said. This demand could create as many as 30,000 new jobs by 2020, which is why the Government has set up a skills development and job placement hub, the TechSkills Accelerator, to train Singaporeans - even those without ICT backgrounds - and match them to jobs.
Mr Lee added that while youth unemployment is not an issue here, those making mid-career switches experience struggles.
"We have to think of older workers who are at risk of losing their jobs," he said. "We have to help them make the transition by reskilling them and upskilling them. This is actually harder to do than preparing students to enter the job market, but we have to do it."
He singled out the work done on this front by Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, who left the labour movement last May and has since mooted the Career Support Programme for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) retrenched mid-career.
The programme, which defrays the cost of hiring these workers for a year, has reached out to 200 older PMETs in the last five months, with half securing employment.
Mr Lee also highlighted the Professional Conversion Programme, which helps job-seekers reskill themselves, and Place And Train, where trainees are hired and paid wages by an employer while they receive training for their new job.
These programmes, said Mr Lee, have supported more than 7,000 workers over eight years.