An innovative exercise for PMEs next year

The office crowd in the Central Business District in Singapore.
The office crowd in the Central Business District in Singapore.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

They'll view cutting-edge tech at innovation labs of seven MNCs

Companies typically do not open their innovation labs and reveal their cutting-edge technology to outsiders, but seven multinational corporations will do so next year under a new programme to help workers stay up to date with market trends.

The Innovation Exchange programme, announced by labour chief Chan Chun Sing yesterday, aims to help local professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) pick up new skills and keep abreast of market developments through field trips to these labs.

The seven companies - Dentsu Aegis Network, DHL, Intel, MasterCard, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Unilever - will open up their innovation labs in February and May for the PMEs to visit.

Among the technology the PMEs will get to see are prototypes of chatbots and products that use machine learning and virtual reality, built by global media group Dentsu Aegis Network.

They will also get to visit Procter & Gamble's private research facility, where the company researches and tests new products.

 

PMEs are the group most vulnerable to losing their jobs to cheaper and more competitive workers overseas, and even to smart technology or machines.

The Government and labour movement have ramped up their efforts to help these white-collar workers stay employable, including by encouraging them to continually learn new skills.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), for instance, is running a two-year series of workshops and events to help PMEs gain skills and find jobs.

Speaking at one of these events yesterday, Mr Chan urged PMEs to read up on current affairs, make time to learn new skills and stay ahead of technological or industry changes.

"The theory that you do one job for the rest of your life, like my mother's generation, is gone. Chances are that we have to learn, relearn, unlearn, learn again and so forth," said Mr Chan, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, at the U Future Leaders Summit where industry leaders discussed market trends abroad and at home.

He told the 1,200 PMEs who attended the one-day conference that disruptive technology such as the Internet can be a challenge but also an opportunity.

For instance, he said, workers can use the Internet to compete for overseas jobs. "Whoever can master technology better and faster will win."

Mr Chan added that Singaporean workers, with the Singapore brand of efficiency and trustworthiness behind them, stand every chance of succeeding.

He also urged PMEs to make time for training so that they will always have skills that employers need, and network with their peers in different industries so that they have both breadth and depth of exposure.

"We don't have to reinvent the wheel. We can learn from each other," he said.

People who are interested in the Innovation Exchange programme can sign up online, but the visit to DHL is only by invitation.

• More details are available at www.ntuc.org.sg/ufutureleaders

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2016, with the headline 'An innovative exercise for PMEs next year'. Print Edition | Subscribe