Be prepared to learn new skills in fast-changing economy or be left out: Halimah Yacob

A job seeker is being interviewed at the Marsiling Job Fair 2017 on Feb 24, 2017.
A job seeker is being interviewed at the Marsiling Job Fair 2017 on Feb 24, 2017. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob noted that many older Singaporeans are making an effort to upgrade themselves.
Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob noted that many older Singaporeans are making an effort to upgrade themselves.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN
Norhayati Binte Mido, 34 at the Marsiling Job Fair 2017 on Feb 24, 2017.
Norhayati Binte Mido, 34 at the Marsiling Job Fair 2017 on Feb 24, 2017. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

SINGAPORE – Be ready to learn new skills and be flexible in the face of a rapidly-changing economy, urged Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob on Saturday (Feb 25), even as she encouraged working adults to manage their time to balance family, work and studies.

“There will be many new changes caused by artificial intelligence, automation, computers... The most important question to ask yourself is, are you prepared for the change?” said Madam Halimah, who is also MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

She was speaking at a Marsiling job fair aimed at informing people of job opportunities and raising awareness of the SkillsFuture initiative, which encourages people to upgrade their skills.

The Marsiling Job Fair 2017 - Making Sense of SkillsFuture, held on Friday (Feb 24) and Saturday (Feb 25) at Fuchun Community Club, was jointly organised by the Mendaki Social Enterprise Network Singapore (Sense) – the training arm of Yayasan Mendaki – and Marsiling Citizens' Consultative Committee.

The fair drew more than 400 jobseekers over two days, who took part in job placement exercises with Sense’s employer partners, learnt about various training programmes, and attended seminars on-site.

“There’s going to be tremendous change in the workforce, companies, and this change is driven by globalisation and technology,” Madam Halimah later added.

She noted that factory workers now must have some literacy and numeracy skills – to be able to do mathematical calculations and read English for instructions.

A lot of older Singaporeans are already making an effort to do so by signing up for a SkillsFuture course for computer literacy known as the International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL).

Between 2015 and last year (2016), Sense saw a more than twofold increase – from 484 to 1,156 – in the number of people signing up for the ICDL, following the introduction of the SkillsFuture credit scheme.

Referring to the SkillsFuture Work-Study Degree Programmes, announced on Friday, which aims to combine classroom learning with workplace experience, Madam Halimah said it was good that the universities are loosening up and doing what their counterparts in advanced economies are doing.

She also described her own experience in trying to find a balance between work, family and studies.

“I started my Masters’ programme in 1999, I finished by 2001. I had a full-time job at the time, had five children, all of them were in school. So it’s a question of how you juggle (your time),” she said.

Ms Norhayati Mido, 34, who left school after Secondary 2 to support her family, enrolled in SkillsFuture service excellence and leadership and people management courses via Sense in 2015 and last year.

The communication skills she learnt gave her the confidence to leave her job in sales and marketing to set up an online business selling beauty products.

Said Ms Norhayati: “The market has been very competitive, and there’s so much foreign talent. Looking for jobs isn’t easy.

“The courses taught me about market trends and market analysis, and helped me a lot in my business.”

Madam Halimah also commented on the recent case of abuse to hit the SkillsFuture scheme, in which 4,400 false claims were made last month for a training course which the claimants did not attend.

“People should know that this is a benefit provided for their own development, and they should not abuse it.

“For those abusing it because they are suffering from some financial difficulties, there are other alternatives, they can go to CommCare, Social Service Offices, they don’t have to resort to this.”

This story has been updated for clarity.