Why It Matters

Zooming in on jobs of the future

In January, the labour movement will set up a unit to help Singapore workers develop the relevant skills for jobs of the future.

The move is timely.

Hardly any local organisation is known to be scrutinising the phenomenon of potential job losses caused by disruptive technologies like driverless cars, and the new skills needed here in what is called the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

To be named the Future Jobs, Skills and Training Department, the unit will compile data on new investments made at specific companies and industries in Singapore, and predict the ensuing jobs that will be created in the next three years.

The findings will be shared with training providers and institutions of higher learning, to ensure that skills and training courses for Singaporean workers are relevant and will meet the new demand.

This proactive approach is a big help for workers at a loss on how to prepare themselves for a future job market riddled with uncertainty.

Time is also of the essence as business cycles are getting shorter, meaning workers need to pick up new skills earlier and quicker for new types of jobs.

The unit can hopefully be counted on to provide more reliable information than, say, individuals predicting future job opportunities through word of mouth, articles or vacancies on job portals.

National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay, who will head the unit, said the three-year timeframe for identifying future jobs is the norm used in conventional forecasting, given the current speed of change.

Some may feel it is too short, especially professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) with deeper skills in a particular job or greater financial commitments. They may be apprehensive about a career switch.

But PMETs are precisely the group that needs to be prepared, as recent figures have shown that when they are displaced, they are less likely to land a job within six months.

For workers in general, the need to adapt and train swiftly for future jobs cannot be emphasised enough.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2016, with the headline 'Zooming in on jobs of the future'. Print Edition | Subscribe