Firms using downtime to train workforce

Poll finds this is especially so for those in sectors severely hit by slowdown; top priority is for soft or adaptive skills

Employers in the built environment tend to place a higher priority on project management skills. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Employers here are using the extra time on their hands during the economic slowdown to boost staff capabilities in areas such as technical and technology-related skills, a survey noted.

It found that 60 per cent of employers are using or intend to use the pandemic period to train their workforce.

The poll done in April amid the circuit breaker also noted that 67 per cent of firms in severely affected industries such as tourism, aviation, retail, food services, land transport and the arts wanted to train staff during the downtime, a higher proportion than those in other industries, which registered 55 per cent.

Soft or adaptive skills emerged as a top priority, with 65 per cent of bosses who are sending or intending to send employees for training citing this option.

This was followed closely by technical skills, with 64 per cent of employers saying their priority was to deepen staff competencies in their current roles.

And 58 per cent wanted to improve their workers' general technology-related skills, noted the survey released last week by training provider NTUC LearningHub.

Its poll of 200 employers also found that the top three adaptive skills they want now are adaptability and resilience, teamwork and collaboration, and innovation. The top three digital skills are digital marketing, project management and data analysis.

Digital marketing ability was most sought-after by the lifestyle, trade and connectivity, and professional service industries.

Employers in the built environment and essential domestic service sectors tend to place a higher priority on project management skills, while manufacturers want staff to be adept at data analysis.

NTUC LearningHub chief executive Kwek Kok Kwong said: "In this new world order where social distancing is the new norm, a business' ability to stand out amongst the crowd digitally would give it a competitive advantage, and that could explain why digital marketing emerged as the No. 1 digital skill."

He added that as Covid-19 has transformed the way many people look at businesses and lifestyle, employers are more ready than before to embrace digital solutions that previously seemed daunting.

NTUC LearningHub recommends that workers identify gaps in their skill sets and make learning a continual habit.

They should also actively find out how their employers are navigating the Covid-19 economy so that they can align their individual goals with those of the organisation.

There are various schemes available for workers who go for training on their own.

These include the Workfare Training Support Scheme, which provides low-wage workers with funding for course fees and allowances. This will be replaced by the Workfare Skills Support scheme from July 1, which has higher levels of support.

There is also the Union Training Assistance Programme that subsidises course fees for National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) members while the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy assists mid-career Singaporeans.

The report urged employers to structure their businesses with people at the heart, which will result in better engagement and loyalty.

They should also make use of available training grants and schemes to reskill and redeploy workers, so that their businesses can become more efficient and transform.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2020, with the headline Firms using downtime to train workforce. Subscribe