Professional services to add 5,500 jobs a year until 2020

The sector's Industry Transformation Map (ITM) also aims to equip workers with skills in high-growth areas such as data science, analytics and artificial intelligence.
The sector's Industry Transformation Map (ITM) also aims to equip workers with skills in high-growth areas such as data science, analytics and artificial intelligence. PHOTO: ST FILE

Industry road map includes plans to boost skills in high-growth areas, help firms grow

A new road map to help boost the professional services sector aims to generate 5,500 new jobs for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) every year until 2020.

The sector's Industry Transformation Map (ITM) will also equip workers with skills in high-growth areas such as data science, analytics and artificial intelligence.

The target is for professional services to grow 4.6 per cent every year from 2015 to reach $31 billion in value-add by 2020, said Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah.

She was speaking at the official opening of media and digital marketing communications group Dentsu Aegis Network's Asia-Pacific headquarters yesterday.

Professional services include architecture and engineering services, consulting, accounting, legal and advertising. Firms in the industry employed over 230,000 people in 2016 and contributed $25 billion, or 6.5 per cent, of Singapore's gross domestic product that year.

The ITM will include initiatives to help home-grown firms expand overseas, facilitate collaboration among companies as well as help companies and workers build key digital capabilities.

The Government will play a "catalytic role" by working with the industry to develop innovation platforms, Ms Indranee said. This includes setting up a data-sharing consortium, which involves firms such as Google, Grab and Adobe helping companies use data to drive marketing innovation.

Four new Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) - to help PMETs find jobs in growth sectors and get the necessary skills training - will be rolled out this year. They will train people for roles in programmatic advertising, internal audit, user experience/user interface design and building information modelling. These are on top of more than 10 professional services PCPs which have already been rolled out.

National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said professional services have not been spared the impact of disruption, noting: "These are exciting times for the sector with many new growth areas... but there are also jobs at risk - for instance, the more manual jobs in accounting."

Technology is changing the way professional services firms work with clients, and the sector has to transform to take full advantage of this, Ms Indranee said.

For instance, doing due diligence used to involve "armies of lawyers and accountants going down to the clients' offices and trawling through the books". "Now, you can do a lot of that with data analytics," she said, adding that this involves a different set of skills.

Some firms in the sector are jumping on the tech bandwagon. Dentus Aegis' new 100,000 sq ft Asia-Pacific headquarters at Guoco Tower hosts its Global Data Innovation Centre - to serve as its global hub for data scientists and tech talent.

Local accounting firm Precursor Group set up its own technology team to develop a cloud-based platform with applications for various accounting and audit functions. When the apps go live in the coming months, staff can work from home or clients' offices, said managing director Tan Khoon Guan.

Another firm, Covenant Chambers, tapped a government scheme to implement cloud-based software to help manage information and generate invoices more efficiently.

The professional services ITM is the 18th of 23 industry road maps earmarked by the Government.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2018, with the headline 'Professional services to add 5,500 jobs a year until 2020'. Print Edition | Subscribe