WSG should look ahead, anticipate skills needed

Workforce Singapore's (WSG) efforts to improve job-matching services is unfortunately too little too late (Job seekers must identify, learn right skills: Workforce Singapore; Nov 30).

As noted in the article, new skills take time to build. The lead time could be as long as a year. Next, experience is prerequisite before one can move into these new roles, and this takes two years or more.

For example, NTUC Learning Hub has a requirement of two years of training experience before accepting a freelance trainer.

This effectively puts a halt to the plans of laid-off professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) thinking of sharing their skills, knowledge and experience as freelance trainers.

WSG should be talking today about skills that are needed two years from now. And putting in place programmes to skill up workers so that they are ready when the jobs are available.

The ability to see into the future is required in order to thrive in today's economy. But the general feeling is that technological change is happening too quickly to be anticipated. This is somewhat of a myth.

Research has indicated that technological change takes 20 to 30 years to find a commercially viable application.

Back in the 1980s, when I did my engineering degree, my final year project was on how to incorporate a robotic arm in a manufacturing process. Today, robotics skills are in demand.

Naturally, one cannot be 100 per cent right about the future and totally unexpected events do show up. But if one knows where to look, one can decode a very significant portion of the future today.

As a start, professional bodies would have a view of the skills needed in their professions at least two years from now.

With the Industry Transformation Maps developed for 23 industries, trade associations would have mapped out the skills needed for their industries at least two years from now.

WSG's conversations with these professional and trade bodies should be focused on the future, not the present.

Then their inputs should be taken to the adult educators to roll out relevant training programmes that support them.

We need to address the skills mismatch of the future today.

Liu Fook Thim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2018, with the headline 'WSG should look ahead, anticipate skills needed'. Print Edition | Subscribe