Agile workers needed in age of disruption: Josephine Teo

IT professional Vincent See ventured into a new industry after three decades in the hospitality sector.
IT professional Vincent See ventured into a new industry after three decades in the hospitality sector.

Aside from nurturing an agile workforce, businesses also have to transform and grow, says minister

Several years ago, IT professional Vincent See, now 52, observed the rise of e-commerce worldwide.

His company was also restructuring to cut costs. So he decided to take the plunge, and venture into a new industry after nearly 30 years in the hospitality sector.

He obtained an advanced diploma in supply chain management, and landed a permanent job as a systems specialist at ST Logistics this year through a government work attachment programme.

To thrive in an age of disruption, Singapore needs to nurture "agile" workers like Mr See, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo yesterday.

Such workers have quick and flexible mindsets in picking up new skills, and can move from old jobs to new ones that are created, she said.

They will form part of an "agile ecosystem" that is key for Singapore to thrive in an age of disruption, she added.

Mrs Teo was speaking at a luncheon to honour more than 130 job seekers who successfully found new jobs through Workforce Singapore and NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute career support programmes last year.

Yesterday, she set out three challenges ahead: global disruptions to businesses that threaten jobs, the impact of an ageing population on growth of businesses and uncertainty on how to prepare for the future of work.

Aside from developing an agile workforce, businesses also have to transform and grow, she said.

They need to become more productive and innovative, and capitalise on overseas opportunities so as to offer their employees better careers.

The Government, in turn, must remain agile in responding to firms and workers' needs, she added.

She cited the new SkillsFuture initiative it will roll out for enterprises, to help employers put in place human resource systems, structures and processes to provide their employees with better training.

Asked how the Government intends to get buy-in from employees and firms to be a part of this "agile ecosystem", Mrs Teo highlighted the strong foundation of tripartism here.

"We are constantly in dialogue with one another, and unlike in many other countries, we are not in a bitter fight against one another," she added. "We know that this is a challenge that requires all of us to put in our best efforts."

Mrs Teo also gave an update on the Adapt and Grow initiative yesterday - 25,000 people found new jobs via the scheme last year, a 20 per cent rise from 2016.

The initiative, started in 2016, offers a suite of programmes to place local job seekers in jobs and upgrade their skills.

Also present at the event yesterday were Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad, NTUC deputy secretary-general Koh Poh Koon and labour MP Patrick Tay, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower.

Asked about her priorities as Manpower Minister, Mrs Teo replied that it will be to nurture the agile ecosystem she had outlined.

"The programmes that we've put in place are fundamentally sound, but you always have to be responsive," she said.

"We look at whether the programmes are making a difference," she added.

"When we see that we have to make some adjustments, we do not hesitate to do so. And we ourselves have to be agile in that regard."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 13, 2018, with the headline 'Agile workers needed in age of disruption: Josephine Teo'. Print Edition | Subscribe