Elevated interest rates. Rising cost of living. High-profile layoffs. The year is shaping up to be a stressful time for many.
The World Bank predicts a sharp slowdown in the global economy this year, anticipating gross domestic product growth of 1.7 per cent. This is the third slowest pace outside the 2009 and 2020 global recessions since 1993.
Amid the cloudy skies, how can Singaporeans stay resilient in times of uncertainty and ride the economic upturn? The answer: Through purposeful upskilling for an ever-evolving job landscape.
“Despite the challenges, many opportunities are ahead for Singapore,” says Dr Gog Soon Joo, Chief Skills Officer, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), adding that Singapore’s reputation as a reliable and trusted hub has been amplified through the pandemic.
Stay ahead: Watch the video below to see how the Skills Demand for the Future Economy report is helping job seekers in their upskilling journey.
She explains that as enterprises tap into automation and digitalisation to enhance their productivity, it is critical that the workforce be equipped with the skill sets to stay relevant and competitive.
“Technological developments are shortening the half-life of skills. Job content of many job roles will keep changing, and so will the skills demand to keep pace with business and industry needs,” says Dr Gog, who is in her 50s.
Additionally, she adds that changing consumer expectations, evolving business models, and the growing adoption of cross-border remote work reinforce the need for continuous learning.
“In the global talent marketplace, it requires all of us to be agile learners and keep our skills relevant so that we can capitalise on these trends effectively to create new value.”
A learning revolution is here
As the pace of change across industries intensifies, employees will find that the skills composition of their jobs will evolve.
Mr Azman Abas is one such example of seizing opportunity from the green economy. He works as a senior executive for electric vehicle (EV) warranty and quality assurance at Singapore-based car distributor Vantage Automotive Limited.
In June 2022 he completed a course to broaden his skill sets to cover EVs. “In recent years, there has been a surge in the sales of EVs as they are low in emissions and part of the more sustainable world we are moving towards,” Mr Azman, 57, says.
“With support from my company, I attended a blended learning course to equip myself with the necessary skills to service EVs,” he shares. “Now I know what goes on behind the wheel of an EV, and I’m able to expand my scope of work to more and newer models of vehicles.”
Singapore has set a target for national emissions to reach net zero by 2050, and the Singapore Green Plan 2030 aims to achieve this goal. The Government and companies across various sectors are adopting more sustainable practices and developing sustainability targets for compliance and reporting.
“As a result, many existing jobs and new jobs being created will require green skills to meet these new developments,” says Professor Koh Lian Pin, director of the Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions, National University of Singapore.
“Specifically, businesses want employees to be able to translate and adapt larger organisational goals and sustainability initiatives for business functions,” says Prof Koh, 46.
Some of the niche industry skills that employers are looking for include carbon accounting and management, infrastructure development, and sustainability and compliance reporting.
The green economy is one of three critical growth areas highlighted in SSG’s Skills Demand for the Future Economy Report 2022.
Released in November 2022, the second edition of the annual report provides jobs and skills insights to help individuals and companies stay abreast of industry trends, and capitalise on growth opportunities across different industries.
“The report was developed to specifically help address the issue of information asymmetry,” says Dr Gog. “These insights can help the workforce make more informed decisions on which are the skills to prioritise and invest in, and the relevant courses.”
Building ‘horizontal’ capabilities
The care and digital economy are the other two key areas highlighted in the report.
Singapore’s ageing population and shrinking workforce has created an increasing demand for roles in the care sector. These include community care, adult education, and workplace learning and development.
The report noted that, in Singapore’s tight labour market today, companies are looking at developing innovative ways to attract, retain, and manage talent. This drives demand for skills in human resource advisory, coaching and mentoring, and performance management.
A 2022 report by US staffing firm Manpower Group found that 84 per cent of employers in Singapore face difficulty finding the talent they need – higher than the global average of 75 per cent. The study was based on a survey of 40,000 companies across 40 economies.
Meanwhile, the demand for digital talent continues to surge. “Despite the tech layoffs that have hogged news headlines, demand for digital talents will continue on an upward trajectory in the medium term,” says Dr Gog.
Businesses are continuing to digitally transform and invest in data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities – and the momentum is not expected to slow anytime soon.
“Digitalisation is also an enabler of the green transformation and the circular economy, making processes more streamlined and energy efficient,” says Dr Gog. “Therefore, the need for these skills and talent will only become more prevalent in both tech and non-tech sectors.”
Mr Terence Tan is one such individual who upskilled and combined his new digital skills with over 20 years of experience as a building facilities domain expert. He is now a digital solutions director at facilities solutions firm Johnson Controls.
He explains that in recent years, building owners have become much more conscious about using data to improve energy efficiency and drive cost savings.
“When my company embarked on its digitalisation journey five years ago, I felt it was timely and joined the pioneer digital solutions team without hesitation,” says Mr Tan, 58.
“I no longer had to be on premise to check on buildings and could rely on sensors installed to do that job more effectively and efficiently. But it required me to understand and pick up a plethora of new skill sets, including data analysis, data visualisation, as well as solutioning."
Put employees at the centre of upskilling
Ms Ng Lai Yee, managing partner and country leader, IBM Consulting, Singapore, emphasises the importance of developing cross-functional skills.
“The willingness to understand disciplines outside your core expertise will help you accelerate your career,” says Ms Ng, 49.
She encourages professionals to keep an open mind and look beyond tech companies for unique opportunities.
“For example, if you're well-trained in deep tech, you can augment your capabilities by equipping yourself with business or industry-specific skill sets. That will open up a lot of pathways for you."
She shares that organisations have to approach upskilling through an employee-centric lens. That is, to look at the employee’s career ambitions, and map the training curriculum – which could include courses, job rotations, and on-the-job training – along the lifecycle of the person’s career.
“After all, employees are your greatest assets,” she says.
“Being able to design relevant job roles and help employees plan a meaningful and resilient career trajectory, in a way that is aligned with the business goals, is critical to an organisation’s ability to succeed in the digital future."
What Industry 4.0 means for manufacturing roles
More sectors will adopt Industry 4.0 in response to Singapore’s ageing workforce and manpower shortages.
Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, describes the integration of technologies – such as AI, cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) – to improve manufacturing processes and supply chain management.
But to fully capture its benefits, workers need relevant cross-disciplinary skills in managing these technologies. For example, a logistics solutions manager could pick up big data analytics as a digital skill, carbon footprint management as a green skill, and process improvement as an Industry 4.0 skill.
Engineers at various stages of the manufacturing process could also benefit from picking up various types of digital skills.
Design engineers could learn more about big data analytics and programming and coding, while product engineers could equip themselves with agile software development and IoT application – all of which are non-traditional skills for engineers.
Visit skillsfuture.gov.sg/skillsreport for more insights from the Skills Demand for the Future Economy Report 2022.
In partnership with SkillsFuture Singapore