COVID-19 SPECIAL

Job seekers urged to focus on skills rather than past experience

This will help those in sectors at risk from pandemic move into growth industries, says report from EY

Focusing on skills instead of just prior job experience can help job seekers move from industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic to those offering long-term opportunities.
Focusing on skills instead of just prior job experience can help job seekers move from industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic to those offering long-term opportunities.PHOTO: ST FILE

Some skills easily cut across sectors, so it is not far-fetched to see a shop assistant switching to healthcare or an air transport worker finding himself in a logistics factory helping with supply chain operations.

Such switches may seem improbable at first glance, but there are baseline skills that the two sectors in each example share - people management in retail and healthcare; or being able to handle goods in aviation and logistics.

Focusing on skills instead of just prior job experience can help job seekers move from industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic to those offering long-term opportunities, noted a report from professional services firm EY.

The sectors at risk from the pandemic include accommodation and food services, recreational services, air transport and construction, it added.

On the other side of the coin, opportunities are flourishing in biopharmaceutical manufacturing, electronics, financial services, food manufacturing, healthcare, infocommunications technology, logistics, media and social service.

The contrasting fortunes of different sectors are not expected to be just for the short term, but look set to last way into a new normal that will change the way consumers behave, said EY Asean workforce advisory leader Samir Bedi.

"First, these sectors at risk have been the most directly affected by Covid-19 through safe distancing measures, border closures and travel restrictions in Singapore and across the world.

"But beyond the immediate effects of the pandemic, there is also a fair amount of change around the way consumers are going to behave after Covid-19."

Mr Bedi also said that pre-pandemic, people were already moving across sectors, but it was usually because they wanted to explore a new domain or learn something new.

"We see that this has started in a more accelerated manner now. But we do think sectors with opportunities can also help in terms of job creation, with additional jobs that enhance productivity and people (employers) that look for more skill sets across sectors," he said.

TAKING A SKILLS-BASED APPROACH

To be able to do this, we advocate a skills-based approach. Rather than stating what you did previously in your curriculum vitae, it is better to speak in terms of skills and how they can be applied to a new sector in similar ways. That allows for more mobility across sectors.

MR SAMIR BEDI, EY Asean workforce advisory leader, on getting people to move from the sectors that have low hiring, or even unemployment, to growth industries.

A Randstad survey conducted in June and July found that 25 per cent of respondents who were actively looking for a new job said they wanted to change their careers or the industry they were in.

The challenge today is to also get people to move from the sectors that have low hiring, or even unemployment, to growth industries, Mr Bedi said.

"To be able to do this, we advocate a skills-based approach," he added. "Rather than stating what you did previously in your curriculum vitae, it is better to speak in terms of skills and how they can be applied to a new sector in similar ways. That allows for more mobility across sectors."

For instance, workers can move from the accommodation and food service sector to food manufacturing instead if they have core skills in food handling, quality assurance and control.

Mr Bedi acknowledged that there are still certain roles that need licences and have other mandatory requirements, so having transferable skills does not guarantee an automatic job move.

The employee will still have to go for training and learn to apply his skills to a new sector.

"Businesses need to continually invest in learning and scaling up the employees. Those are the schools of tomorrow to drive lifelong learning," Mr Bedi said.

He added that from an employer's perspective, bringing in someone from a different industry might also be beneficial. "It means new blood, and perhaps the employee can look at current problems in a new way. It allows for a better and more innovative organisation."

 
 
 

Singapore has done a good job through the SkillsFuture programmes, he said, but it could go further by helping each individual measure his existing skills and see which ones he lacks and how employable he is based on this skill set.

Randstad's managing director for Malaysia and Singapore, Ms Jaya Dass, said that sometimes, in venturing into new opportunities, people have to be open to accepting lower positions and salaries due to the lack of accumulated experience in an area of speciality.

But lifelong learning remains vital, she noted, for both job seekers and companies that seek to attract new hires.

"When selecting organisations to work for, job seekers would also look to join companies that are proactively upskilling their employees.

"These learning and development efforts indicate that the company is willing to invest in the long-term development of their staff to ensure that they stay relevant and competitive."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2020, with the headline 'Job seekers urged to focus on skills rather than past experience'. Print Edition | Subscribe