Most Singaporeans expect to spend much of their adult lives working, and the years they will be doing it will far exceed the time they spend in formal education.
For this reason, it is important that working people have rewarding ways to move forward in their careers, just as students have multiple pathways to advance in education, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said yesterday.
Thus, career mobility is the main thrust of the ministry's Adapt and Grow programmes, she said at her ministry's annual workplan seminar held at Orchid Country Club.
The programmes' aim is to give people the opportunity to get ahead in their careers through their own efforts and the support of employers and the Government, and to do it whatever their starting points and at different stages of their lives.
"Most want the opportunity to learn, to grow... This desire for career mobility is very similar to the desire for social mobility," she told about 1,000 of the staff from her ministry and its statutory boards, as well as union leaders.
Beyond helping displaced workers, her ministry will also focus on employers who can proactively adjust their manpower to prepare for challenges ahead, as well as workers who want better options, she told reporters at the event.
"People may find opportunities that have nothing to do with their current jobs, their current employers or their current industries, and how we help them to access these new opportunities will become increasingly prominent," she said.
Of the 30,000 people helped through Adapt and Grow programmes last year, four in 10 were still working, she added.
Mrs Teo highlighted, in her speech, how career mobility affects three groups of workers.
First, for the seniors, it means being able to keep working if they want to and build up more retirement savings, but with the option of less intensive work and help if they need to take on new job roles.
OPPORTUNITIES OPENING UP
We expect that people may find that there are opportunities opening up that have nothing to do with their current jobs, or their current employers or their current industries, and how we can help them to access these new opportunities will become increasingly prominent.
MANPOWER MINISTER JOSEPHINE TEO
She said the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers will make recommendations this year on raising the retirement and re-employment ages, and on Central Provident Fund rates for such workers. An adviser to the group, she told reporters that employers and unions are still being consulted on the new ages and when they should take effect.
Second, though some workers, including professionals, managers, executives and technicians are affected by technological disruption, Mrs Teo said jobs continue to be created although their requirements have probably changed.
She added that schemes like professional conversion programmes (PCPs) can help workers adapt to new jobs and growth sectors.
She highlighted former freelance business consultant Chan Kum Yew, 60, who moved into the infocomm technology sector through a PCP last year. "Mr Chan shows us that embracing technology can be rewarding and it is not just young people who can walk the tech journey successfully or extend their career mobility," she said.
Finally, there are workers who are not senior, jobless or at risk of losing their jobs, but their jobs may not have improved much over the years. Their firms can use technology or other means to enhance job quality so they can upgrade their skills and advance their careers.
Mrs Teo also said that, despite the challenges of geopolitics, ageing population and technological disruption, there are reasons for optimism.
The labour market is generally healthy, with fewer layoffs and a steady growth in the employment of locals. Technology also offers the potential for Singapore to grow its economy without needing a lot more people.
"There are good prospects for our workers to do better jobs and earn higher wages. This is provided they have the opportunity to learn new skills and also take it on themselves to adapt," she added.