Straw poll finds S'poreans not confident of their skills; business leaders say it's a good sign

In the poll, 19 per cent of respondents said they were not confident their skills would be relevant in the next three to five years. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A straw poll of the audience at a panel discussion on future skills showed 64.5 per cent were only slightly confident that their skills would be relevant in a few years' time.

However, business leaders said this is a positive response that shows Singaporeans are not complacent about their skills mastery and are open to upgrading.

The poll was conducted among about 550 participants at the Skills Demand for the Future Economy Forum held as a hybrid event on Wednesday morning (Dec 8), where Education Minister Chan Chun Sing unveiled the inaugural Skills Demand for the Future Economy report.

The report pinpoints the top 20 clusters of skills in the digital, green and care sectors most needed in the next one to three years.

The panel discussion was held after Mr Chan's speech and featured Dr Gog Soon Joo, chief skills officer at SkillsFuture Singapore; Mr Shee Tse Koon, group executive and Singapore country head at DBS Bank; Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, Singtel's chief executive officer; Mr Robert Chong, Sembcorp Industries' chief corporate and human resource officer; and Ms Chin Wei Jia, HMI Group's CEO.

In the poll, another 19 per cent of respondents said they were not confident their skills would be relevant in the next three to five years, and the remaining 16.5 per cent said they were very confident.

Dr Gog said it was heartening that the majority of respondents were in a state of "conscious incompetence", adding that a survey done by SkillsFuture last year showed a gap between employer and employee perceptions of the relevance of workers' skills.

She said employers were more likely to think their workers' skills would not be relevant for the next few years, while employees were less likely to think so.

The panellists also discussed how their organisations were looking to help their employees gain new skills or switch jobs and careers, and how individual workers can stay relevant in fast-moving industries.

They also took questions from the audience, including one on whether it is realistic for a mid-career worker to make the leap to acquire new skills like data analytics.

Mr Yuen said it is absolutely possible for workers to make the leap and workers should think about how to reframe their skill sets, instead of focusing on roles they can no longer do.

He said: "For example, if a worker learnt coding many years ago and his technical skills are no longer relevant, he should tell himself, 'Okay, I'm not going to be a programmer, but I can learn some new skills to fill another related job.'"

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