Pick up skills to get new types of jobs: Lim Swee Say

Investments continue to flow in, creating new positions in sectors undergoing change

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say speaks during KPMG's 75th anniversary at the St. Regis Hotel. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore workers, worried about layoffs, were assured yesterday that new jobs continue to be created.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said that despite the slowing economy, investments continue to flow into the country.

And they are creating new types of jobs in exciting sectors that are themselves undergoing transformation, he added, calling on workers to rise to the challenge by acquiring new skills to take on these jobs.

"All workers, whether affected by retrenchment, redundancy or not, will feel the pressure to change," he said.

"Companies are adopting new business models and adopting new technology. My message to (workers) is: Turn this pressure into motivation," Mr Lim told reporters after a career event for the infocomm technology (ICT) sector.

His comments came a day after Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and Acting Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung highlighted the thousands of jobs available in sectors such as healthcare and IT.

Meanwhile, the National Jobs Bank has about 70,000 vacancies.

By comparison, 9,510 workers were retrenched or had their contracts aborted in the first half of this year, an all-time high since the global financial crisis in 2009.

But retrenchments are part and parcel of the fast pace at which Singapore is transforming and restructuring, Mr Lim said, urging workers to adapt and adopt new types of skills.

However, landing a new job today is not a walk in the park because as companies restructure and transform, the jobs created require workers to have new types of skills.

They also need to know where the opportunities are to avoid a "missed match", said Mr Lim, adding that this can be resolved by working closely with professional organisations.

And even if job seekers know what jobs they want, they may not have the required skills and experience that employers want.

To overcome this "mismatch", the Government is speeding up efforts to put in place training and publicise the skillsets required for various careers, he said.

"We will do our very best to make sure the accessibility of these new jobs will keep getting better," he added, pointing out that more employers are open to the idea of taking in older workers or those with little or no industry experience.

His ministry is also asking employers taking part in its job fairs to specify which jobs are available for workers willing to undergo Professional Conversion Programmes, and which jobs are open to mid- career professionals through the Career Support Programme.

He expects the number of such job openings to grow.

Mr Lim vowed that the tripartite partners - the Government, unions and employers - will also help workers navigate this new job market.

One such effort was yesterday's career event for the ICT sector, at which Mr Lim announced two new programmes.

One will match workers to available jobs in the sector and the other is a mentoring initiative.

One worker who found a job in the sector was 42-year-old Mr Heng Chong Ming, who upgraded both his technical and soft skills, helping him to land a job as a solutions architect in IT firm Ecquaria Technologies. But it came after a three-month job hunt, following his resignation from an IT job in an insurance firm last year.

In that time, he learnt programming skills online, brushed up on interviewing and made a video resume during a course at the Employment and Employability Institute.

"I do have skills and I couldn't understand why people didn't want to hire me. Then I realised the problem was that I didn't know how to present myself and market my strengths well," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2016, with the headline Pick up skills to get new types of jobs: Lim Swee Say. Subscribe