Bracing for change: Singaporeans jump on the skills of tomorrow

Will picking up new skills be enough to protect Singaporeans from automation-induced job losses in uncertain times ahead?

By Joelyn Chan

The professional network LinkedIn released its “Future of Skills 2019” report last month. As expected, AI, big data and cloud computing (ABC) skills continued to grow in demand.

The report shared data-backed insights to reveal how technological disruption is unfolding and contributing to the evolution of job roles. Automation will change the type of jobs available in future labour markets. Between 2018 and 2022, about 42% of the core skills required to perform a job will change. Unless humans adapt, a wave of job losses looks set to hit the island nation.

In response to the changing times, workers in the Asia Pacific have started upskilling.

New skills help Singaporeans to stay relevant

As the global trade outlook worsens, Singapore looks headed for a shallow recession. The Singaporean economy relies extensively on external markets. Singaporeans need recession-proof skills to remain competitive and stay afloat in the global economy.

Singapore has gradually shifted its focus to services. Back in 2007, the service sector contributed 66.6% of the national gross domestic product (GDP). By 2017, it had grown to 70.4%. To fuel the transformation of the service sector, Singaporeans need higher education and technical skills.

Jobs in the service sector are less likely to be displaced by automation than other sectors. Data entry jobs, for example, will soon be banished to history, but data analysis will remain. Thus, a transition to a service-based economy will help protect the citizens from job losses relating to AI.

Apart from information and communications, the finance and insurance sectors were the biggest drivers of GDP in the first quarter of 2019. Most of the new jobs created were in the service industries. Workers displaced from the manufacturing or other sectors will have a better chance of nabbing service sector jobs by skilling themselves up for the service industry.

Blockchain, workflow automation and human-centred design are the way forward

Blockchain, workflow automation and human-centred design are Singapore’s top three rising skills categories. The demand for new skill sets is indicative of the level of transformation and innovation in Singapore’s service industry.  The city-state is progressing and is not complacent with its existing technology or human capital.

New competencies will help Singaporeans thrive in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. The three skills transcend industries. For instance, workflow automation, which serves to automate manual processes, has uses in the human resources and finance sectors, among others. Such flexibility and transferability are fitting with many of Singapore’s new job roles.

As Tess Walton, the head of ANZ Bank’s workforce portfolio, puts it, “it’s less about hiring people solely for a specific ‘role’ that exists at a point in time, and more about the skills, experience and knowledge they use for delivering outcomes.”

Hard skills aside, Singaporeans need to upgrade their mindsets and beliefs

As put by Member of Parliament (MP) Lim Sun Sun, Singaporeans need to be cross-culturally, digitally and ethically literate.  These three core literacies will help forge a more inclusive society, which embraces diversity.

Cross-cultural understanding will help forge a more inclusive society, which embraces diversity.  Digital literacy will boost Singaporeans’ confidence in the increasingly digitalised world. Lastly, ethical literacy will help the individual face dilemmas, providing a strong skeleton for the development of higher performing employees.

The skills that brought Singaporeans to where they are today will not be enough for the future. Upskilling and re-skilling will be a win-win situation for firms and employees. If Singaporeans manage to master both the ABC skills and core literacies, their future will be well-secured.