Emerging Stronger Taskforce: As S'pore businesses transform, they must equip workers with skills for new roles

SINGAPORE – Even as businesses transform themselves to adapt to the changing nature of work, their workers will also need the right skills to take on new or redesigned job roles.

Besides businesses, there is room for training providers, Institutes of Higher Learning and unions to play a “bigger and more sustained role” in upskilling and creating career progression pathways for workers, according to a report released by the Emerging Stronger Taskforce on Monday (May 17).

At the same time, Singapore must remain open to talent from abroad to boost the local workforce.

Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who co-chairs the task force to guide Singapore’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, said there is a need to help workers here to bridge skills gaps and prepare for an uncertain future.

“We’ll support Singaporeans in this journey, provide the assistance, as well as the resources that they need to take on new and better jobs in a post-Covid-19 world,” he added.

To ensure workers stay ahead of the curve, the taskforce urged businesses to work with intermediaries and unions to identify job disruption and training needs early on, and chart suitable upskilling plans.

They can tap on available resources for worker upskilling, such as programmes to train mid-career Singaporeans and grants that help them redesign jobs.

In addition, industry leaders, or “queen bees”, can chip in to help with the training needs of not just their own staff but also those from other firms. Already, some queen bee entities, such as SMRT and Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital, are lending their expertise and leveraging on their extensive commercial networks to support smaller firms.

Meanwhile, the government can provide the digital infrastructure, such as common data or digital platforms, to enable firms to access the best practices and resources, said the task force. Such an approach was adopted in some Alliances for Action, or industry-led coalitions to act on growth opportunities, such as the AfA on Digitalising Built Environment and the AfA on Robotics (Cleaning).

In its recommendations for businesses and workers, the task force also called on the Government to grow a pool of large local enterprises that “cannot be easily displaced in global value chains”. It suggested ways such as innovation, internationalisation, mergers and acquisitions, and talent development to help these firms scale up.

But Singapore’s corporate ecosystem has to be made conducive for a broad base of firms to excel globally, including small and medium-sized enterprises, noted the report. It highlighted the Republic’s industry transformation maps – blueprints for how 23 key industries should transform themselves for the future – as an example.

This will in turn create good jobs for Singaporeans of diverse aptitudes, strengthen our Singapore core, and produce the next generation of successful enterprises, said the report.

Mr Lee said local enterprises can position themselves at critical nodes in the global value chain, but support must be given to help them to grow, stay relevant, and continue to provide good jobs for Singaporeans.

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The task force recommends the use of different tools to help promising high-growth enterprises to create new products and access new markets. Some of these ways include equity financing and encouraging technology and capability transfer.

Companies should be given opportunities to test their products here before expanding to overseas markets.

Even as Singapore develops its local workers, the task force stressed that it must remain open to skills from abroad. This comes as future opportunities require new capabilities it may not current have.

“We will need to continue bringing in global talent to complement Singaporeans so that businesses have access to the skills they need to grow, with a view to ultimately helping Singaporeans build up and refresh their skills to move into better jobs,” it said.

Touching on the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the task force recognise that the impact is uneven across sectors. For instance, workers in adversely affected sectors, such as tourism, should be retrained to move quickly into new or related job roles.

The task force also pointed out that workforce challenges will be more pronounced as Singapore faces an ageing population and a low resident total fertility rate.

The workforce will require new skills in areas such as digitalisation and cybersecurity, it added.

“A highly skilled workforce with good quality jobs is both the enabler and the goal of our economic transformation. Singapore will only be as competitive as the talent we have.”

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