Update on the CFE: ‘Skills and Experience for the Future’

Acting Minister for Higher Education and Skills Mr Ong Ye Kung spoke on the future jobs and skills landscape.

On 20 Oct 2016, Mr Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister for Higher Education and Skills, and co-chair of the Committee on the Future Economy’s (CFE) Subcommittee on Future Jobs and Skills, engaged 600 students and members of the public on the future jobs and skills landscape, as part of the Straits Times Future Economy Forum supported by the CFE

Ag Minister Ong spoke on one of the major themes of the on-going CFE discussions – how our people can be prepared with the right skills and experiences for the future economy – and shared some of the ideas that are being explored by the Committee in this area.

These include:

1. Continued focus on helping our people develop relevant technical and essential generic skills
2. Developing global market expertise among local talent

The landscape of future jobs and skills

As part of our goal of positioning Singapore for its next phase of economic growth, the CFE has been looking into how our workforce can be better prepared for future jobs, and acquire the necessary skills and experience needed for them.

As a small city-state with the world as our market, our economy needs to be responsive to the changes in the region and the world. Our people will also have to be cognisant of how these changes will impact the jobs of the future. Individual aspirations and choices (e.g. in terms of skills upgrading) and our economic realities have to be in sync, with our people preparing themselves based on the opportunities and demands available.

The following trends will have a major impact on the workforce and the workplace:

1. Local workforce growth is slowing, largely due to an ageing population and low birth rates.

Demographics and the Local Workforce[1]

As a result of ageing and lower birth rates, coupled with our relatively high labour force participation rate and low unemployment rate, we will see a continued slowdown of local labour force growth, towards negligible levels, or even stagnation by the mid-2020s:

• The strong local employment growth in the past decade was supported by more women and older workers joining the workforce, but we are approaching the limit of this trend.

• For those aged 25-64, our labour force participation rate of 83.1% is high and showing signs of plateauing.

• For those aged 15-24, the size of the cohort entering the labour force peaked in 2013, and has started to decline.

• The number of people retiring is also on the rise, doubling over the last 2 years. This will continue as more baby boomers enter retirement.

2. There is also a limit to the pace at which we can import foreign workers to augment the workforce, given our social and physical constraints.

3. Technological advancement, such as new developments in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), will lead to the disruption of existing business models and job displacement; however, such advancement and automation can also create new jobs and industries and encourage existing industries to evolve, requiring us to deepen industry-relevant skills.

4. Existing skills and competencies will also need to evolve according to the needs of industries as they are reconfigured to meet global trends.

5. As growth in China, India and other regional economies shifts from being production-driven to being more consumer-driven, different skillsets and perspectives will be needed to understand and tap into regional markets.

Our response

We will need to keep our skills updated, in sync with the evolving opportunities and demands of the workplace. At the same time, we have to make every person count, with productivity, skills and innovation being the key drivers of growth for our future.

In this, Singapore starts from a strong position. We have built up the capability of our workforce on a solid foundation of education and training. Singapore has also responded decisively through national initiatives like SkillsFuture.

What is SkillsFuture?

SkillsFuture is a national movement to provide Singaporeans with the opportunities to develop their fullest potential throughout life, regardless of their starting points. Through this movement, the skills, passion and contributions of every individual will drive Singapore's next phase of development towards an advanced economy and inclusive society.

Examples of SkillsFuture’s initiatives include:

1. To support individuals in their lifelong learning journey

SkillsFuture Credit accounts are given to all Singapore Citizens aged 25 and above to encourage them to take ownership of their skills deepening and lifelong learning.

SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy, through which courses offered by PSEIs and SSG are heavily subsidised for Singapore Citizens aged 40 and above.

Individual Learning Portfolio, a one-stop online portal to enable individuals to make well-informed choices on jobs and training opportunities, and to build career resilience through lifelong learning. It will be rolled out in phases from 2017.

2. To support employers in building and strengthening their talent pool

P-Max, a Place-and-Train programme that helps small and medium enterprise (SMEs) better recruit, train, manage and retain their newly-hired professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) and helps these PMETs to better acclimatise to the SME work environment.

SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative, where collaborations with strategic companies will be stepped up to develop a pipeline of Singaporeans to take on corporate leadership roles and responsibilities.

SkillsFuture Mentors programme, where mentors will be deployed to SMEs to help them implement measures to deepen the skills of the workforce, and upgrade their training capability.

3. To help Singaporeans gain industry-ready skills and experience

Young Talent Programme (YTP), which provides opportunities for students of polytechnics, ITEs and universities to gain global exposure and market immersion experience to prepare them for international assignments in their careers.

Enhanced Internship, for students in PSEIs to experience more structured and meaningful internships, such as through establishing defined learning outcomes and structured activities at the workplace, and extending the duration of internships where appropriate.

SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme (ELP), a work-study programme to provide polytechnic and ITE graduates with a head-start in careers related to their discipline of study.

SkillsFuture Study Awards, to support early to mid-career Singapore Citizens to develop and deepen specialist skills required in future economic growth clusters and in areas of demand.

The CFE has been looking into the changing landscape of jobs, and identifying strategies to equip our people with the necessary skills and experience to seize opportunities, both here and abroad.

1. Continued focus on helping all our people develop relevant technical and essential generic skills

Singaporeans should be encouraged to learn continuously and upgrade their skills, to stay ahead amidst rapid change. This includes gaining mastery in technical skills that are specific to sectors, especially those with good growth potential (e.g. the Infocomm and Media Sector), and which meet growing domestic needs, such as childcare.

Job opportunities in the future economy

• In engineering and project management: With a shift towards technology-intensive digital manufacturing, there will be a growing demand in this sector. Other projects such as Changi Airport Terminals 4 and 5 and new MRT lines under construction are also expected to generate jobs. Specifically, in the field of precision engineering, 3,000 jobs are expected to be created by 2020[2].

• In early childhood education: sector aims to attract 4,000 by 2020[3]. Demand is growing for early childhood educators, with large-scale child care centres being built, especially in estates with younger families.

• In Infocomms and Technology: 15,000 vacancies available today. Jobs Banks statistics[4] show that there is a strong demand for ICT-related positions, including software developers, computer engineers, system designers and analysts.

At the same time, Singaporeans must be given opportunities to develop essential generic skills – including strong initiative, resilience, and high emotional intelligence – which will become increasingly important in the age of rapid digitalisation and automation as repetitive tasks are replaced.

In line with the focus on developing workers’ technical and essential generic skills, employers should also increase the emphasis on skills in the recruitment and progression of workers.

Case study: Skills-based recruitment and progression practices

Yang Kee Logistics, a home-grown logistics and warehousing company in Singapore, provides services and expertise to customers across industries, including consumer and retail, oil and gas, polymer, and chemicals. The company celebrated its 26th anniversary in 2016 and has grown to a team of over 300 staff in Singapore.

With high staff turnover a common challenge in the logistics sector, Yang Kee Logistics’ commitment to talent development has successfully differentiated it from its competitors. Yang Kee has a dedicated budget for staff training, and runs a sponsorship programme for employees to further their education. All the staff sponsored to undertake further studies are still with the company, and 90 per cent have stayed for more than five years.

A clear career development pathway is also outlined for staff to understand what skills and knowledge they need to progress in the company. Yang Kee Logistics also runs its own teaching academy, which provides training for employees on core operational skills they will need in the industry.

While routine and repetitive jobs are more easily done by a computer, “high-touch” jobs are less likely to be replaced by machines. Thus, beyond deep technical skills, developing transferable and future-proof essential generic skills such as having an international outlook, strong initiative and resilience will become increasingly important. This will help us adapt to and seize the new job opportunities in the age of rapid digitalisation and automation.

2. Developing global market expertise

To capture opportunities in the region, Singaporeans need a greater sense of adventure, an international outlook and enterprising spirit. We should be prepared to venture abroad, to help our companies build up good local knowledge and networks, expand their market reach, and create new opportunities. To encourage this mindset shift, Singaporeans who embark on working stints overseas should be given more support in transitioning back to life here upon their return.

Meanwhile, skilled foreign workers can continue to complement our local workforce, especially in growing sectors. Those based in Singapore should be ready and equipped to work with partners from other countries.

What we can achieve

a. For businesses, this would mean being better able to hire and retain employees with the right skills and mindset, to capture opportunities both here and abroad.

i. Businesses will have more opportunities to collaborate with education institutions, to strengthen the link between skills supply and demand.

ii. For instance, they can create more opportunities for students to have hands-on work experience through internships and attachments, developing pathways which smoothen the transition from school to work, or providing more options for in-service workers to take up training.

Case Study: Skills pipeline for the Precision Engineering Sector

The Industry Transformation Map (ITM) for the Precision Engineering sector was recently launched on 12 Oct. This is part of the $4.5 billion Industry Transformation Programme (ITP), where ITMs are being developed across 23 sectors in partnership with companies, industry associations, business chambers and unions.

Each ITM will include programmes to develop sector-specific skills in tandem with programmes designed to help businesses in each sector to improve productivity, adopt technology and innovation, and expand overseas.

As the profile of the precision engineering workforce shifts, the Government and its tripartite partners will provide support for workers to acquire new industry-relevant skills and capabilities:

• A new Skills Framework for Precision Engineering was launched by SkillsFuture Singapore to provide employers and workers with insights on career pathways for 13 occupations in the sector.

• Under Workforce Singapore’s Adapt & Grow initiative, Professional Conversion Programmes are being developed to support reskilling of mid-careerists to join this sector

• Workforce Singapore has also launched a series of advanced manufacturing masterclasses in topics such as additive manufacturing and advanced robotics.

ii. Businesses will have more opportunities to collaborate with education institutions, to strengthen the link between skills supply and demand.

b. For employees, this would mean stronger support for keeping their skills relevant, and being in a better position to take up future job opportunities and progress in their careers.

i. Workers – including those whose jobs are at risk of displacement, older workers and low-wage workers – will receive better support for up-skilling, reskilling, and career conversion.

Supporting workers

As we cope with changing demographics, we recognise and value the contribution of every worker, regardless of age, qualifications, skills or ability. The Government and its tripartite partners have been supporting vulnerable workers to remain in the workforce, and to improve their capabilities and skills.

1. For Older workers and Persons with Disabilities:

• The Special Employment Credit has been providing a wage-offset to employers who hire older Singaporean workers (above age 50) and Persons with Disabilities (PwDs).

• Under Workpro, employers are provided with grants to redesign jobs, improve workplace practices and implement work-life measures to create more age-friendly workplaces.

• The re-employment age will be raised from 65 to 67 on 1 July 2017.

2. For low-wage workers:

• The Workfare Training Support Scheme provides course fee subsidies to Singapore citizens aged 35 years and above and earning not more than $1,900 per month to attend training courses to upgrade their skills and increase their employability.

3. For workers looking for jobs:

• The Career Support Programme (CSP) is a pilot programme to encourage employers to offer suitable job opportunities to eligible Singapore Citizen (SC) PMETs to tap on the wealth of experience they could bring to the workplace. All SC PMETs aged below 40 made redundant and who are unemployed for 6 months or more, or all mature SC PMETs aged 40 and above who are made redundant or unemployed for 6 months or more, can apply for the programme.

Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) are career conversion programmes targeted at PMETs, including career switchers, to undergo skills conversion and move into new jobs that have good prospects and opportunities for progression.

ii. Singaporeans, especially the young, will have more opportunities to build cross-cultural skills and develop a global mindset.

iii. Employees will receive more support to take up overseas postings and successfully reintegrate when they return.

Driven by strong partnerships

Helping our people develop the right skills and experience requires collaboration among many parties – employers, workers, training providers, educators, unions, and the Government. Working together, we can help our people seize good job opportunities in the future economy.

About the Committee on the Future Economy

The Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) was formed in January 2016 to develop economic strategies to position Singapore well for the future – to be a vibrant and resilient economy with sustainable growth that creates value and opportunities for all.

The 30-member CFE is co-chaired by Minister for Finance Mr Heng Swee Keat and Minister for Trade and Industry Mr S Iswaran. Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Mr Chan Chun Sing serves as Deputy Chairman. The CFE and its five subcommittees draw on a wide range of expertise across both the public and private sectors, and engage the public and other stakeholders for a good representation of views that they will consider in their deliberations.



How can Singaporeans ready themselves for the future jobs and skills landscape?



Messages / Examples



• Businesses of the future will thrive by having the right mix of skills and experience in their workplace, and reducing the emphasis on workers’ paper qualifications alone

• Companies can also play a role in skills development, by working with tripartite partners to develop the necessary skills and capabilities in your workforce

• Schemes like P-Max support SMEs to better recruit, train, manage and retain their newly hired PMETs

• Employers participating in the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme provide fresh graduates from polytechnics and ITE with structured on-the-job training and mentorship, giving them the opportunity to deepen their skills at the workplace and benefit from a well-structured career development pathway. Employers benefit by being able to recruit and groom suitable local talent with the skills that meet the company’s needs.



• New pathways will be created for you to realise your potential and meet your aspirations

• Your career in our future economy could take you beyond our shores; international exposure (e.g. overseas internships / attachments) will stand you in good stead.

• Schemes like the Young Talent Programme (part of SkillsFuture) provide students from local universities, polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education with the chance to participate in overseas immersion programmes.

• The Maritime Port Authority (MPA) Global Internship Award gives students from NTU, NUS and SMU a chance to undergo a 10-week internship with an international maritime company.

• The Work and Holiday Visa programme, part of Singapore and Australia’s Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) adopted in May 2016, will allow youths from Singapore and Australia to experience each other’s countries and undertake short-term work to supplement their holiday and cultural experience.



• We are supporting working adults to pick up new skills and gain mastery to help them seize opportunities in growing fields

• All Singapore Citizens aged 25 and above will receive SkillsFuture Credit of $500 from January 2016, to support their skills development and lifelong learning. The credit will be topped up periodically, and will not expire.

SkillsFuture Study Awards are being offered to help early to mid-career Singapore Citizens to defray out-of-pocket expenses associated with skills training in specific areas, such as early childhood, logistics, food services, and built environment.

• We also have various schemes support employment, training, and re-skilling:

Workfare Training Support (WTS) Scheme, which supports Singaporeans aged 35 years and above and earning not more than $1,900 to attend training to upgrade their skills and increase their employability.

Career Support Programme (CSP), which encourages employers to hire Singapore Citizen (SC) PMETs aged below 40 made redundant and who are unemployed for 6 months or more, or mature SC PMETs aged 40 and above who are made redundant or unemployed for 6 months or more.

Professional Conversion Programmes (PCP) that help PMETs, including career switchers, to undergo skills conversion and move into new jobs that have good prospects and opportunities for progression.

Older workers and Persons with Disabilities will continue to be supported in accessing job opportunities in the future economy

• The Government has implemented the Special Employment Credit to support employers in hiring older Singaporean workers (aged 55 and above) and Persons with Disabilities (PwDs).

• Schemes like WorkPro support employers through grants to redesign jobs, improve workplace practices and implement work-life measures, such as flexible work arrangements. This can create more age-friendly workplaces.

• The Government will also be raising the re-employment age from 65 to 67 on 1 July 2017.

Stay open to opportunities to work abroad – the experience and learning will help you progress in your career


International partners

• Singapore has always been known for our quality workforce, and we will keep it this way

• We are investing heavily in education and training pathways to create a top quality workforce with diverse and deep skills

• We are encouraging our people to have an international outlook, to be prepared to work overseas and with foreign talents in Singapore



[1] Taken from Minister for Manpower Mr Lim Swee Say’s response to Parliamentary Questions on 10 October 2016, available here: http://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/parliament-questions-and-replies/2016/1010-oral-answer-by-mr-lim-swee-say-pqs-on-labour-market

[2] From the Precision Engineering Industry Transformation Map, unveiled on 12 October 2016

[3] The Early Childhood Manpower Plan, unveiled on 1 October 2016, aims to attract 4,000 educators in this sector, up from around 16,000 today

[4] As of August 2016