Speaking to Smith Leong about MOM’s Jobs of the Future

(TL; DR)  Real-life boss turned role-playing boss talks about the Future of Us public engagement session with Minister Lim.

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On Saturday, I attended the Jobs of the Future: How might we make things better dialogue session organised by the Ministry of Manpower and facilitated by Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say.

Attending with me, was fellow 32 year-old blogger Smith Leong from smithankyou.com (I meant fellow as in the blogger part, not the age – I’m younger than that please!) and who beyond the online world, runs venture capitalist Ovenbaked Ideas.

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The dialogue session started with a role-playing game where we were jobseekers dealt with assigned attributes and skill set (Health & Fitness, Technical Skills, Social Skills and Analytical Skills) and expectations (Pay & Career Progression, Flexible Work Arrangement, Good Job Image) and based on these, we were to try to seek employment in the labour market.

(Noticed I said try, because we really had to try very HARD. I practically had to beg for a job given my poor skill set and ridiculously high expectations…)

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As it would be boring to talk about my own experience unlike Smith’s awesome story of average jobseeker turned impressive entrepreneur/ employer of a start-up (I’ll explain this in a bit) that got him featured on Channel NewsAsia and prime-time TV news, I was tasked to interview him instead. (The irony… considering that I was the one who invited him to the event :P)

So anyway, here goes!

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Me: Hello Sir, you ready to do this?

Smith: Ok can.

Me: You type as properly as you can ok? Cause I intend to paste this whole conversation into my article so please make my life easier for me, thanks.

— Okay you were not supposed to read the above. So let’s go again. —

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Me: Hi Smith! Thanks for doing this.  (Though I know you have no choice haha but too bad.) So anyway, I understand that you were at MOM’s Jobs of the Future event yesterday. Was this your first MOM event / dialogue session?

Smith: Hi Flora! The pleasure is mine. Yes. This is the 1st time I attended such a session with MOM.

Me: WAH no need to act so formal lah. Be more normal.

Smith: YOU’RE DAMN ANNOYING?! Yup. It’s my 1st time attending such a session… can we move on now?

Me: Okok. So prior to yesterday’s session, how aware would you say you are about MOM’s initiatives and the work they do?

Smith: – No reply yet –

2 minutes later… still no reply.

Me: Eh. Don’t google MOM website leh.

Smith: I AM TYPING LAH.

As I was saying, to be honest I am not one of those guys that will check MOM’s website regularly for updates but I wouldn’t say I do not know anything either. Because of work, I do need to be somewhat current with what’s happening.

As for the labour market situation, I wouldn’t say I am very aware either. I mean like I haven’t been a job seeker for the longest time.

Me: #Bosslife indeed. So maybe you can tell us more about what happened yesterday at the session?

Smith: As I mentioned, it was my first time attending such a dialogue session, so I was actually rather worried that it is going to be very boring or require very high participation from me cause I heard there will be games involved. So I was pretty worried that I’m not prepared for the session.

Me: Please lah. I was the one who invited you… how boring can it be?!

Smith: YA LAH. To my surprise, the session was actually very enjoyable! We started off with this “role playing game” where the objective was simple – to get a job. But life ain’t always that easy and I didn’t manage to get a job cause all the jobs in the market were looking for candidates with level of minimum 3 stars for Analytical Skills and I only had 2… so I went back to cry.

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Me: Awwww. And then?

Smith: Then Minister Lim introduced this training stage of the game where we can level up one of our attributes, so the smartie pants in me took the opportunity to upgrade my Analytical Skills to 3 stars but yet my expectations were very high – basically with my limited skills, I wanted a highly-paid, glamorous job with short working hours.

Me: Do you think this depicts you in real life? Or anybody you know?

Smith: Of course not me lah! When I was a fresh grad, I started with a really low paying job with long working hours in the events line so as to build the experience I needed. But the fresh grads these days – aka your favourite strawberry generation – they expect a lot more. But sometimes they just don’t fit the bill in terms of skill set, or mentality.

Me: Haha. Ok back to the game. So with your upgraded skills + expectations, were you able to find a job now?

Smith: Nope. At the end of the 2nd stage, I was still jobless because of my unreal expectations but I got lucky. Before Round 3 started, they were looking for job seekers with 3 stars in attributes to be startup owners so I basically got funded to have my own startup 1010 LABS. So now instead of being a job seeker, I got to be my own boss and hire people! YAY!

Me: Yay! Not everybody’s so lucky though… both in the game and in real life.

Smith: Besides that, there were also more training made available this time round. So instead of improving only one attribute, job seekers were given the opportunity to level up to THREE attributes to help them better seek employment.

And as business owners, we were also given support regarding hiring. We got to either level up our compensation for our potential employees or to lower the skill levels required of them. With such support from both ends, many job seekers eventually managed to find jobs and employers like myself managed to hire the right people.

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Me: Do you think this reflects enough of the real market situation?

Smith: It is a rather simplified version but it reflects enough about how employees and employers are matched in terms of expectation and skill set in the free market. And the game also included elements such as companies suddenly closing down and workers losing jobs… which could happen to us anytime in this gloomy economy ahead.

Me: So maybe you can share with us ONE major takeaway from the session both as an employer and employee?

Smith: As an employee, constantly upgrading yourself is very important. Nobody will hire anyone with little or no skills. I’m one of those who is always on the lookout for different opportunities to upgrade myself….

Me: Wahhhh. So hao lian. What do you plan to do with your $500 SkillsFuture credit?

Smith: DON’T BE ANNOYING. I’m most probably going to take up a new language.. you know globalisation right? Always good to know when your overseas counterpart is scolding you over the phone. But to be honest… there are so many courses available, I’ve yet to go through everything.

Me: How about as an employer? What’s your greatest takeaway?

Smith: As an employer, one of my greatest takeaways was actually when more people came to me seeking for jobs and all my jobs were already taken up. As much as I wished to help them and the job market to hire more, my hands were tied. Some of them even “begged” for jobs but we have limited resources and simply could not hire more… it’s quite sad lah. So I hope that in the real world, businesses will look more at hiring our locals and strengthening our Singaporean Core (of course they must first be employable with the right skills and expectations to begin with!).

Me: So since this is a Ministry of Manpower initiative, how do you think MOM stands in the game and accordingly in the real world?

Smith: I think the injection of new information in each round reflects closely to what MOM does in the real world to our labour market… to understand and manage the various challenges in our constantly- evolving labour market and maintaining the delicate balance between our workforce, employers’ needs and economic situation, both on the local and global scale.

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Me: Rounding up! Is this your first time getting up close and personal with Min Lim? (I super duper like him by the way haha!)

Smith: YAY, finally finishing this interview with this annoying interviewer!

Yes. This is the 1st time I actually met him in person (he called me “Mr.Smith” when he presented me my startup opportunity – first name basis leh!) I’m pleasantly surprised that as a Minister he actually facilitated this himself from the games all the way to the Q&A session. I mean the game could easily have been conducted by a professional emcee or anyone else from MOM but yet he actually spent a good 2 hours on a weekend playing it with us. He’s also a very engaging person I must say… everyone at the dialogue session was very involved and spontaneously sharing their 2 cents unlike many events I have attended that were filled with awkward silences. In all, he comes across as a friendly, down-to-earth kinda guy despite his Minister status and I like that about him.

OH YA! I also like his dress sense. Like 60 year-old guy in jeans and sneakers. Very cool! Haha.



Author: Flora Lim

Instagram addict, military wife and chocoholic down with a serious case of wanderlust, Flora spends 97% of her time building her business and the other 3% on her blog floraisabelle.com


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