TL;DR – Do not panic.
MOM recently released its Labour Market Report for the First Half of 2016. We highlighted some key numbers that you need to be aware of here. The anaemic labour market is a result of slower economic growth. And its expected to get worse.
Because the global economy is expected to remain at a disappointing pace. According to the World Bank, the global economy is projected to grow at a sluggish pace of 2.4% in 2016. Advanced economies (e.g. USA, UK, Germany) are expected to grow at 1.7%. In many ways, Singapore can be considered an advanced economy. So it is not surprising that the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) has predicted our growth in 2016 to be between 1% and 2%. Given this sort of economic climate, the labour market is bound to suffer.
But to the middle-aged PMET who has just been retrenched, or the young graduate who has difficulties finding one, none of these numbers matter. Even if they know and understand the reasons behind why the labour market is so bad, so what? They still face challenges in getting jobs. And not just any jobs. But good quality jobs that pay well and are meaningful.
So is the government doing anything about it?
Of course it is. In fact, just a couple of days ago, the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) launched a pilot of the Adapt and Grow Virtual Career Fair. This Virtual Career Fair will allow Singaporeans to search for jobs, attend interviews with prospective employers, as well as access career advisory services online.
This pilot will run from Sep 7 to Sep 21. A total of 51 employers will take part in the virtual fair and are set to offer up to 500 vacancies across sectors like infocomm technology (ICT), aerospace and biomedical sciences.
At the launch, Minister for Manpower, Mr Lim Swee Say highlighted that while job growth has slowed, there are still good jobs. He also stressed on how we cannot and should not stop the restructuring which will lead to the transformation of our economy. More importantly, the government is helping industries to transform their business models to create better jobs for Singaporeans. Minister Lim said,
“…to transform their business models to create better jobs. Just take the last 10 days, for example. We’ve seen the launch of two industry transformation plans, one for the F&B sector, one for the retail sector. Very soon, you are going to see another career promotion campaign for the hotel sector. In fact there are many sectors – not only do they have openings today, at the same time, they’re also transforming the business model to create better jobs, better careers.”
Minister Lim recognized that there are mid-career and mature PMETs who are affected as businesses transforms and economy restructures. Whilst it looks like tough times ahead, there ARE still good jobs. The challenge is, really, in jobs mismatch.
He emphasized that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will intensify efforts to help affected PMETs transit to new jobs or new careers quickly. Specifically, Minister Lim mentioned two programmes.
First, for PMETs moving on to a new job, there is the Career Support Programme, which provides wage subsidies to incentivize employers to hire them. Second, for PMETs considering a new career in a different industry, MOM has intensified efforts to help them re-skill to take on quality jobs in demand through Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs).
Put together, for PMETs who find themselves unwillingly thrust into a position where they have to look for new jobs, there are already numerous government programmes to help. But of course, most people would prefer not to be in that position.
Unfortunately, gone are the days where everyone can expect to work in the same job with the same company for our entire lives. The much faster pace of change, the freer movement of goods and people across borders and yes, disruption are changing everything about how businesses are run. And yes, how work is done. Instead, it is more likely that we need to continually prepare ourselves for the jobs of tomorrow.
That is something that the Labour Movement (aka NTUC) is working very hard on –
How to prepare people who are still employed today to be ready for the jobs of tomorrow?
Minister Chan Chun Sing, who is the Secretary-General of NTUC, spoke about this when he spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a dialogue session on best practices in the HR industry.
The Labour Chief said:
“The most difficult thing we have found in the labour movement is that, when each and every one of us has a job still, it is very difficult to encourage the person to say, be prepared for the day that we might be displaced. And therefore, before that day comes, we must go and upgrade ourselves and acquire the new skills.”
But Minister Chan is well aware that that’s not something easy to do. If you are currently working, taking time out to go for skills upgrading and further training would be an additional demand on your time. It will be an immense investment. Therefore, in order to encourage more people to upgrade and pick up new skills, it is important to “have a clear idea on where are the openings available”.
Minister Chan said there is already a system in place where the Labour Movement gets information about the potential growth sectors in the economy. The Labour Movement is thus able to advise Singaporeans about the training and courses to go for to future-proof their skill set and be better prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.
But the Labour Movement wants to do better. It wants to strengthen this system by getting even more timely and even more detailed information from other government agencies such as the Economic Development Board (EDB), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MIT) and SPRING Singapore.
That said, as much as the government can put in the support systems, we need to play our part. If we don’t charge of our own future, our own lives, then who will? We need to be proactive in curating our own learning and development process.
Remember this: Talent is the game-changer, and in the future, agility and adaptability are the keys to success. If we don’t have the mindset that we need to continually get better at creating value by being better at what we are doing and also picking up new skills, then no amount of information or government programmes will help.
But if we have the right mindset, then, together, we will be able to weather this storm. And any other storms that will come our way.