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With subdued economic and productivity growth globally, the Committee on Future Economy (CFE) has identified seven mutually-reinforcing strategies for Singapore’s next stage of growth in its report released on 9 February.
Established in January last year, the committee aimed to address the new challenges that Singapore face. After a year of discussion and consultation with more than 9,000 stakeholders – including Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs), public agencies, unions, companies, executives, workers, academics, educators and students – the committee submitted its recommendations to the prime minister last Thursday. The seven strategies included how the nation should:
- Deepen and diversify our international connections
- Acquire and utilise deep skills
- Strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate and scale up
- Build strong digital capabilities
- Develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunity
- Develop and implement industry transformation maps (ITMs)
- Partner each other to enable innovation and growth
Heng Swee Kiat, finance minister and co-chair of CFE said: “The CFE’s strategies and recommendations will help us keep Singapore open and connected to the world, while building deep capabilities in our people and businesses to benefit from the opportunities that we can create.”
“As we put these strategies into action, we must find new ways of working together to achieve our shared goal of sustaining growth and creating good jobs for all Singaporeans,” he added.
#1 Acquire and utilise deep skills
In its executive summary, it stated: “In the future economy, our people should have deep skills and be inspired to learn throughout their lives; our businesses should be innovative and nimble; our city connected and vibrant, continually renewing itself; and our Government coordinated, inclusive, and responsive.”
The executive summary noted how two key shifts are needed for Singaporean workers to develop deep skills to stay relevant with the rapid pace of technological development.
The report said: “First, since technologies and jobs are likely to change throughout our lifetimes, we need to go beyond the pursuit of the highest possible academic qualifications early in life to focus on acquiring and using knowledge and skills throughout our lives.”
“Second, as technology replaces routine tasks, our people need to acquire deeper skills to create value, and more importantly ensure that they can utilise their skills effectively on the job,” it added.
The CFE highlighted that skills acquisition is not just for those wishing to switch jobs. Workers would need to “continuously deepen and refresh their skills” to stay relevant. It recommends training providers and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) to offer more modularised and technology-enabled training programmes.
Additionally, it recommended the government to consider setting up an online one-stop education, training, and career guidance portal.
Following this recommendation, Singapore’s national Jobs Bank will be integrated with SkillsFuture Individual Learning Portfolio, which will curate information about the training and jobs landscape when it is rolled out in stages from this year – according to a report in The Straits Times.
#2 Develop and implement ITMs
To ensure that the strategies outlined can come together in a coherent manner, CFE recommended that ITMs should be used as platforms to integrate planning and implementation. Announced in Singapore’s Budget 2016, the ITMs will cover 23 industries and about 80% of the economy by the end of FY2017. With an objective to help each industry achieve its potential and to create good jobs for Singaporeans, 6 ITMs have been launched so far.
“Singapore is unique in having created industry-specific platforms that bring together all the stakeholders in that industry. Our approach is not to pick winners, but to build capabilities to give our enterprises and workers the best chance of succeeding in the open market,” said the executive summary.
Other than recommending a tailored ITM for each industry, the CFE also encouraged ITMs to adopt a cluster approach, to foster synergies across industries, not just within industries.
“We can take advantage of skills adjacencies between industries to support the provision of skilled manpower in both,” it said.
#3 Partner each other to enable innovation and growth
Reiterating the importance of developing the ITMs by bringing together industry partners, TACs, unions, and public agencies; the CFE recommends the government to create an environment where these bodies and individuals can partner and trust each other.
With the TACs being valuable multipliers, leading industry-level initiatives and supporting enterprises to scale up and make inroads in overseas markets; the CFE encouraged for TACs to take up a greater role. Not only that, unions are also urged to continue nurturing a sense of ownership among workers and help them prepare for jobs of the future.
“Unions must continue to work in concert with enterprises and the government, move SkillsFuture forward and care for the well-being of all Singaporeans – especially those who may be more vulnerable in a rapidly-changing economy,” the report stated.
With all these in mind, the CFE claimed that the collective efforts should enable Singapore to grow by 2-3% per year on average, exceeding the performance of most advanced economies.
“We want to be the pioneers of the next generation. Together, we will build a Singapore of global relevance; a Singapore that can ceaselessly reinvent herself and grasp new opportunities. We are prepared for tomorrow,” it concluded.
Infographic / Committee on Future Economy
Lead photo / 123RF