Announcing the opening up of 600 more vocational training places for digital marketing and cloud technology, Ben King, Country Director, Google Singapore, also shared details on a new training track, called data engineering with machine learning fundamentals.

When Google Singapore first launched the Skills Ignition SG programme last July, it had one goal. That is, with government agencies’ help—Economic Development Board, Infocomm & Media Development Authority (IMDA), and SkillsFuture Singapore— to equip 3,000 entry level and mid-career Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) with crucial (and in-demand) digital skills as the economy becomes increasingly reliant on technology.

And over the past one year, through online vocational training, and a combination of online and on-the-job learning with 38 host companies like Google Singapore itself, Omnicom Media Group, and ZUZU Hospitality, this has benefitted more than 2,600 trainees with digital marketing and cloud technology skills.

“About 90% of trainees feel that the programme has allowed them to gain the right skill sets to succeed in the digital economy, while 88% feel better equipped to develop and grow their careers,” shared Ben King, Country Director, Google Singapore at the Skills Ignition SG graduation ceremony for 100 trainees yesterday (27 July 2021), attended by Human Resources Online.

Be that as it may, Google Singapore isn’t planning on stopping there. At the ceremony, King announced that the organisation will be:

  • Adding another 600 more vocational training places under the digital marketing track, which brings an increase from the aforementioned projection of 3,000 participants;
  • Hosting another 100 trainees at Google Singapore in October 2021, and
  • Opening a new track, data engineering with machine learning fundamentals, with 100 vocational training places

King noted that the call to introduce this new track is very much based on two factors: the government’s request to capture the skills demand they are witnessing in the market, as well as the demand that Google Singapore has noticed within the business community.

On this move, King explained: “Over the past five years, the need for data analysis skills has grown dramatically. In fact, that number, in terms of demand, has grown by around 86%—which is astronomical.

“Now, to compete as Asia's number one business hub, Singapore will need to be home to world-class business analysts and data scientists. And also, machine learning engineers.”

At the event, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information, Josephine Teo, noted: “We are appreciative that Google was the first company to partner us to train Singaporeans at scale for digital technology-related roles,” adding that this collaboration is but one area of partnership between Google and the Government.

Human Resources Online had the opportunity to catch-up with King at a media roundtable event after the ceremony. Interview excerpts below:

Q You've once said: "The problem that we’re seeing is not necessarily jobs — it’s skills. There’s an urgent need to help the workforce build digital skills to take on these jobs." Are there other digital skills you think the workforce is lacking, and Google is looking to address it in the coming future? Why are those skills necessary?

To answer the question very simply, data analytics skills is one of the highest areas of demand. And we're really trying to play into that by providing this training track.

The reality is that the demand for future-ready digital skills as a whole is growing. Companies have needs for such skills to fuel their fast-evolving technological developments.

Innovation through technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning allows countries like Singapore to sustain their future national competitiveness; and local companies are finding more and more that they need world-class business analysts, data scientists, and machine learning engineers. So, that's the gap that we wanted to try and play a part in solving.

That's why we've announced the new training track, data engineering and machine learning fundamentals, today. It is to help meet this demand.

Q What are some initiatives Google might be taking to enable the successful transfer of skills from those in specialist roles in other regions of operations, and bringing those skills to talent in Singapore?

When we look at workplace culture, it's super important to remember that Google's workforce, has been largely distributed for a very long time, even before the pandemic. So, we engage with all areas of the world on a daily basis.

Engaging with our teams globally has been part of our daily life, and that transfer of skillsets has only been accelerated through the pandemic. 

One of the ways we do this is our ‘g2g’ programme — Googler-to-Googler — where about 10,000 Google employees around the world dedicate a portion of their time to help their peers learn and grow. So, this is definitely part of our culture.

Q Other than creating transferable and relevant skills, what else is Google Singapore doing to prepare better for the future of work, in terms of the evolving needs of its workforce?

Many companies are trying to answer this question. And we've got our own take on it.

For us, skill set development is one element to it. We're always thinking about the future of work throughout the entire company. And at the core is a collaborative and open culture which is centred on our employees. This applies to a range of different areas, which we’ve adapted in a few different ways.

First of all, how we think about a hybrid working model is top of mind, not only for us, but certainly throughout our company.

Secondly, we’re constantly thinking about how we provide initiatives to support our employees both emotionally and physically, from a mental wellbeing standpoint.

This is a learning environment for everybody. What we're dealing with today is very different to what we were dealing with a year ago, and this continue to be the case in six months, when the environment will be different again. What we all can do is, stay open, listen to our employees, and make the decisions that we feel will best anchor our core principles around developing collaboration through an open culture, while being centred on employee wellbeing.

Photo / Provided by Google Singapore (featuring Ben King, Country Director, Google Singapore)

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