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Speech by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education at the Skills Demand for the Future Economy Forum

Published Date: 08 December 2021 09:30 AM

News Speeches

Ladies and gentlemen

1. Good morning everyone. It is my pleasure to join you virtually this morning at the Skills Demand for the Future Economy Forum.

The World Is Changing Faster Than Ever

2. I am quite sure all of us are concerned about the COVID-19 situation now. But we have to look beyond the pandemic for us to prepare ourselves for the future. Indeed, COVID-19 has posed an unprecedented challenge for Singaporeans and for our economy over the past two years. But thanks to higher vaccination rates and the gradual easing of travel restrictions, we are starting to see signs of economic recovery, with a projected Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of three to five per cent in 2022. But we all know the virus may yet throw a spanner in the works. The emergence of the Omicron variant is just the latest development we should be concerned with.

3. On the other hand, the pandemic has accelerated developments and brought about opportunities for Singapore. Digitalisation is one such area. COVID-19 has demonstrated that automation and digitalisation are no longer a "good to have", but a "need to have" to enable business continuity and transformation. We have also seen a realisation that economic and business growth can no longer come at the expense of environmental degradation, and on top of that we have to tackle our long-term demographic challenges.

4. As we look beyond the pandemic, one thing is for sure: The pace of change will only increase. The nature of jobs will also evolve more quickly and it is therefore not a matter of if, but when, the skills we possess today will no longer be relevant.

Staying Ahead of Changes in Jobs and Skills

5. How then do we remain nimble and adaptable enough to stay ahead of these challenges? The key is through lifelong learning and business transformation. Lifelong learning and business transformation must come hand-in-hand for our workers and our businesses to continue to do well.

  1. Individuals need to continuously reskill and upskill, learn new techniques and acquire new skills for their workplace, and be well-positioned to pursue opportunities in growth sectors.
  2. Training providers must update their curriculum with the latest industry developments, and continuously improve their methods to meet the needs of adult learners. And every generation of adult learners have different learning methods and needs.
  3. Last but not the least, our employers must be agile in adapting their business models to take advantage of new trends. To do so, they must more actively invest in the skills development of their workers and management teams.

6. As the national skills authority, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) has been working closely with sector agencies, enterprises and academia in developing skills frameworks. Beyond tapping on experts' views, SSG is leveraging on big data and machine learning to monitor the job content and skills profile changes in a timely manner. Our objective is to understand what skills we need as a national workforce, and to use this knowledge as an advantage to stay ahead of the curve for our people. We may not always be able to predict the skills of the future, but we can always make use of data-driven foresight to stay on top of industry trends.

SSG's Skills Demand for the Future Economy Report

7. Today, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) is taking one step further, to share our skills insights directly with the public via the inaugural "Skills Demand for the Future Economy" report. We hope that individuals will be able to contextualise the report for their own needs and situation – their work experience, strengths and aspirations – and use this to plan ahead for their lifelong learning journey.

8. This particular report does not cover the entire economy, but spotlights on the jobs and skills trends specific to the Singapore context in three key growth areas - the Digital Economy, the Green Economy and the Care Economy. Drawing on labour market data, the report covers the top 20 clusters of priority skills for each of the three growth areas. These are skills that are required by the most number of job roles across the sectors under each of the economy.

9. Let me speak briefly about the jobs and skills in each of these growth areas.

Digital Economy

10. I will start with the Digital Economy. Today, Digital Economy jobs are required across all 23 sectors within the Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs). The majority of these jobs are Tech-Lite roles that do not require specialised or advanced IT skills. These include data analysts, digital marketing analysts and customer insights specialists, which are in demand across multiple sectors. Looking across more than 800 tech-lite roles, the top three priority skills clusters required by two-thirds of these roles are (i) Technology Application skills – to enable us to operate and apply new technology, (ii) Data Analytics skills – covering data collection, management, interpretation and visualisation, and (iii) Market Research skills – to analyse market trends and make informed decisions.

11. Tech-Heavy roles, on the other hand, entail more complex functions and require more specialised IT skills. The top priority skills clusters, which are required by half of the 300+ tech-heavy roles, are: Technology Development skills, Data Engineering skills, and Internet of Things (IoT) Management skills. Globally, there is a huge demand for these jobs and skills, from software engineers, to data scientists and AI engineers, supporting sectors such as ICT, media, aerospace and land transport.

Green Economy

12. Under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, the Government will help more local enterprises restructure to adopt greener technologies and practices, and shift towards greener business activities. Today, more than 450 job roles across 17 sectors require green skills in their job tasks. Priority skills clusters include Green Process Design, Carbon Footprint Management, and Sustainability Management. These skills are applicable to multiple sectors including manufacturing, trade and connectivity, financial services, and the built environment.

13. Even as existing jobs get greener, there will also be new jobs created to develop and harness sustainability solutions, such as new carbon technology, solar energy and green finance. Our workforce will need to acquire new green skills, such as energy management and environment, social and governance (ESG). These are just examples of how a set of skills can be applied across different sectors, and that is why we want to share this with our people to help them plan ahead.

Care Economy

14. Now I come to the Care Economy. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the Care Economy to our nation's resilience. Our professionals in healthcare, community care, early childhood, general education, and training and adult education have persisted in their endeavour to provide high-quality care and support services to fellow Singaporeans, despite the challenges.

15. With an ageing population, childcare to support young parents, and changes in the future of work and learning, demand for local workers in the Care Economy will continue to grow rapidly. There will be an increasing need for priority skills such as conduct and ethics, stakeholder management, and inclusive practises, which are easily required across two-thirds of the care-related job roles. Telehealth and edutech are also transforming our healthcare and lifelong learning models. Together, these will drive the emergence of new jobs and skills in the Care Economy.

16. So, you can see, be it the Digital Economy, the Green Economy, or the Care Economy, we are not here just to figure out which are the growth sectors but more importantly, we want to help our people plan and figure out which are the skillsets required across the different sectors and across the different job scopes. With this report, our people will be able to transit across different sectors and different companies in a more seamless way and that will help our people be more competitive in the near term,


17. There is an old Chinese saying that an artisan needs the best tools in order to do a good job (工欲善其事 必先利其器). In the future economy, these "tools" that every worker needs to acquire are the skills for the jobs of tomorrow. The Skills Demand for the Future Economy report is not an exercise in predicting the future, but an exercise in being forward looking. The larger objective is to raise awareness, provoke discussion and most importantly spur all of us to take action to arm ourselves with these new "tools" for our future.

18. To this end, the Report is but the first step we are taking, to communicate and share more skills insights with the public. SSG will refresh the report annually, and work at supplementing it with other channels of sharing that are more bite-sized and higher-tempo. We will also work with all parties to strengthen our collective efforts in identifying emerging skills needs and gaps, to help individuals in their lifelong journey guide employers in their workforce development, and to keep Singapore competitive. and future ready. Here, I would like to call upon experts, academia, career counsellors, learning designers, and managers at the workplace to join us in this endeavour. We need a whole-of-nation effort, to develop the collective awareness of skills trends, and to support one another in this continual skills development journey.

19. On this note, I look forward to working with all of you. Thank you very much.