SINGAPORE: In a continually changing job market brought about by rapid technological advancement, Singaporeans will need to seek knowledge, experience and skills throughout their lives, and have opportunities to use their skills effectively on the job. At the same time, Singapore-based enterprises will need to beinnovative and adept at creativity and risk-taking.
These requirements form the basis of two of the seven strategies proposed by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) in its report released on Thursday (Feb 9). The 30-member committee, which was tasked to set the direction for Singapore’s economic future, stressed the need for Singaporeans to acquire and utilise deep skills, and for companies to strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate and scale up.
The committee pointed out that workers will need to constantly deepen and refresh their skills in order to stay relevant. Singapore should, it added, build on the momentum of the national SkillsFuture movement, which seeks to enable all Singaporeans to acquire relevant skills throughout life, regardless of their starting points.
ACQUIRING DEEPER SKILLS
In its report, the CFE recommended that more modularised training programmes be offered. It said that such programmes, which are short-term learning courses endorsed by industry and approved by the Education Ministry, can “provide Singaporeans with more opportunities to acquire work-related competencies, without needing to disrupt their career or personal commitments”.
Since 2015, more than 500 skills-based modular courses have been launched, and this can be ramped up so that more Singaporeans can benefit, said the committee. It added that these programmes can also be technology-enabled, so that learning can take place outside the classroom on mobile devices.
The committee also recommended that the Government set up an online one-stop education, training and career guidance portal, to help Singaporeans plan their own education and training over their working life.
USING NEWLY ACQUIRED SKILLS ON THE JOB
Even as workers continually upgrade their skills and improve themselves, employers should also ensure that they make use of these skills promptly. The committee noted that for this to happen, training should be closely linked to job requirements.
For example, in the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s SkillsFuture TechSkills Accelerator programme, company-led training efforts have resulted in a 100 per cent placement rate among the programme’s graduates. The CFE therefore suggested to replicate parts of this model in other sectors, and develop more of such company-led programmes.
The committee added that existing companies should also give more attention to in-house training. For example, work-learn programmes can be expanded beyond fresh graduates to existing employees in companies, it said.
The SG Enable Training and Career Fair held at the Enabling Village in Lengkok Bahru. (Photo: Alice Chia)
The committee also pointed out that job seekers with the right skills set may not always be matched to employers due to “information gaps”. Hence, it suggested that the Government enhance the user experience and functionality of the National Jobs Bank. The training and employment of workers can also be facilitated via initiatives like the Professional Conversion Programme and Career Support Programme.
The committee added that the Government should also evaluate and improve its existing support schemes to ensure that older workers, persons with disabilities and other at-risk workers can all benefit from growth.It also said that agencies like NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute and other private sector intermediaries should play a role to help match harder-to-place job seekers.
DEEPENING ENTERPRISE CAPABILITIES
Even as the capabilities of Singapore’s workforce are enhanced, the committee stressed the need for a stronger push in deepening enterprise capabilities to innovate and scale up. “We want a strong core of competitive, Singapore-based enterprises as they create good jobs, attract investments and expand networks,” it noted in its report, adding that the effort requires Government agencies, industry and other stakeholders to work together and build an ecosystem for innovation and enterprise growth.
One way this can be done is to strengthen Singapore’s intellectual property (IP) ecosystem, in order to better support innovation and technology adoption. To support this, the CFE recommended that entities focused on the commercialisation of IP generated by Singapore’s research institutions be established. These entities can complement the current Innovation and Enterprise Offices, it said.
The CFE also recommended developing a standardised IP protocol to be adopted by all public agencies and publicly-funded research performers, to simplify the commercialisation process and shorten IP negotiations.
MORE TAILORED APPROACH NEEDED
While there is a range of support schemes in place to help enterprises innovate and raise productivity, the committee said that a more tailored approach is needed. This will take into account their specific needs and growth stage, it explained.
For example, high-growth enterprises should be provided with more dedicated and customised support. One way this can be done, noted the CFE, is if lead Government agencies are assigned to coordinate all Government assistance given to enterprises that have the potential to scale up rapidly.
The committee added that partnerships should also be encouraged among enterprises, in particular between large and small enterprises. “Large enterprises can adopt corporate venture capital strategies to strengthen their capabilities, while start-ups can gain access to new sources of funding and networks by linking up with large enterprises.”
INCREASING SUPPLY OF GROWTH CAPITAL
But in order for Singapore-based enterprises to scale up, the committee said “more smart and patient growth capital” is needed. This refers to long-term capital that brings along ideas and expertise, said the CFE. And in order to provide enterprises with such capital, the committee suggested encouraging a variety of private sector funding from sources like banks, venture capital funds and private equity funds.
It recommended that the Government simplify the regulatory framework for venture capital firms. Crowdfunding can also be facilitated as an alternative source of funding.
The committee added that the Government can also encourage more private equity firms to be based in Singapore, so that they can develop a deeper knowledge of the opportunities in Singapore and the region.
The committee also noted that loans remain a key financing channel for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and recommended reviewing the regulatory framework for finance companies lending to SMEs.
The committee also highlighted Singapore's advantage as a regional hub in infrastructure. It recommended that the Government build on existing efforts to address long-standing challenges facing Singapore-based enterprises in securing financing for overseas infrastructure projects and critical supporting services.