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Working world can benefit from lifelong learning ecosystem

Organisations have access to larger talent pool, while PMETs have more avenues to upgrade their skills.

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THE thriving businesses from yesteryear may be nowhere in sight, while today's household names could belong to totally new industries. The reality is that employers cannot guarantee that their business will survive, and neither can individuals assume that their employability is secured into the future.

Employment uncertainty in many job markets around the world has been the consequence of the disruptive forces of technology, globalisation and demographics interacting to redefine, converge and blur industry boundaries that were previously distinct.

In Singapore, disruptive forces are set to have a profound effect on the labour market where there is a mismatch between the jobs available, the skills required and the expectations (such as remuneration and job requirements) of the workforce, according to the OTC Institute.

Having said this, there are upsides: a key advantage of industry convergence is cross-industry employment opportunities for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) and other mid-career professionals who are fearful of structural unemployment.

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The Singapore Skills Framework developed by SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore for many core sectors reveals that there are several job roles across industries that have significant overlaps in the Technical Skills and Competencies (TSCs) required for a successful career in those sectors.

For example, quality assurance and control specialist roles in the biopharmaceuticals manufacturing sector and the food manufacturing sector share similar skills and competencies. Another example is how a cabin crew role in the air transport sector shares many skills and competencies with a sales supervisor role in the retail sector, such as service challenges, service excellence, service innovation and service leadership.

Perhaps even more thought-provoking are the similarities between a ship operator in the sea transport sector and sponsorship executive in the tourism sector, where there are two critical skills and competencies in common - business data analysis and budgeting.

GEARING UP FOR CROSS-INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT

With the launch of the Skills Framework initiatives, such information is now readily available for visualising the connections between skills, competencies and employability and development. This then creates a wealth of vital information on sector employment opportunities, career pathways, the types of existing and emerging skills that are required to be successful, and training programmes for upgrading skills and achieving mastery.

It is opportune for PMETs and other mid-career professionals who are seeking cross-industry employment opportunities to leverage the gamut of resources and government assistance schemes available to upskill themselves and gear up for careers in potentially different industries from their current one.

To that end, a mindset shift is important.

First, individuals must be keen to expand their horizons to embrace different industries. Second, they should embrace a growth mindset and make lifelong learning a habit. The Skills Framework is a practical starting point to help individuals to identify the gaps in current skills and then opt for training and certification programs. Third, beyond meeting the known skills requirements, the key to thriving in an accelerating disruptive environment is to continually explore the unknown or emerging skill sets to insure their employability for tomorrow.

SEIZING THE UPSIDES OF DIVERSE TALENT POOL

As the face of the workforce changes, organisations should also be rethinking their talent management strategy.

Given that employees now have greater cross-industry employment options, rather than being apprehensive about the lack of employee loyalty and attrition, organisations must take steps to proactively leverage this influx of talent from other industries that was previously not readily accessible to them.

Organisations must make some key decisions regarding their talent management strategy: will they build their talent through training and development of the existing workforce, or buy talent externally through a recruitment exercise, or tap into the gig economy and outsource work on a contractual basis?

While these strategies are not revolutionary, the execution has some significant changes. For example, when it comes to building talent, organisations should intentionally assess the use of government grants and schemes to offset the cost of upskilling and retraining their workforce.

In buying talent and outsourcing the work, organisations should critically question their current and emerging talent needs vis a vis their business strategy, and consider expanding their search beyond their conventional talent pool.

Having a talent pool that is diverse and possesses cross-industry expertise can give organisations a much better chance at handling the threats posed by industry convergence and even thriving as they themselves venture into new industries.

With the various national-level initiatives in progress on reshaping Singapore's workforce for the future, the country has become a benchmark destination for creating an ecosystem that supports lifelong learning for its workforce. The responsibility now falls back on each and every one of us - employees to upskill themselves and organisations to efficiently tap the larger talent pool - to be prepared for the future working world.

Samir Bedi is Partner, and Jojico Tanuwidjaja, Manager, from People Advisory Services, Ernst & Young Advisory Pte Ltd.

The views in this article are the writers' and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organisation or its member firms.