HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
James Leong C. Foo

The future of work after SG50


Two new statutory boards, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) will be established and overseen by the Ministry of Education while Workforce Singapore (currently WDA) will be overseen by the Ministry of Manpower. The overarching objective is to help Singaporeans continually possess relevant skills to find the jobs they want.

Schools have been given a fresh mandate to nurture our youth to become innovators and value creators. They will be encouraged to be risk-taking so as to lead Singapore forward for the next 50 years and beyond.

This nation-wide reboot is intended to create SG 2.0, the next wave of success that we need to create for Singaporeans. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew's pioneer generation's hard work has laid a solid foundation for our future. It is now time to build an even stronger foundation for our children's future.

This new way forward has been proven very successful by the American way, where the enterprising spirit has created wealth for millions of Americans through global corporations like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple.

Our present success was built on efficiently run GLCs (Government-Linked Companies) and manufacturing which rode the industrialisation wave as well as being a global financial centre and regional hub.

This current model has been under threat by plunging oil prices, low cost competitors, oversupply in a slow global economy, high wages and cost of operations as well as an increasingly digital and borderless world.

When whole industries and traditional business models get disrupted (think telcos and Whatsapp, transport operators and Uber, offshore oil rigs and shale gas), jobs will be slashed as companies fight for survival. Many of these jobs might become permanently disrupted and disappear altogether.

In 1989, Charles Handy wrote about the emergence of 'portfolio workers' where individuals do not hold permanent jobs working for an organisation but use their varied skills and interests to work for a variety of companies in different roles.

In today's world, this has gained prominence and the trend might continue in a disruptive economic landscape driven by technological innovations, changed customer preferences and social habits.

The SkillsFuture initiative supports this emerging trend of the portfolio worker. Workers of the future need to be multi-skilled, adaptable, and entrepreneurial. They are not merely working for a company but for themselves. This means their personal interests and the interests of the companies they serve will be aligned as they are building up a portfolio of clients.

To perform in this new role effectively, workers need to be cross-trained in a variety of skills. No longer can they be mere functional specialists like HR or IT people. To ensure survivability in this new model, each worker would need to acquire business skills and financial awareness.

This is necessary for them to see how they can apply their skills to truly add value to the companies they serve. They will be more like consultants, proactive and constantly looking to do things better rather than employees who need to be motivated by managers.

They will need to learn how to negotiate their own contracts, set up teams, delegate, make payroll for their own portfolio workers, and manage finances. In other words, the workers of the future are the CEOs of their own careers.

With an enterprising, motivated multi-skilled workforce who understands business and constantly innovate to create value, the future of Singapore will be bright.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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James Leong C. Foo

James Leong C. Foo

James Leong C. Foo is CEO and Chief Trainer of Visions.One Consulting Pte. Ltd. A chartered accountant and adjunct professor, he helps to improve financial acumen, profitability, and cash flow of businesses and individuals through his financial fluency workshops.

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