Recently I was invited to join the DHL Robotics Day 2016 with some outstanding fellow keynote speakers from ABB, DHL, and NTU.
A few questions emerged as top-voted by the delegates for our panel. The pattern was consistent –
"Should we fear robots? Are they going to walk away with our jobs? What can we do today to make ourselves future-ready?"
Let's first look at the larger trends around Robotics.
So what impact are these developments likely to have on our jobs and working people?
"We are perhaps at a unique point in history when a multitude of forces are reshaping our workplaces. We need to really work at it to stay ahead of the curve."
While it is difficult for anyone to predict an accurate future scenario, a few threads emerged from our panel.
In my view, we have reasons to be curious and excited about the future. Just as there are reasons to be worried. Yet, as the World Economic Forum report on Future of Jobs said in 2016, we are likely to create more than three new jobs for every lost job in ASEAN by 2020.
"Being future-ready means a keenness to track the trends, identify industries which are likely to be employers of tomorrow, pick up deep skills though training and experience, go for continuous skills upgrade, and develop a personal branding."
Think of our mobile handset – we hardly used to upgrade its software just a decade ago. Today, our handset and many of the applications installed in it upgrade themselves almost every month. Shouldn't we replicate such continuous upgrades for our skills too?
Sounds good, you’d say, but just how realistic is it?
When such thoughts weigh me down, I look at examples of working people who've done so, to inspire myself.
One of NTUC May Day Inspirational Worker awards 2016 winner is Ms. Giam Siew Chu. She joined the workforce after her secondary school. With a deep passion to progress in her career, she went for an English language proficiency course and subsequently completed her NITEC in mechanical technology.
She didn't stop there. She continued to progress through Singapore Aero Engine Services (SAESL) and graduated with a Higher Certificate in Aerospace. She is a qualified Aircraft Technician with SAESL today, highly valued by her employers and her union – Singapore Industrial and Services Employees' Union (SISEU).
So, what could we do to stay ahead of the game? Here are some tips:
I ended my keynote with a sombre thought.
"If we fail to together achieve this breakthrough, and we end up with a lost generation of workers, we must be very conscious that our businesses would also have a lost generation of customers."
This transition at the workplaces is not easy for our working people. Much as the Labour Movement, our Unions and U Associates, government, and employers work together with our working people to upgrade their skills, many of us as hiring managers would have a big role to play.
We should be willing to prioritise valuable skills, a positive and can-do mindset, over age. Let's support the employees as they make specific efforts to upskill themselves and move to higher value creating jobs.
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.
Do you know more about this story? Contact us anonymously through this link.
Vivek is Director of U Associate & U Future Leaders programmes, National Trades Union Congress. He is the Honorary Chairman of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council in Asia-Pacific and keynote speaker at industry conferences around the region.