, Singapore

How can Singapore remain relevant in the 4th Industrial Revolution?

By Adrian Tan

As we have all come to accept, change is inevitable. In fact, change is the only constant in life. And with that understanding, we don't wet our pants when we come across predicaments such as an economic slowdown or a technical recession.

But adapting to change also takes time. Just like moving into a different company to start a new job. Your colleagues are different and you are unfamiliar with the lunch venues. Even an act like getting to work is like a Christopher Columbus exploration trip, bringing you to anywhere but your destination.

And just like the F1 car that is coming by very quickly while you try to turn on the camera app on your phone, the fourth Industrial Revolution is giving us little time to adjust, adapt, and get accustomed to the changes it brings forth. 

A recent Young NTUC survey reveals how the majority of 150 respondents were not prepared and did not know if they were prepared for jobs in the six sectors which the Committee on the Future Economy is working on.

Hence it is reassuring to listen to Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing at an NTUC U Future Leaders' Summit recently to share his viewpoint on the changes that digital transformation is throwing at us. Importantly not just how we can keep our neck above the water, but how we can propel forward by embracing it.

Here's what I learned:

1. Look at the big picture
It is easy to get distracted by headlines that make your mood go up and down every day. Just like the temptation of checking your Facebook feed, it can distract us from the important things we are supposed to be doing. There are far more news and changes you can absorb in every single day. 

The important point is to stay calm. Tactical knee-jerk reactions to daily distractions won't help drive you forward to where you should be going. Look far and long term to develop your strategic plan for fundamentals you want to establish in your life.

2. Be mindful of bigger events
But we still need to put our ears on the ground and be aware of the forces that are outside of Singapore. 

Countries like the US, China, and India are changing as well. Would their transformation somehow affect our economy and what we are trying to achieve? The last thing we want is to look inwards and ignore all other externalities which may disrupt our lives even more.

Despite globalisation, we are fortunate to gain cheap and fast access to the Internet. Instead of cracking your head on how to survive in the small Singapore market, perhaps the Internet could help us expand our market to the entire world. With brand Singapore as a quality trustmark we can leverage on, we already have a foot in the market.

Tech disruption doesn't mean we are on the losing end. In all games, there will be winners and losers. Singaporeans should ask ourselves: How hungry are we to win?

3. NTUC is supporting you in your career
When the skills sought after by employers are changing so fast as market demands evolve, NTUC is creating Just-In-Time stackable modules with Institutes of Higher Learning to equip you with the skills you need without the pain of going through a three-year degree programme. NTUC has also raised S$200m programme for such courses under the NTUC Education Training Fund (NETF)

At the same time, NTUC is also working with professional guilds under its U Associates arm to develop deep skills in various industries. With networking events organised across the expanding Labour Network, NTUC is providing the platforms for like-minded people to come together and cross-pollinate their ideas to make things happen.

4. Expand your mind with the Innovation Exchange programme
NTUC’s Innovation Exchange programme aims to develop participants' ability to think out of the box by equipping them with innovation insights and know-how. Through visits to leading innovation labs of multinational corporations (MNCs) such as Microsoft, Dentsu Aegis, and Procter & Gamble, participants can get an insider's look at how ideas are cultivated and brought to life. 

Participants will also be able to engage key innovators in roundtable sessions on identifying and managing potentially disruptive innovations, as well as to be better prepared to ride the waves of change wherever they are.

Conclusion: Whoever can master tech faster, will win
Just like a nimble tech startup, Singapore is well-positioned to be the agile David versus the Goliaths in the form of larger countries. We may be a small country, but we have an educated workforce and the support systems to equip ourselves to leverage on technology. These will allow us to run faster than the next person chased by the tiger. The question is, what's stopping us from doing so? 

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