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Desmond Choo: “Talent Will Be The Game Changer. Keys To Success - Agility And Adaptability."

Ahead of the official national unemployment numbers in Singapore, the glaring growth of unemployment rate in the last two quarters in Singapore is unmistakable – more and more Singapore residents are unemployed. The market downturn is looming all over our heads, and it is real.

singapore unemployment rate 2016

Two weeks ago, we also pointed out that people, specifically real estate agents, has been relying on part time jobs driving Uber and GrabCar to supplement their income. Most of these are young working adults, and are increasingly finding it hard to get a job.

“I think that some actively in the job search will tell you that the slowdown is already happening. Young graduates from Polys and Universities are taking longer to land their first job,” newly appointed MP Desmond Choo shared.

desmond choo

For Desmond Choo, his focus is on the young workers, thanks to his work in NTUC as the director of youth development and at the grassroots level. So when the feedback on the ground says that there are growing concerns among youth where there’s a mismatch in education skills versus employer’s expectation – the new father made it one of his missions to see what can be done to help.

In a recent meet-up, Desmond told the media in attendance that one of the recent feedbacks he received was that, it is no longer the employee’s market, but the employer’s market instead.

An article by TODAY also painted a bleak picture of the current job market. According to the article, Mr Tang, who is currently 27 years old, was reported to be working in an admin support temporary position for the past 18 months. “Unlike our parents’ time, it seems like there are many people holding a degree now but the fact is there are many jobs out there that do not require a degree holder to do the work.”

The Future of Work and the Changing Economy

In his maiden speech as a Labour MP in Parliament yesterday, Desmond said, “We face a new work order. Disruptive innovation has fundamentally changed many industries and the way we work. In this Fourth Industrial Revolution, there will be new sectors and jobs that will require skills and knowledge that are new even to those who just graduated. This has become a “VUCA” world — volatile, uncertain, complex and unpredictable. The mindset that the parents of Millennials had in building a career – find a good job, be good in it, stick to it and rise up the ranks – may not always be suitable in the future economy.

….  In a VUCA world, competencies such as lifelong learning and learning agility are key.”

Amongst other things, Desmond advocated for:

–       Strong nexus between School and the Workplace (expanding mentorship programmes, for instance)
–       Tighter nexus between Learning and Job Requirements
–       Employers to be Future-Ready
–       Progressive Workplace Practices
–       Help Young Workers to Succeed with Their Families (more flexibly working arrangements for mothers, for instance)

What Can Be Done and What Is Being Done

For new millennial workers, me included, increasingly we have to understand that classrooms might no longer equip us with what we need for the workforce, and that job security is a thing of the past.

It’s simple – jobs that do not exist 10 years ago – such as social media managers or community manager (what does that even mean) are everywhere now.

As education needs time to undergo syllabus restructuring, skills learnt in school increasingly become irrelevant by the time students graduate. PMEs (Professionals, Managers and Executives) could be and should be a term of the past, as diversity of talents should be celebrated. All of us can be a professional in our own rights, and we’re not referring to only university graduates, or doctors, or lawyers. Skilled craftsmen are professionals too, you know.

In order to stay competitive, especially to be “employable” since this is an employer’s market now, we asked what Desmond what can be done.

One of the things Desmond brought up is that youth and the millennial should equip ourselves with the skills so that we are “future-ready”, a term increasingly popular among policy makers in Singapore.

Recalling a recent mentee he mentors over the past few years, Desmond said that the mentee got in touch with him to seek advice on what she should do over her summer break. The mentee, is under an MOE scholarship and has her path in the education sector all set out properly for her.

“Instead of asking her to intern at a school, I advised her to get an internship at a totally unrelated field – in a PR industry. In a PR firm, you will get to learn all the communication skills you need, and enjoy a fast paced working environment, equipping you with what you need to excel in your future job.”

Desmond also spoke about the recently launched SkillsFuture Credit, a government initiative for all Singaporeans aged 25 and above. Under the program, Singaporeans get S$500 in credit which can be used to subsidize a wide range of approved skills related courses. Additionally, if you are an union member, there is also a UTAP (Union Training Assistance Programme) which further funds your course fee up to S$250 per year.

He reiterated, “Young Singaporeans can be hopeful that there are now multiple ways to succeed but they do need to have learning agility and adaptability.”

So, my fellow young millennials, are you future-ready?

 

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