Skills shortages could create more unemployment than a lack of jobs

Technology should be a job creator not a competitor, says Singapore’s Minister for Manpower

The biggest cause of Singaporean unemployment in the future may turn out to be a lack of the right skills, not a lack of available jobs.

That was the message given by Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say at a graduation ceremony for Republic Polytechnic (RP) students.

In his speech, Mr Lim said graduates must look at technology as a job creator, not a competitor that is taking jobs away. He suggested people have a big part to play, especially in the fields of data analytics, cyber security and robotics engineering.

At a May Day rally earlier in the month, the minister pointed out that while the country’s unemployment rate is much lower than other countries, it is expected to rise. He also predicted a major redistribution of jobs globally, as certain roles disappear and completely new fields of expertise are created.

"For Singapore, our choice is clear," said Mr Lim. "We want to be among the winners, not the losers."

He praised educational institutions such as the RP for making sure students not only had the right knowledge but relevant practical skills too.

According to The Newpaper, RP has introduced a total of seven new full-time pre-employment training (PET) diploma programmes over the last five years; expanding its offerings “to meet demand for skilled manpower across various sectors in response to industry developments and needs.”

In a bid to reinforce the importance of employers developing the skills of their workforce, two new SkillsFuture awards were launched in March to recognise excellence among employers and their staff. The SkillsFuture Employer Award will highlight employers who are exemplary in developing their staff.

Singapore’s expertise in a range of modern skills, such as ICT and electronics, has recently been called on by Cambodia, which wants to diversify its economy beyond a base of manufacturing and exporting textiles and garments.