Why Singapore’s mid-career professionals need new skills

Many PMETs have lost jobs due to digitisation, but they should not be overlooked as a source of talent

In Singapore, the employees whose careers are most damaged by redundancy are the country’s locally trained mid-career professionals – and now, HR experts are arguing that helping them back into work could be a win-win situation for employers.

As much as 70 per cent of Singapore-based employees who have been made redundant are mid-career professionals, according to government data. Faced with this problem, the city-state’s government has been calling on employers to welcome them back to the workforce. And HR experts say the first step towards this is reskilling.

Singapore’s redundant PMET workforce (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) needs to be made job-ready again. They need to obtain specific skills related to “digital, e-commerce and research and development,” Steve Brown, senior director at Singapore–based HR executive search firm ChapmanCG told People Management.

This is important because Singapore’s economy is increasingly shifting away from traditional sectors such as banking, oil, energy, shipping and engineering, to become a digital and e-commerce hub. Research, development and innovation activities are intense, “with companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Lazada continuing to build out regional hubs here”, Brown said.

Reskilling may be a priority. But Singapore’s second minister for manpower Josephine Teo last month told employers not to overlook locally-trained PMETs when recruiting. At the Singapore Human Capital Summit, she said employers traditionally look for two main sources of talent when recruiting – the core workforce (ideally available locally) and foreign workers complementing the local core – while ignoring Singapore’s ‘third source’ of talent, locally trained PMETs.

Minister of manpower Lim Swee Say had a similar message to employers. “Mid-career job seekers who are affected by restructuring in other sectors may lack experience directly relevant to your sector, but they can make up for this with their diverse experience and soft skills,” Say told the Institute of Banking and Finance Distinction Evening in September.

Many PMETs have lost jobs due to digitisation, but the minister stressed that technology should not make them less relevant in the future economy. “Instead, we can deploy technology to be their partners and co-workers, and help improve their productivity, careers and wages.” The minister heaped praise on an initiative where Singapore’s major consumer banks have committed to retrain 3,500 existing employees over the next two years, trying to offset redundancies caused by technological developments – perhaps a cue for other employers to follow.

The minister added: “We need the active participation of employers… to minimise redundancy and maximise inclusiveness.”

For its part, the government has come up with initiatives to absorb PMETs back into the workforce. Launched in 2016, the ‘Adapt and Grow’ initiative helps workers get ready for changing job demands by acquiring new skills. An element of this is particularly focused on PMETs, where firms are encouraged to hire workers affected by retrenchment and restructuring by expanding wage support schemes for them. As of May 2016, companies hiring PMETs who have been made redundant or been unemployed for six months have been provided with wage support by the government.

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