When the pandemic hit, countries had to quickly find ways to shelter citizens from the economic blow. Business slowed, offices shuttered, and some people were left clambering for new sources of income.

Singapore has been boosting efforts to create jobs and reskill citizens to help its workforce adapt. “Since the onset of the pandemic, the priority for much of 2020 is to save jobs, support workers and protect livelihoods,” says Julia Ng, Group Director, Enterprise Development Group of Workforce Singapore.

She shares with GovInsider how Singapore will help its businesses cope with the aftermath of the pandemic and prepare for economic recovery.

Help businesses grow

The agency is working with companies to redesign jobs and processes to adapt to a pandemic-hit economy. This may mean streamlining manpower, creating new roles, or implementing new tech.

For instance, WSG trained a watch retailer’s employees to better serve their customers online. “They were ramping up their online platform, given the increase in demand for e-commerce,” Ng explains. Team leaders learned about online and offline customer behaviour, and how to adapt in-person customer service strategies for e-commerce.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to guiding businesses in job redesign,” she says. WSG works with companies to understand business needs and provide relevant support.

Companies with clear goals but are unsure how to realise them will need ideas and advice. WSG shares with them what other companies in the sector are doing. It then comes up with a customised plan that suits the company’s manpower needs, budget and receptiveness for new tech.

Some companies may not know where to start with implementing new tech. WSG has a list of ready-to-use solutions to “inspire and guide them”, says Ng. These include using RFID in warehouses and self-checkout kiosks at supermarkets and restaurants.

Create more jobs

The government plans to create 100,000 jobs, attachments and training opportunities by the end of 2020 with WSG’s support. It has increased the number of jobs by bringing forward hiring plans in the public sector, and is reskilling workers in the hardest-hit industries: retail, tourism and aviation.

One initiative will place local graduates on ‘traineeships’ across government, the private sector and academic institutions. They can “hone their skills professionally and boost their employability by the time hiring demand picks up”, Ng says. Companies may consider hiring them permanently when business conditions stabilise.

Mid-career switchers can apply for attachments and full-time training courses to gain industry-relevant experience and widen professional networks, she adds. For both of these programmes, the government covers 80 per cent of training allowance, easing the financial burden on companies.

Reskilling

As industries evolve to meet economic challenges, individuals have to adapt to changing needs in the workforce as well. The government recognises the importance of reskilling, especially in the wake of the pandemic, Ng says.

WSG has developed a series of skills conversion programmes to help jobseekers transit into new jobs or sectors. Each programme caters to a specific role, and is designed together with industry experts, major industry employers and higher learning institutions to ensure it teaches relevant skills. There are currently about 100 of such programmes across more than 30 sectors, including manufacturing, trade and built environment, she says.

This programme has helped an engineering SME hire two new mid-career switchers, Ng shares. They filled new production and sales roles that focus on new tech, supporting its manufacturing plant’s digitalisation efforts.

WSG recently expanded the training capacity of its electronics engineers programme to meet the increasing demand for digital and AI-related products. The programme is expected to help an additional 1000 jobseekers over three and a half years, she says.

The agency is piloting a separate programme to train those who are just entering the electronics industry. These two initiatives will give employers “access to a wider pool of talent and defray the training costs involved in reskilling and redeploying existing employees”, Ng explains.

Businesses need to plan ahead “to be ready when the economy recovers”, and jobseekers need to deepen their skills to remain relevant. “Each of us must adapt and learn fast to turn challenges to opportunities, and be ready for the Future of Work,” Ng says.

Image by Nicolas LannuzelCC BY-SA 2.0.