“My personal philosophy is, we have to learn every day, we have to be curious, we have to read. And once we read, we must look at opportunity,” says Gog Soon Joo.

Gog is a firm believer of lifelong learning – she has planned to learn Sanskrit next year. “The whole language and the whole culture is built upon empathy. I hope when I learn it, I can polish and enhance my own empathy, so that I can do my work better.”

She is the Chief Skills Officer & Chief Futurist at SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), and leads a team of data scientists and futurists to identify global trends that shape the future of work. Gog shares how her team is helping Singapore’s workforce adapt to Covid-19.

Agility within the agency

Gog’s team had all their plans for 2020 charted out – then the pandemic hit. “The war has started”, she shared with her colleagues. “We had to roll up our sleeves and ask ourselves how we can use existing data and new data sets” to find out where the in-demand jobs are, she adds.

With that knowledge, her team could “push out the data to institutes of higher learning” to equip students with the relevant skills. They then worked to create a tool that matches people’s job functions to jobs in demand. Gog’s team researched what adjacent jobs are available for cabin crew, for instance.

Gog’s team is also looking at ways to update the skills frameworks more “dynamically” to quickly inform key stakeholders such as enterprises, institutes of higher learning, and unions. That would allow employees and students alike to be trained more quickly, she adds.

To that end, SSG’s skill framework development officers were “repurposed” to become job-skill analysts, she says. These analysts look at regional and global enterprises to identify trends that might indicate a change in skill requirements. “We look at what patents have been filed, because patents are the early signal for what is coming.”

Skills for the future

“Even pre-Covid, we were already observing interesting phenomena that job content is changing rapidly,” says Gog. There has been a rise of turnkey technology solutions that simplify work – jobs that used to require three to four people can be completed by a single person now, she adds.

Tech skills like data analytics and cybersecurity have become a fundamental requirement – “this shift was already happening, Covid-19 just accelerated it”, she says. Gog believes that most job titles in the future will include the word ‘technologist’ – such as doctor-technologist or journalist-technologist.

There is also an increased demand for soft skills, she says. SSG has grouped these skills into three main baskets: thinking critically, interacting with others, and staying relevant.

SSG hopes their efforts will allow Singaporeans to adapt quickly to job changes. “We can never close the skills gap. We can close it faster, but because things are changing, the gap will keep emerging. It’s about how we can shorten the gap and allow individuals to hop over very quickly,” Gog says.

Building data and AI capabilities

SSG plans to strengthen its AI algorithm to better identify skill gaps, says Gog. The agency has converted its skills frameworks into a machine readable format, and applied neural network analysis to look at the relationship between job function, task, and skills.

Insights will then be used to create taxonomies that allow the agency to identify new skills, Gog says. SSG also incorporates “external data sources from job posting data, CV data, and course consumption data,” she adds. AI models are also used to determine if a sector will be an area of growth in the next 5-10 years.

The agency has also retrained another team of officers to be data scientists, Gog reveals. “We believe training our staff is the best, instead of always recruiting.”

“Continued education has become a very important pillar” of Singapore’s economy, she says. Having a wealth of talent will propel Singapore forward in its push to build resilience and recover from Covid-19.