AI competency ‘indispensable’ in new training initiatives for Singapore workers

By Yogesh Hirdaramani

As part of efforts to upskill and reskill talent to meet the growing needs of Singapore's digital economy, NTUC LearningHub has announced a slew of training initiatives.

NTUC LearningHub has launched the Tech Talent Academy to upskill tech talent in emerging skills like generative AI. Image: NTUC LearningHub

“Formerly perceived as a desirable attribute, competency in AI is evolving into an indispensable part of every worker’s skill set,” said Jeremy Ong, CEO, NTUC LearningHub, at the launch of NTUC LearningHub’s new Tech Talent Academy on 18 January.


In 2023, the country’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), which oversees Singapore’s digital economy efforts, appointed NTUC LearningHub as one of five training partners to grow and nurture tech talent in emerging fields such as AI and analytics.


On 18 January, NTUC LearningHub announced a slew of training initiatives to support tech talent and non-tech talent in upskilling and reskilling to meet the labour needs of today’s digital economy.

Tech Talent Academy to upskill existing tech talent


First, the new academy aims to meet the demand for tech talent within industries by sourcing, upskilling and placing tech workers into emerging tech roles. By partnering with industry players, the academy aims to form a structured ecosystem to match talent with suitable jobs.


During a panel discussion, Kiren Kumar, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of IMDA, cited IMDA’s inaugural Singapore Digital Economy Report, published in 2023, which found that 17.3 per cent of Singapore’s GDP in 2022 came from digitalisation. This accounts for more than SGD100 billion, or nearly USD75 billion.


NTUC LearningHub and Tech Talent Assembly, a tech professionals association, will work together to develop training programmes as part of the academy’s curriculum. The academy will also partner with NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and Persolkelly, a recruitment firm, to source and place talent.


NTUC LearningHub is also partnering with companies like Ensign InfoSecurity, NCS, UOB, and others to establish cooperation for the placement of candidates within tech roles, according to a press release.


As part of the Job Transformation Map for the infocomms sector released last year, IMDA targets to upskill 18,000 tech workers in generative AI, cloud and mobility and software engineering, out of the currently estimated 200,000 workers in the tech sector.

‘X for everyone’ to provide foundational skills


The NTUC LearningHub also announced the ‘X for Everyone’ courses, which offers all workers the opportunity to pick up essential and emerging tech skills, including cloud computing, generative AI, and cybersecurity awareness. 


“While our academy focuses on growing the pool of tech talent, we also want to recognise the need for all workers to acquire essential and emerging tech skills,” said Ong in his opening remarks.


“More than half of the 200,000 tech workers we have in our ecosystem are not actually working in the tech sector. They're working in manufacturing, banking, consumer, retail, and F&B. Every company, every industry needs to adopt digitalisation, innovate and transform themselves,” said Kumar in the panel discussion.


“If not, they will be made irrelevant. This is a competitiveness issue. This is a jobs issue. And this is a very important social issue.”


The programme aims to reach 2,000 trainees over the next two years. The NTUC LearningHub is partnering with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Cybertronium to run the three courses.

Opportunities for tech talent bright


Now more than ever, speakers at the launch affirmed that there is a critical need for Singaporean workers to embrace technology and meet the changing landscape of the economy.


Comparing the advent of AI to the computerisation of the 1980s and 1990s, Kumar noted that the pace of change this time is much faster than before.


“How digitalisation impacts any sector is going to be dramatically different. The most important thing we need to do is to lean forward as a country and train our tech talent to be relevant in their jobs, in their careers and in industries,” he said.


To this end, IMDA has launched several initiatives to help businesses digitalise, including the SMEs Go Digital programme, the CTO-as-a-Service offering, and the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) programme.


But will potential tech workers be dissuaded by recent layoffs at companies like Lazada and Google?


“The tech industry goes through growth cycles and correction cycles… but in general, the demand for tech skills remains high,” Kumar shared in an interview with GovInsider.


“Although there have been some layoffs, the ecosystem as a whole has been able to absorb them into other job opportunities, be it in the tech sector or across the economy in other sectors. We’re confident that demand for tech careers will remain high because they pay well, they are fulfilling careers, and the entire ecosystem and economy needs them.”