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“A future that will be shaped by changing skills”
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“A future that will be shaped by changing skills”

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Kevin Tan picA changing world economy means workers must become lifelong learners, writes Kevin Tan, 20, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Singapore, as he looks at a unique approach to helping people cope with the shifting job market.

None of our men are ‘experts.’ We have most unfortunately found it necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job. A man who knows a job sees so much more to be done than he has done, that he is always pressing forward and never gives up an instant of thought to how good and how efficient he is. Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible. The moment one gets into the ‘expert’ state of mind a great number of things become impossible.” – Henry Ford

The aforementioned quotation, though anecdotal, sums up the importance of lifelong learning and humility. Indeed, in the knowledge-based economy we find ourselves today, there are no “experts”, only workers who strive for self-improvement.

The globalisation of commerce and the rapid advancements of technology have combined to yield a perfect storm. A storm that has eroded convention and tradition for innovation and revolution.

Society and its constituents can no longer rest on their laurels. We live in a new world. A world that cannot be navigated through the old ways of earning a college degree and getting a stable job.

It is imperative that society embraces the concept of lifelong learning. Lifelong learning is not just about upgrading one’s knowledge in his or her speciality. It can also be about picking up new skills in a different occupational domain.

Learning can be both an accretive process as well as a dynamic one. Picking up a skill for work or leisure has numerous benefits in terms of providing professional competence and interdisciplinary understanding.

With such merits up for grabs, one would think: What have governments in the world done to address this?

Enter SkillsFuture.

Arguably the brainchild of former Singaporean Finance Minister, Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, SkillsFuture is a “national movement” that aims “to provide Singaporeans with the opportunities to develop their fullest potential throughout life, regardless of their starting points”.

Through a series of education and re-training policies, it is hoped that “the skills, passion and contributions of every individual will drive Singapore’s next phase of development towards an advanced economy and inclusive society”.

SkillsFuture is unprecedented in terms of Singapore’s history of exercising tight fiscal prudence in the use of its budget surpluses. The government estimates “that spending on continuing education and training will increase from about $600m per year over the last five years, to an average of over $1 billion per year from now to 2020”.

In my opinion, what is interesting about SkillsFuture is how it is refreshingly honest and innovative. This can be seen from how its attempts to tackle problems such as productivity growth, structural unemployment due to emerging industries and sunset industries and economic stagnation.

Governments have struggled with these issues for years. Productivity growth has often been obstructed by countries’ dependence on cheap foreign labour.

Structural unemployment is becoming a serious problem as emerging technologies upend industries and create new ones. Workers are finding it increasingly challenging to stay relevant in the midst of these upheavals.

SkillsFuture recognises that no solution to these problems can rely on fiscal expenditure alone.

Instead, the government has decided to award each Singaporean (aged 25 years old and above) with a $500 SkillsFuture credit. These credits can be used for a broad range of courses in various areas such as languages, cooking and infocomm technology.

The sum of $500 may be small but it can act as a catalyst to encourage Singaporeans to think deeper on lifelong learning and their own career development.

As an impetus, it is imperative that Singaporeans begin embracing the ethos of SkillsFuture. Lifelong learning may not guarantee definite dividends in terms of enhanced employment prospects and monetary returns. Such incentives are predicated on various factors such as the economic climate and industry performance.

Nonetheless, SkillsFuture is an earnest attempt to tap on the latent potential of Singaporeans to expand their individual productive capacities. It is our best chance at introducing dynamism and progress to our economy.

The ball is now in Singapore’s court. It is the collective action of Singaporeans to tap on these resources and support systems that will determine SkillsFuture’s success and effectiveness.

If done properly, policies such as SkillsFuture could very well be the solution to every nation’s economic and productivity woes. This is not just about Singapore’s future; it could very well be about the world’s too.

References

  1. http://www.skillsfuture.sg/speeches.html/lbudget-speeche-2015.html
  2. http://www.skillsfuture.sg/what-is-skillsfuture.html
  3. http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/skillsfuture-credit-booster-an-all-round-win

photo credit: 1953 Pontiac Assembly Line via photopin (license)
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About me: I am your typical Singaporean son. Currently doing my national service, I enjoy reading, writing and watching movies. I look forward to pursuing a degree in Business Administration at the National University of Singapore under a university scholarship in 2017.I was imbued with a passion for learning at Hwa Chong Institution, where I was exposed to a wide variety of subjects and activities such as economics, English literature and science research. It is this passion for knowledge and learning that informs my interdisciplinary approach to writing.………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response.
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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