More focus on soft skills training needed

by HRD02 Nov 2016
In a year-long survey conducted by the Singapore Management University (SMU) and JP Morgan found that the focus on hard skills training in Singapore has created a new set of skills challenges that the government and companies need to address.

“There has been insufficient focus on the teaching of soft skills and other cross-job skills — a deficiency … also seen in the SkillsFuture programmes, which tend to encourage learning of technical knowledge and skills,” said the report, though TODAY Online noted that the report did not specify what they meant by ‘soft skills’.

This has brought on a new set of problems, they said, as companies turn to foreign workers to plug the skills gap. The report claimed that the country’s reliance on foreign labour signified a “lack of a strong indigenous production capacity”.

A skills gap was especially pronounced in three key sectors: info-communications technology (ICT), electronics and electrical manufacturing, and finance and insurance.

The report stated that there was a particularly acute shortage of skilled labour in cybersecurity, especially at the middle and senior levels while lower-level software engineering and programming workers were also in short supply.

“While foreign labour has helped, it has created a vicious circle. The influx of these workers brings wages down and prompts resident graduates to shun such jobs, which, in turn, drives up foreign labour demand,” they said.

They recommended reducing the country’s reliance on foreign labour by “redesigning jobs to tap technology more and raise productivity … [and] moderating the pace of industrial policy change to allow more time for sectors to mature and gain global competitiveness”.

“There is an urgent need to re-orientate the education and training policy, and to re-examine the pace of change in industrial policy,” they said.

The study’s findings were derived from interviews with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Workforce Singapore, and industry associations.

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) director Desmond Choo commented that both types of skills are crucial in the current environment.

“Without showing a worker undergoing a change-management course what are the skills ladders involved, for example in ICT, the soft skills will have very little use,” he said, adding that the SkillsFuture is not a directory of courses but should be regarded as a movement.

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