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Opening Remarks at Mediacorp Career Forward

Dr Tan See Leng, Minister for Manpower, Sands Expo Convention Centre

Ms Tham Loke Kheng, Mediacorp Chief Executive Officer

Ms Helen Wong, OCBC Group Chief Executive Officer

Dr Bicky Bhangu, Co-lead of Alliance for Action on Widening Access to Talent and Singapore National Employers Federation Council Member

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

A. Preamble

1. Good morning! I’m really delighted to be here today to join all of you, and I look forward to a very active, engaging and productive discussion later on how we can, and must future-proof our careers.

a. At the national level, because of our ageing population and falling birth rate, we can no longer rely primarily on workforce growth to sustain good economic growth. The only sustainable approach that we have moving forward is to pursue value-added, productivity-driven growth.

b. Yet contemporaneously, you can see multiple disruptions in the labour market, and accelerated pace of changes that have continued to throw curveballs in the nature of jobs and demand for skillsets, and they are moving at a very, very accelerated pace.

i. For instance, ChatGPT set a record for one of the fastest-growing consumer applications in history. Can you imagine, in just the first five days of ChatGPT’s launch, it acquired 1 million users. By the end of two months of operations, it had acquired more than 100 million users.

ii. By comparison, it took TikTok nine months, Instagram two and a half years, and WhatsApp three and a half years to reach 100 million users. So you can see how fast ChatGPT has progressed.

iii. Such technologies have quickly become pervasive in our daily lives. It is quite mind-boggling, beyond what we could have possibly imagined.

c. With the average half-life of skills now at five years, and going as low as two and a half years in some tech fields, the concept of lifelong employability and lifelong learning is at the forefront more so than ever.

B. Taking charge of one’s career health

2. At the Ministry of Manpower’s Committee of Supply debate earlier this month, I spoke about how MOM will continue to support our workers and businesses amidst the tough operating context.

a. I talked about the concept of career health in empowering our workers to seize opportunities and at the same time, we need to help our employers broaden their access to talent.

b. Today, I will share with you, how and what it means for Singaporeans to have good career health, and how we will work closely with employers, trade associations and chambers (TACs) and other industry leaders, and of course not forgetting our Tripartite partners in this phenomenal effort.

3. Fundamentally, we are calling on every single one of you, all workers to take charge of their careers. Just that how we spend a lot of time talking to people about physical health, how you should try to exercise more, eat healthily, have regular medical check-ups and so on to take care of our physical health, we are now modelling and nudging, encouraging all Singaporeans to take care of their own career health.

a. Instead of acting only when things go wrong, we should be constantly, actively developing our own career plans and pursue jobs and training opportunities in a focused and intentional manner. And we need to constantly review and adapt and tweak our career plans based on changes in the labour market and how our life priorities, at different stages of our life, evolve.

b. This is what it means, therefore, to take charge of your own career health, so that you can seize new opportunities, and as a result enjoy better employment outcomes, with good wage growth over our whole entire lifelong career trajectory.

4. Now, it is easier said than done. Where do you even begin? To this end, we will support each and every one of our workers with relevant jobs and skills insights - because at the core of it is about information, how to reduce that asymmetry. That will help you plan effectively, how to maneuver and navigate through different opportunities.

a. The CareersFinder feature, which you can find on the MyCareersFuture portal, is one way through which we are putting such information in the hands of each and every one of you.

i. More than 15,000 individuals have used our beta version of CareersFinder in its first six months. We have very encouraging signs of users broadening their horizons. They have also applied for jobs across a wider range of occupations.

ii. Beyond CareersFinder, we are also exploring other ways to help workers take stock of their own skillsets, and provide better signalling to prospective employers or potential hirers. For example, a recommendation that arose from our Citizens’ Panel on Employment Resilience in 2023 was to develop a digital “career passport” that provides data on an individual’s skills and qualifications, referrals to career guidance services, and more.

b. For those who prefer in-person guidance, much like having a personal trainer at the gym, Workforce Singapore has rolled out Polaris. It is a pilot programme which provides career guidance for employed individuals.

i. The response, I am very happy to announce, has been positive. Within two months of its launch in November last year, the programme was fully subscribed. As of February this year, within two and a half to three months, 25% of the 200 participants have completed the programme. We also heard feedback from these participants that they were very satisfied with the tailored support provided by WSG career coaches.

ii. One such participant is Malcom Chen. At 39, Mr Chen signed up for Polaris as he was unsure if he was on the right career path. This is despite going through a couple of career switches. The sessions with his career coach helped him better understand his own interests and career aspirations. He is now a lot more confident that he would like to remain in his current role and is considering picking up new competencies such as life coaching to further his career in the training space.

5. With its early success, WSG will scale up this pilot to cater to another 580 individuals, about three times more, this year. The new Polaris career guidance programmes are now open for registration, and I encourage everyone present to sign up with WSG quickly!

6. Ladies and gentlemen, I spoke earlier about the tough environment we are operating in, but my encouragement to all of you, is never be disheartened. If I may paraphrase a quote by Sir Winston Churchill – he talks about how a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity – the glass being half-empty. But on the other hand, it is also half-full. It is better to be optimistic - the optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty. It is your own perspective as to how you want to look at it. I have shared many times, that I am a perpetual optimist, and I believe we can continue to prop up our local workers, put them in better stead in the midst of intensifying global competition, including for corporate leadership positions. I hope that when we work with all of you, through CareersFinder, as you take control of your own career development, as you shape out your own career goals, we want to reach a time when jobs come and look for you. That ultimately is what I am hoping to be able to shape, to initiate, to motivate everyone to do.

a. To this end, WSG will launch a new Overseas Markets Immersion Programme, or OMIP, later this year. With financial support, this programme seeks to encourage businesses with overseas expansion plans to send employees with little to no overseas market experience for overseas postings. It is for you to go out there and feel, understand, and to be able to experience what it is like to work overseas. And of course we will support this.

b. Employees will benefit from reskilling through on-the-job, in-market training in global and regional roles offering good prospects, whether in technology, business development or beyond. Or building networks.

We have significant knowledge, we have very good know how. Now we want to inspire you to go and develop the know-who, the networks.

c. Employers will in turn be better positioned to expand and compete in overseas markets, with a strong globally oriented team.

d. The OMIP will complement other government programmes targeted at leadership development, such as Economic Development Board’s Global Business Leaders Programme, which will be launched by the first half of this year.

C. The role of employers

7. Here, I would like to touch a bit on the role of employers. I want to emphasise that we cannot do this alone, just focusing on workers. As Manpower Minister, manpower is not just about workers. Manpower is also about helping and supporting businesses, because then they will rely on their workers, creating a virtuous cycle. I want to emphasise thatit is in the interest of employers to support the career health of your workers. In tight labour markets especially, employers who support the career health of their workers will be better able to retain and attract workers. And alongside that, as your workforce becomes even moreagile and highly skilled businesses can also be very nimble and agile in terms of responding to significant disruptions.

8. The 16 completed Jobs Transformation Maps, covering some 1.5 million resident workers are designed to help employers better understand how to redesign jobs and reskill workers for new roles.

a. We understand that the efforts may be costly upfront, and employers bear the risk that some workers may not adjust well to the demands of the new jobs.

b. Hence, to give that assurance, and greater support to employers, I recently also announced the increase in Career Conversion Programme, or CCP, salary support caps as well as training allowance caps.

In all aspects of health, prevention is always better than cure. You can take it from me, because before I joined the Government I was a practicing doctor for many many decades. So employers will also be able to tap on CCPs to preemptively reskill existing workers to take on new growth job roles, instead of only working with workers who are at risk of redundancy.

9. Beyond reskilling, employers can further drive workforce development through career guidance. Workers would, in response, feel that they have a long-term compact, long-term career path with their employers. This will lead to better trust, better social compact, better staff engagement, and also successful, longer-term career outcomes.

a. We are working with NTUC, SNEF as well as TACs and other industry leaders to implement structured career guidance workshops. We’re going to start with the Retail, Precision Engineering, Financial Services and the InfoComm sectors. This will equip line managers and HR with capabilities to support their workers in developing career plans. We are also exploring support for employers to adopt HR tech tools and other digital enablers in this process.

b. For the Precision Engineering sector, WSG has engaged companies such as ST Engineering to identify current and future skills gaps within their workforce.

c. I am glad we have Helen here with us today, because OCBC, who is one of our core partners, is coming onboard our efforts as an industry beacon, a lighthouse. Recently, they implemented a “Better Me, Better Us” internal campaign to facilitate employees’ career mobility. I hope to learn more from Helen later about their campaign.

10. By tapping on the expertise of industry leaders, we hope to be able to, through you, nudge more employers to empower all of you to take charge of your careers. MOM and SNEF have also set up the Alliance for Action, or AfA, on Widening Access to Talent last year. Through this AfA, which is co-led by Dr Bicky Bhangu and Ms Aileen Tan, we hope to co-create solutions with progressive businesses and TAC leaders to better enable employers to hire talent with more diverse backgrounds and implement training solutions so that we can improve talent mobility and agility of our workforce.

E. Conclusion

11. In conclusion, just like how physical health is important at all stages of life, I want to suggest to you that career health is just as relevant. Whether you are a youth starting out on your career, a mid-career worker looking at your next step, or a senior in your golden years.

12. In the coming year, we will continue to support you in fulfilling all of your career aspirations, regardless of what your motivations and priorities may be. With the labour movement, employers, workers and Government, all of us working hand-in-hand, I am confident we can empower more of you, more of our workers to take charge of your own career health and build a more sustainable and better future together. Thank you.