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7 minute read

Career Resilience: Seeing it Mentioned Often? Here’s Why it Matters, According to Singapore Leaders

You’re seeing the words “career resilience” everywhere these days, for good reason. Here’s some quotes from local leaders why.

We’ll start off with one of the most important quotes on why career resilience matters, as shared by Deputy Prime Minster (DPM) Lawrence Wong.

In his Budget 2023 speech in Parliament, DPM Wong shared: “ We are in an era of zero-sum thinking.

“It will be a world that is less hospitable to small economies like Singapore, which have long thrived on an open, rules-based multilateral system.”

“Singaporean workers, therefore, cannot assume that we can continue to be successful by doing the same things as we have in the past, he added.

He also shared why career resilience matters at an economic policy forum in 2022: “These days, most workers now will have multiple careers in their lifetimes, even in the rare case of somebody working in the same company throughout their lives, the work they do will likely evolve over time.”

Here are some other key quotes on why career resilience matters below.

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Career health matters

While Singapore transforms our economy, local workers must improve their own career prospects and resilience to seize opportunities, said Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng in Parliament.

If we want higher wages, then matching that with upgraded skills is crucial, he said.

“While higher wages add to costs for businesses, the key is to ensure that productivity increases support higher wages. In this way, both businesses and workers will benefit.”

He shared how career resilience is linked to career health, sharing: “Better career health is key to helping our workers move up the career ladder, stay current and employable, or switch to a new job that better matches their skills and interests.”

He also said that, just like physical health, career health has three aspects:

  • Awareness: “We must take regular health checks to know our health status and risks.”
  • Healthy habits: “Information is only meaningful if we act on them. We know that to stay healthy, we must maintain good health habits. Similarly, we need to set longer-term career goals and take pre-emptive steps towards achieving them.”
  • Bouncing back from setbacks: “Sometimes, things will not go our way. But if we have kept up our health, we can get back on our feet more quickly, with some help.”

As such, Minister Tan announced a new jobs and skills recommender named CareersFinder, which will be featured on Workforce Singapore’s MyCareersFuture website.

An integration of upskilling and job search digital services, it meets feedback from local jobseekers and employers to consolidate services and information for finding a job and skills upgrading, which are complementary and often come hand-in-hand.

Minister Tan elaborated: “CareersFinder is the first step to try and integrate both functions.

“It uses data on skills adjacencies and job transitions in the labour market to help jobseekers identify potential career opportunities, personalised based on their individual profiles, and recommend suitable training programmes to help them achieve their career goals.

CareersFinder is a new feature which will only become more powerful as the data grows. We will continue to enhance it over time to make it more responsive to jobseekers’ needs.”

Career resilience matters for all workers

It’s not just for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) but for all Singapore workers, according to Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office and Deputy Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Desmond Tan.

He highlighted how NTUC has been working with workers across all ages, sectors and backgrounds to meet their needs, particularly to:

  • Expand their career opportunities
  • Enhance their career assurance and protection
  • Ensure their career resilience

He also mentioned one of NTUC’s goals is to “ensure a sustainable supply of locals in the essential trades that have a direct impact on all Singapore’s lives, such as plumbers, electricians and aircon technicians.”

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Our population is ageing but we must stay resilient

At the launch of the 2023 Action Plan for Successful Ageing, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung described the ageing of Singapore’s population as a “grey rhino”.

He explained: “We are less familiar with the term ‘Grey Rhino’ – which is a very probable event with big impact, but it is obvious and sometimes even inexorable.

“Therefore the threat is not given enough attention because we are so used to it happening, we may even neglect it. COVID-19 is the ‘Black Swan’. Ageing is the ‘Grey Rhino’.

“Ageing is in fact more than probable; it is inexorable. Because time is relentless, none of us can hold back time or stop the advancement of ageing, and the reshaping of our population pyramid is a given.”

He also further explained how the government has started to prepare Singaporean workers for an older population.

“A significant move is the gradual extension of working age. On 1 July last year, the ages for retirement and re-employment were raised by a year to 63 and 68 respectively and they will be further raised to 65 and 70 respectively by 2030,” Minister Ong said.

“At the same time, SkillsFuture as a national movement encourages all workers to upgrade our skills and knowledge throughout our lifetime, so that we can stay as employable and competitive for as long as possible!”

Career resilience: Not about protecting your job today, but your overall career health

Recently, the Ngee Ann Kongsi Institute of Policy Studies in Singapore hosted an eight-week citizen’s panel on employment resilience, designed to co-create ideas and proposals to help build employment resilience amongst the Singapore workforce.

It issued a detailed report highlighting three main challenges, faced by employees below:

  • Career self-management
  • Training and development
  • Supporting our unemployed

At the closing session of the panel in March 2023, DPM Wong shared his thoughts on the topic in a speech, saying that career health and employment resilience was about helping our workers bounce back from any employment setbacks, not just into another job but, hopefully, one that makes better use of their skills and has even better career prospects for them.

He believes a churn in the job market is part of having a healthy economy, with some jobs becoming obsolete, for example, due to innovation and technological advancements.

“But new jobs will be created – and these new jobs will usually be more productive, and will pay better wages.”

For example, maintenance workers used to have to climb the exterior of buildings to do building inspections slowly. But today, a properly trained drone pilot can do the same task in a faster and safer way.

“You see these sorts of changes happening all over the economy”, he added. It is a process of creative destruction, and in fact, an integral part of a healthy and vibrant economy.

Sometimes the new jobs that are being created take place within the same company, taking over the obsolete jobs, DPM Wong observed.

But in many cases, new jobs are being offered by more competitive firms in the same sector.

Or, for that matter, in an entirely different sector – like what we have seen in recent years, where there has been a lot of demand for data and software engineers because of technological advancements.

He shared: “We can be sure that this sort of churn will accelerate in the coming years because of continued advancements in technology and artificial intelligence (AI) for example, which will be a huge game changer. This means that many jobs will become obsolete, but new jobs will continue to be created.”

He believes that Singapore’s approach is not to protect the job, because that will only hold back the process of innovation and hinder the creation of new and better jobs.

Yet, DPM Wong, who is also Singapore’s Finance Minister, understands that such talk matters little for workers whose very livelihoods are at stake.

He concluded: “When your job is being impacted, you will feel very disrupted and very concerned. We know that the churn that takes place in the economy will require individuals to adjust to change, to keep on learning new skills.”

“And that’s why our approach in Singapore is to redouble our efforts, not to protect jobs, but to protect workers, to help every Singaporean reskill, upskill and transit more easily to take up new job opportunities!”

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