Lifelong Learning is Key to Future-Proof Careers in Changing Times: Q&A with Chew Siew Mee, JobStreet Singapore

November 18, 20213:03 pm3439 views

Retraining and reskilling are making its way to the forefront as businesses goes deeper into their digital transformations. Catching up on a candid conversation with Chew Siew Mee, Managing Director of JobStreet Singapore, we at HR in Asia seek to understand behind this trend.

  • JobStreet’s recent report reveals 67% of Singaporeans above 60 years want to reskill for new roles, making them the most willing to retrain among any age group. What is behind this trend?

Answer: Mature Singaporeans above the age of 60 are more likely to retrain for three reasons.

The first reason is due to the rising demand for skilled workers, especially in emerging sectors. JobStreet’s insights have shown a rise in demand for skilled workers in emerging roles such as Machine Learning Engineer, Cyber Security Engineer, Business Analyst, etc. However, candidates’ applications for such specialised roles are still lagging behind the pace of change.

Secondly, Singaporeans above the age of 60 may be lagging behind in adapting to new technologies like the younger generation. As a result, they might feel the need to upskill and reskill in order to stay relevant amid the rapidly changing recruitment landscape. Compared to first jobbers or young job seekers who are growing up in a world of globalization and have direct access to technology and information, majority already have the required technical expertise in the new world of work.

Lastly, Singapore’s ageing population and higher life expectancy also means mature Singaporeans see the importance of staying employable, with retraining one of the best ways to futureproof their position or secure new jobs to help them live a financially independent life! 

  • With older people seeking to reskill despite nearing their retirement age, what can employers do to respond to such an enthusiasm?

Answer: Employers can show their enthusiasm by offering resources that will improve workers’ employability in the long run through opportunities that can help mature workers learn and develop necessary skills.

Companies can also invest in ongoing training for employees to address the expertise gaps, as well as actively encourage and engage their employees to better understand if any extra support is required.

With Singapore being an aging population, it is also critical for employers to realise that they can play a role in contributing to the aging workforce’s lifelong learning by providing them with job opportunities and redesigning job scopes to accommodate older workers. This will further encourage the older generation to reskill as employers welcome them into the workforce with open arms.

  • Jobs are becoming obsolete at a faster rate. Do you think that a focus on upskilling will be enough to keep Singaporeans competitive amidst the looming threat of automation?

Answer: According to JobStreet’s Decoding Global Talent Report, Singapore has the highest perception of risk from automation (61%), compared to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Hong Kong.

Therefore, upskilling does play a critical role in equipping employees with relevant skills for new and emerging specialisations, which will allow workers to take full advantage of the available job opportunities in emerging specialisations.

However, upskilling alone is not enough. Currently, 80% of job applications made by mature workers are concentrated in traditional sectors. In order to remain competitive, they need to initiate change by applying to emerging roles.

  • Based on your observation, what has been the fastest growing sector in the past 2 years? Has Covid-19 changed that?

Answer: On a macro level, the increasingly digitalised workplace environment was spurred on by the pandemic and we have seen job openings shifting towards industries that are highly-reliant on technology. This aligns with JobStreet’s observations, with the company seeing Machine Learning Engineer, Cyber Security Engineer, and Business Analyst as the top emerging roles.

It is also interesting to note that the job search trends differ from quarter to quarter. According to JobStreet data, “Computer / IT” was the most sought-after specialisation by candidates in Q3 2021, while “Accounting / Finance” had higher searched interests in Q2 2021. There is also an increase in job seekers who prefer working from home compared to two years ago.

  • Digitalisation and automation are the least affected sector during the pandemic, but its workers are most willing to retrain for other job roles. In your opinion, what drives this sentiment?

Answer: Employees in the digitalisation and automation sector are likely most willing to retrain for other industries because their skillset is highly sought after across various industries, and thus are more inclined to move from one industry to another. In order to do so, continuous learning remains a prerequisite for a career switch.

  • If organizations are looking to upskill and reskill their workforce, what aspects should they pay attention to ensure smooth implementation?

Answer: Employers should use open communication channels to review their employees’ career aspirations and identify skills gaps. This would help them to get a better understanding about their employees’ willingness to learn new skills.

They can consider offering the learning opportunities in batches, giving managerial roles the exposure first so that they can become better leaders to guide their team members. This is to ensure that the learning and development investments will help them reap better results.

Maintaining regular and authentic interactions also remain essential in building trust. Organizations should address the reality that while automation will replace some jobs, it will create new opportunities as well.

While emerging jobs tend to require new sets of skills, employees should be encouraged to adopt continuous learning to expand their knowledge and skills to remain relevant and tap on available for opportunities created by automation.

  • Can you share some advice for talents on how to find and sharpen the right skills that are future proof?

Answer: In a fast-changing workforce environment, cultivating an agile mindset remains important. Employees need to constantly adapt to new ways of working, which has called attention to the importance of softer skills — including adaptability, creativity, and teamwork. These abilities can be used across all industries to help employees remain relevant; honing these skills will be advantageous for talents, allowing them to thrive wherever they work.

Ultimately, lifelong learning continues to be the key to success for talents looking to future-proof their careers in changing times.



Chew Siew Mee is the Managing Director of JobStreet Singapore. She has more than 20 years of experience in the recruitment industry with extensive knowledge in dealing with employers, candidates and industry partners.

In the course of career with, she has overseen different aspects of the business. In her current role as Managing Director, Siew Mee spearheads the strategic management functions and leads numerous transformational projects and partnerships to drive changes. Her mission is to help candidates find satisfying and fulfilling careers. 

Content rights: This exclusive interview content is produced by HR in ASIA. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in this interview is prohibited. You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content.

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