Singapore— At the end of the 45th WorldSkills Competition in Kazan, Russia where Singapore finished 9th, bagging 2 gold medals and several other medals, Ong Ye Kung, the country’s Education Minister, spoke about the future of work.
He said that most of the jobs we have today will still be available in the future, albeit most likely in another form.
He said, ”You will need to learn new tools, you may need to apply your skills somewhat differently. You must be technologically savvy and open-minded. But the fundamental skill stays.”
Mr Ong said a programmer for customer chatbots, whose job has some similarities with those who train people for customer service positions.
While we still found programming chatbots in customer service skills, “you will also need to know how to operate the machine and the software.”
And in some situations, he said, we humans have the tendency to scare ourselves with the future of work.
“We always talk about the future of jobs, jobs we never think of and things we cannot imagine yet… but sometimes we are scaring ourselves.”
The Education Minister underlined how important fundamental skills are since they mean that “many of the things we are doing in the education system and training are relevant” to train people to be ready for the future.
”But we ourselves now need to be adaptable and open to the different ways that the work is being done.”
Even with tertiary education, Ong said, the emphasis is now more skills-based than ever.
Industry training will have more in common with university training, and the two sectors will have to work hand in hand in the development of learning material.
Additionally, future education will need to become a lifelong endeavour.
“That means you no longer front load education so much, and back-load working in the later part of your life… now it is more work and learn to intersperse with each other all the way until you retire, and even in post-retirement,” Mr Ong said.
Also, knowledge will have to take a back seat to skills.
“Essentially, we’re moving into a world where knowledge may increasingly lose its premium because it’s so accessible, but it’s how we do things and achieve an outcome, that has a premium.”
And finally, Ong said, disciplines will be more and more interdependent, using the interdisciplinary learning in the Singapore University of Technology and Design as an example.
“Innovation is critical for the future, and innovation happens at the intersection of disciplines.
Look at the wonderful inventions we see today – they are often products of interdisciplinary creation.
To do that requires a lot of soft skills – how you bring different people together, synergise what they know, and draw on each other’s strengths.”
Ong also encouraged young people to think regionally and not just be country-bound.
“Today, our region is stable, peaceful and growing… So you don’t want to leapfrog the region. You want to be part of the region and tap into the vibrant opportunities and dynamism of the region.
It’s no longer about attracting FDI (foreign direct investment) – which continues to be very important – but also to be able to position Singapore as a platform to engage the region, which means our people need to get out of Singapore. Be enterprising, and venture out.
If we succeed, then you will find more jobs that are exciting and different from today.”/ TISG