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Friday, February 26, 2021
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Are you learning the skills needed for today’s job market?

The job market is undergoing a massive transformation.

Enterprises are looking to enhance the performance of their teams. As job roles are being phased out as a byproduct of digitalization, organizations in the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide are looking to fill new job roles.

How do they connect with the right talent to bring their business to the next level as the fourth industrial revolution takes hold? Making sense of the employment landscape can be a daunting task for job seekers.

Wee-Tiong Ang is CEO of JobTech. He founded the company in 2017 as an online talent development platform driven by artificial intelligence and big data.

According to the Singapore government’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), JobTech has processed over 1 billion global job postings from thousands of data sources, providing personalized career health screening that is in tandem with job market needs. Human resources teams are also given an accurate view of their workforce’s skills stock and learning progress.  

Singapore Wee Tiong Ang
Wee-Tiong Ang, CEO, JobTech

JobTech is a partner of the EduTech Alliance project for the Emerging Stronger Taskforce building Singapore’s first digital learning and skills-matching platform to keep the workforce relevant for tomorrow’s jobs.

Kydon leads the EduTech Alliance project. Other partners include SMU Academy, the professional training arm of the Singapore Management University (SMU); TaF.tc, Singapore’s first Continuing Education & Training (CET) center for the textile and fashion industry; and SkillsFuture SG (SSG), a government agency.

Editor’s Note: Our interview with Wee-Tiong is the third in a series offering partners of the EduTech Alliance an opportunity to share their thoughts on the future of learning and work.

Below is the full video interview with Wee-Tiong. You can jump to adapted highlights in the sections below:

What is JobTech?

JobTech is a people analytics and artificial intelligence company that empowers people leaders to develop their people for new work realities and the future of work that’s driven by actual business needs and labor market needs.

JobTech is actually a B2B company. Through the EduTech Alliance, we hope to bring our products and services to service the general public. A lot of people have said that our data and algorithms are more useful for people on the street than enterprises.

Who benefits the most from labor market data? I think it’s people who are looking for future careers, jobs, and learning opportunities. Even though as a business we don’t service the general public now, through the EduTech Alliance it’s a step for us to start doing that.

What are the challenges of the job market in Southeast Asia?

I think countries in Southeast Asia that have very strong government support, like Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines — we actually see an increase in the number of job vacancies out there in the market. That’s strange in this COVID-19 pandemic.

And that’s because the government has been providing a lot of financial support to companies, to their employees, to accelerate their companies vision even though there’s a slowdown in business.

There’s more demand out there. The challenge is whether the supply — the talent pool — is equipped to do those jobs. The government has been also providing a lot of learning opportunities for the public.

But however, I think that there’s still a gap in the sophistication, in terms of recommendations of learning, so that it can be tailored to an individual’s specific needs and aspirations. 

How can employers better understand employee motivation?

Employees these days work for a purpose. They work for a vision. They aspire to grow with the company. But there are a lot of employers that hides company information from employees. A lot of them has the traditional thinking that, “You are my employees. Just work.”

I think that has to change. I think employers need to engage the employees better. They need to be able to articulate the company’s vision. The roadmap for the near term, for the future to their employees.

So that they feel more emotionally attached to the companies that they’re working for. And if employers can engage their employees better, I think that will definitely lead to reduced turnover from from the employees. 

Does workplace training help employee retention?

I would think so. I think I think there are two different schools of thought. I think if you train your workforce, you might be afraid that these people will leave you because there are better opportunities out there.

But on the other hand, I think if you train your workforce and if you’re really serious about training your workforce, I think people appreciate your efforts. Personally, I don’t think that’s a formula that says don’t train because they will leave, or train and they will stick around.

I think this is the way the world is moving. Even if you don’t train them, they will train themselves. I think people are starting to realize the importance of lifelong learning. So even if you don’t train your employees during office hours, the good ones will do their own things outside of office hours and that’s something you can’t stop. 

What skills are needed for the future of work?

I have to agree that skills are changing at an alarming speed. But something remains the same. And that’s critical core skills. These are soft skills like adaptability and learning agility.

I think what’s most important is the grit that pushes people through the new work realities and the future of work.

These critical soft skills are really important because it’s not about learning hard skills, like data science, that will ensure your success. But I think it’s the soft skills aspect of humans that will push humans to adapt to this new work reality. 

How has education and entering the job market changed?

Gone are the days where you get a university degree and work for 40 years and you retire. I think today at the speed of how work has changed, a person will probably have to do four to five careers. And the mindset of really recognizing the fact that it’s going to happen is very important. I don’t think that can be taught in textbooks. I think it will come naturally. 

Is lifelong learning a mindset shared across the region?

Yes. I think learning systems like Coursera, Udemy, and other open learning have been proliferating around the region. The business has been growing quite rapidly. And the reason why is people are starting to realize that lifelong learning is important.

I think what is lacking is, you know, lifelong learning is a very vague word. Learn for what? Learn for personal interest, or learn for career advancement or future-proofing your career? I think people require more sophisticated tools to help them make decisions on learning.

In the Southeast Asia labor market there’s more talent supply than demand. I think in developing countries the spirit of learning is stronger than in Singapore because our labor market is very tight. We have more job vacancies than talent, in a sense.

People are busy with their day to day that we tend to neglect learning. And I think the Covid situation has actually changed that a little. In this sense, I think, adversity actually changed our mindset.

Has remote work changed the job market?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major shift in the work environment. In JobTech, we have observed a four times increase in the number of jobs that mentioned working remotely or working from home.

Personally, I have been facing the limitations of virtual meetings and Zoom calls. The reason is when I’m presenting something, I’m presenting to my screen. I cannot observe the body language of people and even though that is the new work reality in this crisis, I personally feel that this is temporary. I think the physical work environment is still very important. 

What are the opportunities for Singapore’s workforce beyond its borders?

This four-fold increase in the number of jobs that mentioned working remotely, it’s not a phenomenon just in Singapore. It’s worldwide. Working remotely means that I don’t have to travel to the office. So so essentially a Singaporean can be sitting at home but working for a company in a different time zone.

I think these kinds of arrangements are going to grow. The challenge is then how do you manage the output of the employees, the KPI of the employees. When you know these employees don’t go to the office and you don’t see them all the time. 

Around the region in Southeast Asia, what I realized is there are a lot of huge tech companies that are coming up in Vietnam and the Philippines. And they’re looking for talent not just within the country, but they’re looking for talent in Singapore as well. 

Because as Singaporeans, we’re lucky enough to have progressed this far. We do have the experience to handle certain things, we do have the skills that the talent pool in these countries may not have. So they’re actively looking out for Singaporeans, for example, to work in Vietnam, not the other way around. 

Singaporeans may not be aware of situations like this because we are traditionally known as the importer of foreign talents and export talent to first world countries like the U.S. and Europe. 

But I think things are changing.There are a lot of really amazing companies that have sprouted in Southeast Asia. They’re looking for talent in Singapore. 

LEARNTech Asia
LEARNTech Asia is telling the story of innovation in learning by all communities in Asia, whether through the use of technology or innovative practices by educators, non-profit organizations, and industry to enhance human capacity in whatever unique circumstances they are in.

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