Building resilience in Singapore’s manufacturing sector

While organisations are looking to upskill and reskill their employees, more organisations should look into developing soft skills such as problem-solving.
By: | October 9, 2023

In his 2023 National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore should expect more job disruptions, particularly from technology like robotics or artificial intelligence (AI), and that upskilling or reskilling has become an imperative.

As the nation pushes forward with its Manufacturing 2030 vision, the manufacturing industry is among the most disrupted. With how quickly robotics and AI have made themselves indispensable across today’s manufacturing processes, there is a need for the existing workforce to adapt – or face the possibility of being replaced. Manufacturing organisations realise this and are doubling down on efforts to equip their workforce with the technical expertise needed to work alongside technology.

Yet, upskilling and reskilling initiatives cannot stop there. Technical skills and competencies aside, organisations need to shift gears and prioritise soft skills development in tandem to ensure employees remain competitive – and ready – for the long-term. 

For existing workforces, focus on soft skills development

Manufacturing, by its very nature, relies heavily on repetitive tasks and processes that can be easily automated. What cannot be replaced by automation or AI, however, are soft skills.

HR teams can look into developing skills like creativity, adaptability or problem-solving capabilities, which are attributes that humans can bring to the table. These qualities are critical to ensuring quality control and addressing novel issues in real-time as they arise on the factory floor. Having these skills also allow employees to take on higher-value tasks that help workers move up the ‘value’ chain within manufacturing.

Elsewhere, collaborative and team management skills are essential to unlock the potential of an increasingly diverse workforce. In fact, a recent PwC study found that Asia-Pacific employees believe human skills – such as the likes of adaptability (69%), collaborative skills (67%), and critical thinking (66%) – are seen as more important than technical or core business skills. Such soft skills become more critical at the management level to ensure every employee is equally recognised and accorded opportunities for growth. In GlobalFoundries (GF) for example, we have intensified training programmes around the topic of unconscious bias, along with a rigorous in-house training curriculum for all people managers.

Recognising the skillsets of career ‘re-launchers’

In an environment where there is increasingly keen competition for talent, employers can also consider tapping into the skillsets of “re-launchers” – professionals who have temporarily stepped away from the workforce and are now eager to re-enter it. These people could have taken a break for a multitude of reasons – whether it is to pursue an alternative career path, their entrepreneurial interests or to focus on their family. They come equipped with a wealth of skills and experience – not necessarily in the technical sense given how quickly the manufacturing industry evolves, but soft skills gained from their time elsewhere.

“HR teams can look into developing skills like creativity, adaptability or problem-solving capabilities, which are attributes that humans can bring to the table” .- Janice Lee, Vice President of Human Resources for APAC, GlobalFoundries.

Upskilling for a strong talent pipeline

Growing Singapore’s talent pipeline for the manufacturing sector starts with making the best of the existing workforce. The onus is on organisations like ours to take responsibility for training, upskilling and reskilling employees for an industry that is developing rapidly.

Manufacturing organisations should also look into tapping onto the expertise of the collective semiconductor ecosystem. For example, Singapore launched the M2030 Careers Initiative last year, which will include the development of a handbook for employers to develop structured career progression pathways for their employees. Initiatives like this present a perfect opportunity to work with partners like the government and industry association to bridge the upskilling gaps and ensure the workforce is ready to support the growth of Singapore’s manufacturing industry.

About the author: Janice Lee is Vice-President of Human Resources for APAC, GlobalFoundries.