Could upskilling help solve skills gaps in Singapore?

ADP’s new report shows that Singapore’s workers want more training as organisations look to close skills gaps
By: | June 28, 2022

For years now, Singapore has been attracting foreign workers to fill vacancies, particularly in tech industries. The pandemic has only widened the skills gaps, as companies have accelerated their digital transformation in a search for greater resilience and agility, creating a need for a more tech-savvy workforce.

But the latest workforce study from ADP, People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View, shows just how keen Singapore’s workers are to learn new skills.

Upskilling your existing workforce is unlikely to be the answer to all your skills shortages, but it could certainly help. And having the right training and development programmes in place has additional benefits such as keeping existing employees more engaged and helping you attract ambitious candidates from elsewhere.

Any company that has a reputation for helping people to develop their careers is likely to become an employer of choice, a name that ambitious employees want on their CVs. 

Employees of all ages are keen to learn

ADP’s comprehensive survey included workers of all ages from 17 different countries, including 1,900 employees (permanent staff and gig workers) from Singapore. As you might expect, younger Singaporeans are keen to learn, with those aged 25-34 particularly eager to master new skills, but what might surprise you is how important learning is to the over 55s. In fact, interest in improving skills actually increases after the age of 54.

Employees interested in improving their skills to grow their careers:

Age18-2425-3435-4445-5455+
Percentage78%83%77%74%78%

Although most employees think it is either an employer’s (69%) or the government’s responsibility (64%) to provide skills training, it is a sign of how keen workers are that 68% have personally invested in improving their own skills.

Yet it seems that many employers are not currently making the most of this enthusiasm for learning. Only half of Singapore’s employees believe that their company invests in developing their skills – a figure that drops to 42% in the 55+ age cohort. What’s more, only 41% of workers believe that their employer invests in training and development opportunities ‘tailored to their career life stage’.

Extrapolating from these statistics, there could well be over a million employees in Singapore who are not getting the help they need to reach their full potential.

Instead of talking about skills gaps, perhaps HR leaders should be thinking in terms of skills opportunities.

Of course, workers of all ages benefit from training, and so too do employers who can grow talent from within and avoid the cost of expensive new hires. You only have to take a look at the government’s SkillsFuture website to see real-life examples of how individual development plans can create a high-performing workplace culture that benefits employers and employees alike.

Emily Razaqi, Vice-President, Amgen Singapore Site Operations, said “For us to stay competitive and continue to be at the cutting-edge of innovation, we have to bring our employees along with us, and we’ve done that by creating a culture of continuous improvement and lifelong learning.”

What can HR do to help bridge skills gaps?

It is vital that you understand your workforce. Studying the People at Work report should give you plenty to think about. And if you do not already, perhaps you should ask your employees what kind of training they would like, either in your regular one-to-ones or by carrying out your own surveys.

READ: New Possibilities: The Evolution of Work

You also need to make sure you have the right payroll and HR systems in place to provide workforce visibility — so you know where skills gaps are now and where they might appear in future. You can then identify the right talent and link career paths to your company’s specific needs.

In a world of change, we are all having to adapt. The important thing now is that Singapore’s employers work out how to develop the talent they have. Because if skills gaps cause our economic growth to falter, the cost of not training staff could be far higher than the cost of putting appropriate training in place.

And companies that do not address the skills gap challenge are likely to see another gap in future: a widening gulf between them and their competitors.

To read about more HR trends and understand how you can help your employees close the skills gap, download ADP’s People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View report.