The latest IMD Competitiveness Ranking listed Singapore as the third most competitive nation and top in the APAC region. The ranking evaluates countries based on how they manage their competencies to achieve long-term value creation. Based on these factors, Singapore scored high on economic performance and GDP growth, but was deemed lacking in issues related to management practices, scientific infrastructure, and health and environment.
The ranking underscores a basic tenet of career opportunities and job growth: nothing can be taken for granted. Of particular note are the areas where we are lacking.
Extrapolating the results, Professor Arturo Bris, Director of IMD Competitiveness Center, said: "Singapore's education system is excellent, both in terms of input (investment in education) and output (PISA scores, for instance)."
"However, Singapore ranks relatively low in the ability of firms to educate their employees and re-skill them. In the new world of technology where changes happen very fast, it is important that companies maintain a capable workforce. It is not possible any more to rely on the training of a college graduate to be able to satisfy the demands of businesses for the next 20 years."
Indeed, ensuring that workers continuously develop new skills and sharpen existing ones to meet labour demand in growth sectors is one of the top challengers highlighted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The workforce is largely aware of this and ready to improve. 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. 78% of 18-24 year olds surveyed wished to master new skills, and 83% of those 25-34 said the same.
Of particular note are leadership and management skills.
"For leaders to succeed, they need to by ambidextrous—that is, they must be able to satisfy the operational demands of the short term, while keeping a vision and a long-term perspective that must be communicated to their teams. We do not know well how good leadership impacts organisations; however, we know very well that corporate failures are very often related to bad leaders," said Professor Bris.
He emphasised how youths and those new to the working world should quickly work on cultivating requisites such as agility, resilience, knowledge of the environment, technological skills and curiosity.
"It is not enough to learn these skills at the University," he cautioned. "Young people need to look outside, travel, meet people, gain new experiences."
Hence, fresh jobseekers should look for positions that train and challenge them rather than simply providing work. Examples include positions in their field of study with promotion opportunities, or entry-level positions that cultivate essential soft skills – which cannot be learned in a classroom – such as effective communication and problem solving.
He concluded: "Find a company that will not use you, but train you."