Here are a few things that Singapore and other lifelong learning leaders can teach us about shaping the technical and soft skills of the next generation.
By 2030, as many as 375 million workers – or 14% of the global workforce – could find that their jobs have disappeared because of automation. In the U.S., 73 million jobs could be destroyed. Those figures come from a November 2017 McKinsey Global Institute report on near-future displacement caused by automation.
While the numbers and report are new, the message is not. Technology innovation is constant and relentless. The workforce is global. As entirely new categories of jobs emerge, individuals, companies and countries are scrambling to stay ahead of the curve. It’s no secret that lifelong learning is essential for every worker who hopes to keep up.
The good news is: we’re all in this together. More good news…countries like Singapore are doing it right, giving the rest of us a running start by following their lead. Here are a few things that Singapore and other lifelong learning leaders can teach us now.
“It’s not that workers have nothing to fear from automation, but rather that companies will have a fair amount of choice over what they want to do with the extra efficiencies that technology will bring.” – Sarah Kessler, Deputy Editor, Quartz.
Singapore enthusiastically embraces automation, globalization and many other forces driving changes to the global workforce. Self-checkout kiosks at airport immigration checkpoints; cameras, sensors and GPS devices embedded in taxis to track traffic patterns and predict future congestion; and recognition as a Smart City in 2014, with nearly 98 percent of public services available online. Residents, workers and visitors expect and experience digital immersion in this city-state.
Routine adoption of emerging technology gives us all essential knowledge, important experience and a sense of confidence to carry us through the next innovation. As learning and technology leaders, we owe it to our organizations and employees to embrace new technologies and create learning opportunities that shape essential skills for our future workforce.
Invest in Lifelong Learning
“These partnerships represent another opportunity to capitalize on innovation and deliver an affordable education for people across the Commonwealth.” – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, when announcing a new Commission on Digital Innovation and Lifelong Learning designed to increase resident education and skills for in-demand fields.
The government of Singapore, when developing strategies for long-term growth, specifically called out workforce development as a critical priority area. Government programs already provide a variety of lifelong learning and workforce development programs for people of all ages, from students and mid-career professionals to seniors. They even offer a SkillsFuture Credit, which offers subsidies of S$500 (or more!) to Singapore adults for a pre-approved list of more than 18,000 courses.
When we invest in lifelong learning financially and organizationally, we lower barriers to access essential skills and knowledge. We create opportunities as well as expectations for all of us to progress on our learning paths.
“It is the civic responsibility of America’s best universities to learn how to meet these [non-degree training] needs.” – Steven Cohen, Executive Director, Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
Singapore’s colleges and universities are solid collaborators in the push for lifelong learning. One university, for example, opened a school in 2015 that expanded its offerings to working adults. The National University of Singapore’s (NUS) School of Continuing and Lifelong Education (SCALE) offers part-time degrees, certificate courses and executive development programs that are all designed to build workforce resilience.
No organization exists in a vacuum. When it comes to lifelong learning, the more employers build partnerships with local colleges, universities and governments, the more we can do together to build the skills and competencies our employees and residents need to be successful.
Create a Lifelong Learning Culture
“It is my wish that a blacksmith is motivated to become a robot builder.” – Troels Lund Poulsen, Danish Minister for Employment.
Creating the right courses for the right students is not enough. For true success, learning exists within a culture that celebrates building skills and knowledge. Once again, Singapore leaves nothing to chance.
NUS, and its Center for Future-Ready Graduates, offers popular courses designed to build the personal and interpersonal skills needed to be curious, open-minded and confident in the face of new learning opportunities. It’s also studying how people learn, so this institution of higher education can apply latest discoveries for best learning results.
The same is true for employers. A company culture that promotes learning and competency management is a win-win-win for organizations, individuals and communities that benefit from having ready, relevant skills for today and tomorrow.
“Our vision is for us to be the pioneers of the next generation. In the future economy, our people should have deep skills and be inspired to learn throughout their lives; our businesses should be innovative and nimble; our city vibrant, connected to the world, and continually renewing itself; our Government coordinated, inclusive and responsive.” – Report of the Committee on the Future Economy: Pioneers of the Next Generation.
Singapore isn’t waiting for their citizens to fall behind the skills curve. Instead, they are taking the lead in shaping the technical and soft skills of the next generation.
Ready to get started? Read this report from the Singapore Committee on the Future Economy, which highlights workforce development as a critical priority area for that government. Or contact us for a conversation about participating in a lifelong learning plan that builds the skills and competencies of your workforce, both now and in the future.
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