Singapore Country Director:
Sing Chee Wong
Career Success Consulting
The first significant career milestone occurred in my "previous life" as a corporate man with AIA Singapore in 1997. It was a forgettable year for many because of the Asian financial crisis, but 1997 was a memorable year for me. I won the National Human Resource Professional of the Year Award with my team and also earned a 2nd promotion. Little did I know then that I would be leaving to be my own boss just 2 short years later!
For a full-time employee, the anxiety of going out on your own is scary beyond words, especially with a hefty mortgage loan and 2 young kids. But I took the plunge anyway because I was finding it harder and harder to get up in the morning to go to work and began to realize that it was time to go. Painful as it was, though, I had to be responsible. I had to make sure that my loved ones didn't suffer simply because I was tired of being of an employee. I created a buffer of 12 months to maintain some sanity for my family while I began my adventure. I didn't just quit.
The statistics on becoming your own boss is not pretty. Roughly 20% of new businesses survive past their first year of operation. That was the case two decades ago and is still the case today. Around half of all businesses no longer exist after five years. Only one-third make it past their 10th anniversary. Even for Fortune 500 companies, the lifespan today is only 15 years, compared to a lifespan of 75 years in the 1950s.
2017 represented my 18th year on my own, which meant I beat the above odds! Yay!! Perhaps that is why I won the Marketing Institute of Singapore (MIS) Best Personal Brand Award 2017. The award honors individuals with the highest visibility on social media. It recognizes individual achievements in terms of personal assets, strengths and skills, and positioning.
After 18 years in the trenches, I developed my own cards (see below) to better help my clients and candidates, with a focus on the demand side of the equation. The supply side is good for self-discovery, but that alone will not get you a job if you don't know how the market and hiring managers think.
Being on my own has been a roller coaster ride, with no end in sight. Never knew that a cost-center person (aka support function) could survive and thrive on my own. For all the cost-center employees out there who are exploring coming out on your own, don't!
It takes a really crazy person and lots of guts to forego a stable career and "wake up unemployed" every day! And why I said don't is because in today's digitally disruptive world, you don't need to quit your job to be your own boss.
Having said that, it is time to get your Plan B in place, because there is no more job security in a smart economy that is driven by Artificial Intelligence.
Finally, run your reality checks regularly: How would you earn an equivalent income if you lose your job tomorrow?
As career professionals, we must lead by example and stay ahead of the curve. If we can't even stay happily employed (self-employed or employee), how can we help our clients to do so?
Singapore has its own Career Development association!
Launched on Jan 11, 2018, the People and Career Development Association (PCDA) aims to promote and advocate for career development in Singapore among career practitioners, and those who have keen interest in career development, but may not offer direct services in this profession. They include Human Resource professionals, Talent Managers, C-suite Executives, Line Supervisors, Teachers/Instructors, Recruiters and even parents! These groups of people exert significant influence on the career planning and development of individuals, especially in career choices of their clients, co-workers, students and children.
We also want to enhance the practice of Career Development in Singapore among our members.
It is therefore PCDA's mission to:
Although the focus is on developing career development in Singapore, PCDA also has a vision to reach out to the Asia Pacific region. Through the Association, we hope to exchange knowledge, best practices, resources, as well as visits with career practitioners and career development associations in the region.
Our mission is to:
"Impact Societies Through Career Development"
At the recent PCDA's launch, hosted by Prudential Insurance, we were pleased to have with us Ms Ono Motoko. She is currently residing in Singapore, and was referred to us by Mr Yoshimi Sasaki, Director-General of Japanese Career Development Association (JCDA). She is our first overseas visitor. We look forward to more of such visits and exchanges.
PCDA has ambitious plans to initiate many projects and activities this year. They include organizing Townhall meetings, Community of Practice activities, Master Classes, conferences, webinars, local research projects, development of action-based resources for use in Singapore, e-bulletins, website development... The list goes on. Finally, we hope to form more relationships and elicit support from friends and Career Development communities in the Asia-Pacific region.
Singapore has launched a new website to help Singaporeans acquire greater self-awareness, plan for their training and career needs, and adopt learning as a lifelong process. It is complemented by a public outreach initiative known as SkillsFuture Advice. Together, these two initiatives aim to provide Singaporeans with both online and offline access to information about skills and training, as well as job opportunities so that they can actively acquire and deepen their skills and plan their careers suitably. Each Singaporean has a personalised account which can be used throughout one's lifetime, beginning with schooldays.
Whilst schools and Institutions of Higher Learning have career counsellors to guide students from primary/elementary school to universities, members of the public and those in the workforce could seek assistance from SkillsFuture Advice for their career planning needs. This section of the website allows workers and adults looking for employment to find out what jobs that are available as well as the skills required to work in these jobs. It also enables users to identify the skills gap between the skills they already possess and the skills they require to perform the job. The site further directs users to the training/training courses available to acquire these skills.
To encourage more Singaporeans to use and benefit from the "My SkillsFuture" website, talks are regularly conducted at community centres and clubs to reach out to more Singaporeans on skills upgrading and career planning so that no one is left behind as Singapore develops. Every Singaporean above the age of 25 years old is given a SkillsFuture credit of $500 to enable them to register and attend skills training and upgrading courses. In addition there are different incentives for new graduates and mid-career switchers, as well as older Singaporeans and people with special needs to pursue and enhance their careers. For more information on this website, please refer to https://www.myskillsfuture.sg.
I am a career professional in private practice, based in Singapore. I am grateful for this opportunity to share what we private practitioners see in the trenches every day, where logical theories and neat structured methods meet fuzzy real world client demands that may not be so rational. Like they say, it can get complicated.
Since I'm fortunate to have worked with a wide spectrum of individuals, from age 12 to 66, low-risk and at-risk individuals, no formal education to post-graduates, blue collar to gold collar, I think it is opportune to share my experiences so that we can all learn and grow together.
As you may have read in earlier issues, there is now a national movement in Singapore called "SkillsFuture" that provides opportunities for all Singaporeans to develop to their fullest potential at different stages of their lives. To find out more, visit www.skillsfuture.sg. There are 4 key thrusts in this movement and the 1st one is to help individuals make well-informed choices in education, training and careers.
As a result, career development is suddenly thrust to the forefront in schools, tertiary institutions and the workforce. There are education and career counselors assigned to mainstream schools. In tertiary institutions, some lecturers have to double up as career guides and mentors! You can imagine how the lecturers feel when this "extra duty" is assigned on top of their existing overloaded plate in the name of job enlargement.
One of the key tenets in career development is self-discovery, in order to answer the 3 basic questions:
However, good intent may not always work as planned. For instance, I was engaged to train a group of lecturers to be career guides in a tertiary institution. In the meeting with the powers that be, I was told point blank that career development is good, as long as the status quo is not upset too much. Students are currently assigned to courses based on their academic results. We all know that many would not get into their preferred courses because competition is intense and few would actually know what they want to do with their life in their late teens.
In this instance, the fear is that once students discover their strengths and interests through career development classes, they may ask for a change of course of study. This could trigger an administrative nightmare of paper work and justifications if the numbers asking for transfers are significant. It is a real concern because then the popular courses would be over-subscribed and the less popular ones may have to close due to low intake!
One tool that we used in class was the RIASEC tool by John Holland, where one can find out their best fit work role with their 3-letter RIASEC code based on work interests. The 6 letters in RIASEC covers the whole world of work. To avoid the issue of students using their 3-letter code as an excuse to ask for a course transfer due to wrong fit, we focused on 2 key messages in class:
To cut a long story short, the status quo was maintained and the lecturers were enlightened. The students were also more informed about their future through career development classes. Win-win-win to say the least.
Till the next time, go M.A.D. (Make a Difference) every day!
Han Kok Kwang is the 1st legacy partner lifetime member of APCDA and the 1st Certified Master of Career Services (NCDA) in Asia. A 30-year veteran & pioneer in the workforce and career development scene in Singapore, he is also an award winning professional and serial author of 5 books on career management, including 2 bestsellers. Han is one of only 2 NCDA Master Trainers in the world (outside USA) where he trains and prepares career practitioners for the CCE GCDF and/or NCDA CCSP credentials, and also to become NCDA instructors. You can reach Han at Han@personalmaster.com
Han actually wrote a book called "Million Dollar Mission" for parents and tertiary students on how they can explore career planning effectively. The topic was also discussed at a session he presented last year at the APCDA Conference in Taipei, with rave reviews. If you are keen, you can download a free preview copy at http://yourmilliondollarmission.com/2015pmrMillionDollarMission-1.pdf
A Career Development Interest Group (CDIG) has just been formed for Singapore career professionals by a group of like-minded career professionals who are passionate about developing career development in Singapore. The inaugural meeting was held on August 3, 2017, and attended by about 100 people. Although the majority of participants were career professionals/practitioners, Human Resource personnel, company directors, recruiters, trainers and policy makers also attended the event.
CDIG's vision is to establish "a society where Career Development is respected and valued as a key contributor in guiding people towards a purposeful life, developing an engaged workforce, and enabling a strong economy." Its mission, BEST, is to:
Build a supportive community of learners
Empower Career Professionals to push beyond the known boundaries
Strengthen our professional identity and practice
Transform theories and skills into practical outcomes
At the inaugural meeting, three key initiatives were introduced to propel this Interest Group, and members were invited to participate in one or more of these initiatives. The three initiatives were Evidence-based Research; Action-based Resources; and "Community Townhalls" or communal events like talks, seminars, workshops, etc.
The organising committee envisioned the group to be one that inspires a "hands-on" and "ground-up" approach where members are encouraged to be active participants and to take ownership for the tasks/projects they do. They could participate in one or all three initiatives. CDIG would provide the platform for members to meet and share their interests and issues in career development by working in small teams on projects related to various career issues.
"Townhall" meetings would be conducted regularly for different teams in each of the initiatives to report on the outcomes of their projects, as well as to share information on best practices so that members could learn and be updated. Townhall meetings would take the form of talks, seminars and workshops on topics related to career development theories, career assessment tools, best practices, and state-of-art technology. Hopefully, all these efforts would encourage and stimulate greater interest on what additional steps can be taken in the field of career development in Singapore. Building a vibrant community of interested learners who would then transform their knowledge and skills into practical outcomes is exciting!
At the inaugural meeting, three CDIG members shared information about the APCDA 2017 Conference at Manila, the ICCDP 2017 Symposium at Seoul, and a commentary on "Proliferation of Career Development in Singapore" (please see Gerald Tan's article below). Hector Lin, who attended the 2017 APCDA Conference, shared concepts in "Chaos Theory" as presented by Dr Jim Bright, as well as insights on the "Workforce of the Future" by Dr Regina Hechanova, who specialises in industrial-organisational psychology, and "Career Planning in the Philippines" by Josefina O. Santamaria, a well-known Career Professional in the Philippines who has written several books on career issues.
Sing Chee Wong related what she learned at the ICCDPP 2017 Symposium, especially the issues and challenges that career professionals in Singapore should consider. Some challenges included being more cognizant of how career development could contribute towards Singapore's development and economic growth and identifying ways career assistance could be given to workers at career crossroads as well as to those in career transition.
Gerald Tan concluded the evening's presentations with his observation on the "Proliferation of Career Development in Singapore." He noted that career development activities are now encouraged among students so that they can make better education and work choices; used to help the unemployed to find employment, and used with the employed to help them plan for a better future. It is therefore encumbent on career practitioners in Singapore to work on resolving the professional challenges discussed, refining skills and innovating practice. Connecting and learning from each other will result in a greater impact on Singapore society.
Follow-up meetings have been organised for CDIG members to meet and identify how they would like to participate in the three initiatives. Social media (Facebook) will be used to facilitate communication among the members.
In Jan 2016, I shared a commentary about Singapore embracing Career Development as a critical component towards the strategic development of its economy and workforce. The commentary may be found at the following link The Career Development Pill for Singapore
More than a year later, I am pleased to update that Career Development has continued to proliferate in Singapore. The nation is seeing greater public interest and ownership in career and skills planning - this is evident through the emergence of new and diverse forms of Career Development services offered by both the private and public sectors. This bodes well for Career Development professionals* in Singapore.
*My personal definition of Career Development professionals are people who help others by providing career direction and career transition assistance. These professionals could be career coaches, career counsellors, recruitment specialists.
My commentary will cover the following:
Reasons for the Career Development Proliferation in Singapore
Career Development proliferation in Singapore is caused by two main factors - technology and active government policies.
New Technology Development
Singapore is one of the most internet-connected nations in the world. The total number of personal smart-devices being used exceeds the entire population of Singapore. More recently, the nation has embarked on a 'Smart Nation' effort, to embrace and leverage technology to automate and optimize both work and life.
Global technological developments such as Internet of Things, BlockChain, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data Analytics have started to influence the Career Development services in Singapore. Today, there are private and public sector services to improve job search activities and generate useful labour market information to support career advising as well as help Human Resource recruiters source candidates more accurately and efficiently.
Government Efforts to Restructure the Economy
The Singapore Government has been pushing for economic restructuring to boost the national economy over the last few years. In 2015, the national SkillsFuture initiative was launched to promote the importance of skills mastery and career development with plans to move towards growth opportunities.
To support the economic restructuring efforts, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), the national agency for manpower development, reorganized itself into two agencies: SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG).
SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) has been tasked to drive the nation's SkillsFuture initiative, promote lifelong learning efforts and advocate for skills mastery in order to ensure that the national workforce is sufficiently skilled to embrace new forms of work, an inevitable consequence of increased automation and productivity.
Workforce Singapore (WSG) has been given a mandate to look after the nation's public employment services for people who have been displaced as a result of economic restructuring. WSG also has rolled out initiatives to prepare the employed workforce to navigate career transitions.
Beneficiaries of Career Development Proliferation in Singapore
The proliferation of Career Development in Singapore has created a positive impact on three groups within Singapore: the youth, the employed and the unemployed.
Today, the youth in Singapore have more access to career guidance services than before. For instance, students studying in the mainstream schools have access to certified career guidance counsellors. The counsellors have been trained to guide students to make appropriate education and internship choices. At the tertiary education level, government universities and institutions have established their own career guidance offices to provide dedicated career guidance to their students.
In addition, several private sector entities have emerged to provide career related services to students as well as young working adults. For example, tuition services have evolved to include basic career guidance for students. There also has been a rise of online platform service providers. For instance, Glints and TalentTribe specialise in internship/first-work opportunities matching, as well as career advisory services for those in their early careers. Such interventions help youth navigate the school-to-work transition and mitigate their lack of work experience when entering the workforce.
The unemployed in Singapore received a much-needed boost when the public employment services were enhanced to allow more people to receive help through online and offline platforms. In order to serve a larger group of unemployed, job coaching and job fairs have now been made available on a virtual platform, in addition to the usual event fairs. Coaching services are also being delivered on a group basis to leverage peer-dynamics for better learning.
Within the private sector, specialised career service providers Maximus (from the United States) and Ingeus (from South Korea) have also established a presence in Singapore to provide career services to unemployed professionals. Both aim to bring a fresh service approach compared to our public employment services. Private local firms like Grab and FastJobs have developed mobile applications to facilitate job search and increase access to job vacancies. For example, Grab launched GrabJobs, an application which conducts instant screening via a chatbot and decides instantly if a job applicant is suitable for an interview.
Besides employment assistance, peer-to-peer networking and mentoring efforts initiated by the union (PIVOT ), as well as social media interactions on platforms such as LinkedIn, have also taken off amongst the unemployed professionals. Such initiatives allow the unemployed professionals to take ownership of their employment search, allowing them to make use of the most effective job search method of all-time - 'word of mouth.' The evolution of our public employment services and the newly created help avenues for the unemployed certainly promote a richer and more supportive environment to help the unemployed get employed.
The Employed Workforce
Career Development efforts are typically focused on the youth and the unemployed. In Singapore however, there is a strong desire and push towards raising the awareness of and increasing active participation in career development for the employed workforce.
The government and union have created complementary efforts to study future-growth industries, job prospects and in-demand skills. A national portal for careers and learning will soon be launched to facilitate active planning and preparation for careers. Local private sector technology firms have also sprouted - JobKred and JobTech. They deploy machine learning and data analytics to curate labour market and job information to pinpoint skills demand and industry prospects so as to facilitate skills upgrading and career planning. The government has also subsidised the cost of skills learning under SkillsFuture in order to encourage the workforce to gain new skills as part of their personal career development.
Within the community, ground-up initiatives have been launched to educate workers on the importance of career planning and development. For example, community organizations such as ToDoToDo have started to match district residents to volunteer career guides in order to receive career mentorship. SkillsFuture Advice is a series of workshops designed and delivered by the Government to reach out to the community to promote the importance of skills and career planning. Unibly is a mobile application that helps match mentors to mentees.
The various functions within the Human Resource (HR) department of many organisations have also started to recognise the importance of providing career related services to develop the careers of their employees. With more millennials entering the workforce and the constant battle for talent, career development and progression have become increasingly important HR functions required in order to attract and retain the best talent. As a result, organisations have been turning to specialised companies to provide career development and consultancy services to construct career development frameworks and conduct workshops for their employees.
Impact on Career Development Professionals in Singapore
Career Development professionals in Singapore need to recognize the growing importance of Career Development in Singapore. The professionals need to increase their competence in the field beyond their certifications and constantly seek to leverage newly-created resources mentioned throughout the commentary to ride the Career Development wave in Singapore.
This rising importance of Career Development in Singapore has led the government to develop a national competency framework for Career Development professionals in Singapore - to ensure consistency and standards amongst the professionals.
To further support the developmental needs of Career Development professionals, APCDA's Singapore Country Director, Ms Wong Sing Chee, along with Ms Wendy Lam, Mr Hector Lin and Mr Gerald Tan (the author) have set up the Career Development Interest Group Singapore (CDIG). CDIG was formed as a response to help local Career Development professionals develop and adapt to the latest workforce trends and developments in Singapore. CDIG does this by bringing the community together to work on various learning efforts; including joint development of research, resource kits for different client groups, and communities of practice. CDIG also welcomes thought leaders from the other nations to speak to the Career Development community in Singapore. (Please see Ms Wong Sing Chee's article above.) With such efforts in Singapore, there has never been a more exciting time for the Career Development profession than now!
Singapore’s only asset is human capital. In order to sustain the country’s growth, this asset is developed continuously. Initially, Singaporeans favoured academic pursuits above everything else to aid in this endeavour. Academic excellence not only ensured stable, well-paying jobs but it also touted the much-desired symbol of one’s social status. Regretfully, it sometimes resulted in mismatches between individuals and their jobs. Hence, it became essential that this entrenched social culture be changed.
Several shifts are advocated, and these shifts are acknowledged as “the building blocks of transformation” that would set the stage for Singapore’s continued progress for the next 20 years.
To support the lifelong learning and skills development culture, the Singapore Government initiated the “SkillsFuture” in 2014. Its aim is to develop Singaporeans to their full potential, and empower them to achieve their aspirations by developing mastery in what they do. Led by the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, SkillsFuture wants to develop an integrated system of education, training and career progression for Singaporeans. It will also promote industry support for individuals to advance based on skills, and foster a culture of life-long learning.
The four main thrusts of this initiative are:
There are several schemes in SkillsFuture for different groups of population.
The most well-known scheme which benefits every Singaporean above the age of 25 years is the SkillsFuture Credit. This scheme aims to encourage individual ownership of skills development and lifelong learning. Everyone will receive an opening credit of $500 which will not expire, and there will be periodic top-ups so that individuals could pursue lifelong learning. The scheme which started in 2016, noted that 126,000 Singaporeans have made use of this fund in its first year. Information and Communications Technology was found to be the most popular training area across all age groups. Currently, there are more than 10,000 approved courses which could use the SkillsFuture credit for payment of fees.
Students, “Leaders of Tomorrow”
Since students are the nation’s future leaders and economic pillars, trained Education and Career Guidance Counsellors are appointed in every school and Institute of Higher Learning to guide and help students make informed choices regarding academic courses, training and careers. This is to ensure that they select courses and careers that would maximise their potential, and make them more ‘future ready’ when they enter, and contribute as members of, the workforce.
Globalisation as well as technological disruption and changes accelerate the rate of skills obsolescence. Workers who want to keep abreast with technological advancement and growth have to deepen or learn new skills continuously. A Skills Framework has been developed to provide up-to-date information on employment, career pathways, occupations, job roles, existing and emerging skills, as well as relevant education and training programmes. This would facilitate workers’ career planning as they take ownership for their development, with assistance from career professionals where required.
A wide range of short, skills-focused modular courses relevant to various industries are available to provide Singaporean workers with more opportunities to acquire required skills. For workers who want to switch careers, there are also many heavily subsidised programmes for them to learn and adapt to new careers. All these courses may be paid for by the workers’ SkillsFuture Credit. Advisors and mentors working in the industries are appointed to guide and help these mid-career switchers identify suitable careers, as well as support them when they adapt to their new careers.
MySkillsFuture, is a one-stop education, training and career guidance online portal that will empower every Singaporean to plan their education and training for their working life. Using this portal they could discover their interests, abilities and career aspirations, as well as explore various education pathways before they enter the workforce. Individuals could also use MySkillsFuture to search for suitable jobs and manage their careers. For individuals in mid-careers, MySkillsFuture serves to inform individuals of skills gaps that they may need to address to remain relevant in the workforce.
My SkillsFuture is expected to be available in 2017.
Employers’ Role in SkillsFuture
People are the greatest asset of any business, so companies need effective strategies to attract and retain valued employees. Employers’ role in facilitating workers’ acquisition and deepening of skills is therefore recognised and encouraged. Incentives are available to employers to empower their employees to excel and discover opportunities to fulfil their potential with training and career advancement opportunities. All levels of staff should have access to achieve their skills mastery. Other more senior and experienced staff in the company could also contribute as Mentors and Advisors to their colleagues. Ultimately, a skilled worker not only contributes to the company’s growth but also to the industry at large.
With transformation shifts and development of the SkillsFuture, exciting times are ahead for the practice of career development in Singapore. Career professionals should aspire to be “top of the class” practitioners in this nascent industry!
For more information on SkillsFuture, please refer to http://www.skillsfuture.sg/skillsfuture-for-you
Singapore has attained the status of “Global Career Development Facilitation – Singapore Chapter.” On April 15, 2016, career professionals who completed the “Advanced Certificate in Career Development Facilitation (ACCDF)” course were awarded their Certificates at a Ceremony. These recipients are now eligible to apply to become Global Career Development Facilitators approved by the Centre of Credentialing and Education (CCE), USA. Ms Patricia Gates, Vice President of CCE was at the Ceremony to present the Certificates.
The Institute for Adult Learning, training division of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, initiated the ACCDF course in 2015. Currently, the participants of this course are mainly career coaches working at career centres operated by the Workforce Development Agency and National Trade Union Congress; Education and Career Guidance Counsellors working in schools and educational institutions; Human Resource Officers; and Recruitment Executives. So far, more than 100 career professionals have attended this course, and many more people who are interested in becoming career professionals, are expected to enrol for the course in the near future. The registration fee for this course is heavily subsidised by the Singapore Government to encourage more people to complete the training needed to provide career guidance.
The contents for the ACCDF course were written by a local GCDF Master Trainer and career practitioner in accordance with specifications by CCE. The materials were contextualised to better suit the Singaporean/Asian culture. As far as possible the course contents, including case studies and materials, were written with Singaporean/Asian users in mind, so that they could identify and apply the contents more readily and realistically with their clients. Additional training courses in career development soon will be introduced to provide continuing education opportunities for career professionals who completed the ACCDF course.
Singapore: Career Development for a Fast Changing World by Gerald Tan and Jeremiah Wong
This article was written to share our ideas with fellow career development professionals on how to help clients who may not be familiar with the career development process. In today's fast moving economy, clients can no longer afford to be passive in their current jobs. It is all about exploring, learning, connecting and maximising their potential opportunities! The steps proposed are based on Dr John Krumboltz's Happenstance Theory.
November 2015 Singapore Country Report by Sing Chee Wong
Singapore has designed and constructed its own "Advanced Certificate in Career Development Facilitation" for the training and development of career professionals in Singapore!
The Institute for Adult Learning (IAL), a training division of Singapore Workforce Development Agency, worked collaboratively with the Center for Credentialing and Education (USA) to develop this career development programme. The aim is to train career professionals so that upon successful completion of the programme, these career development facilitators will be able to:
The programme curriculum has incorporated Asian values, culture, and practices, so that it will be more suitable for use in Singapore. It also serves as the basis for the development of a framework for career services in Singapore.
At the 2015 Asia Pacific Career Development Association (APCDA) Annual Conference in Japan, Singapore was proud that her efforts were recognized by APCDA with a commemorative plaque "For developing a framework for career services for an entire country".
Equipping Singaporeans with Skills for the Future by Sing Chee Wong
Singapore has made significant economic progress since becoming an independent nation 50 years ago. Workers with quintessential skills are important for its continuous progress. However, skills mastery is more than just having the right paper qualifications and being good at what the person does currently; it is a mindset of continually striving towards greater excellence through knowledge, application and experience.
A new program called SkillsFuture was developed as a national movement to provide Singaporeans with opportunities to develop their fullest potential throughout life, regardless of their starting points. Practically, there will be a full system of career guidance to help individuals make choices in education, training and careers, starting from educational and career counselling in schools, and extending throughout a person's working life. It will also foster collaboration between the Government, industry, and educational institutions to provide individuals with exposure to a wide range of occupations and industries from young, and ongoing information on the changing needs of the labour market.
A generous training allowance is given to all workers so that they can participate in life-long learning. Every Singapore citizen aged 25 years and above will receive an opening credit of $500 to support his or her learning needs at every stage of life, including those seeking to re-enter the workforce. The credit can be used for work-skills related courses. Periodic top-ups to individuals' account will also be made. This is in addition to the current highly-subsidised training programmes available to all workers.
To address challenges in anticipating manpower needs and to encourage higher productivity among workers, the Singapore Government appointed a committee "Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review" (ASPIRE) to strengthen Singapore's applied education pathways. ASPIRE will work with students in postsecondary schools and institutes and to provide more opportunities for Singaporeans to realise their full potential and aspirations. ASPIRE has recommended that more career guidance services be available for both secondary and postsecondary students. As a result, approximately 300 Career Guidance Officers will be hired and trained to provide ASPIRE's proposed services within the next few years. A new "Specialist Diploma in Career Counseling" has been launched by The Republic Polytechnic, a government institution, to train some of these Officers.
A second career advisor training program is also offered in Singapore. The Institute of Adult Learning, the training wing of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, offers the Career Development Facilitator course. This course is similar to the one developed by NCDA, but its curriculum has been contextualized to suit the Asian culture. The Institute of Adult Learning's program requires candidates to acquire the 12 competencies required by the US's Center for Continuing Education (CCE) to qualify for the Global Career Development Facilitator accreditation. The Institute of Adult Learning is currently working with CCE to accredit this course.
It is an exciting time for career professionals in Singapore!
November 2013 Singapore Country Report by Sing Chee Wong
Historically, Singapore was a patriarchal society. Hence, it was common for children to learn and follow the parents' trades, or to continue the family businesses, especially during the era when Singapore was dependent on its entreport trade and related economic activities. However, after becoming an independent nation in 1964, improved economy, better education with emphasis on meritocracy, and higher employment rate changed the livelihood of the people. Career guidance was not deemed necessary then as industrialization and manufacturing provided abundant employment opportunities and workers could hop from job to job till they landed in one that they liked. Lifelong employment was also the norm, so it was not unusual for a worker to work in the same job for his entire work life.
But globalization and changing social values and lifestyles have altered such traditions. Singapore's economy has further evolved, resulting in a demand for workers with high-end and specialised knowledge and skills, e.g. research and development, banking and finance, etc. Hence, job search has become more complex as job seekers attempt to find the fit between themselves and their careers. In addition, globalization has resulted in greater competition, both locally and globally, making it necessary for workers to know themselves and their potential contributions to the companies if they want to excel in their careers. The aging population and low unemployment rate (2%), require older workers to remain in the Singapore workforce to augment manpower needs.
Career guidance is fairly new in Singapore. Educational institutions provide career guidance to students to prepare them for working life after completion of their formal education. Some bigger companies, i.e., multi-national companies seek and identify talents among their staff and endeavour to develop them. For the majority of the Singapore working population, access is available to career guidance at career centres belonging to the Workforce Development Agency and the National Trade Union Congress. At public institutions career guidance services are provided without cost to job seekers. Training is also available for job seekers to upgrade their skills, or to equip them for career transitions, at minimal costs. Job fairs are organized regularly for job seekers to apply for employment opportunities, learn about different kinds of jobs in the labour market, and network with employers.
September 2013 Singapore Country Report by Sing Chee Wong
Career Guidance or career advisory is a relatively new technique in Singapore, and not yet well-established. But as Singapore’s demography, population profile, economy and socio-economic values change the employment scene in Singapore, these changes have given impetus for the interest and development of its career services. This is particularly notable in a small country like Singapore where human capital is its only resource. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the Singapore workers are well-trained and developed, so that their talents are optimally utilized, and potential contributions maximized working in suitable careers.
Since gaining political independence in 1964, Singapore’s economy has changed from trading to manufacturing. The current focus is on high-end, knowledge-based industries like Research and Development and Biotechnology. Other established industries include the finance, manufacturing, and service industries like health care. Like many other developed countries, Singapore’s population has not grown in proportion to its economic growth which has an unemployment rate of less than 2%. Demographically, Singapore’s shrinking population size necessitates workers to postpone retirement where possible, and to work beyond the retirement age of 62 years old. Singapore also advocates an “inclusive society” policy, and people from different sectors of the population are encouraged to participate in the labor force so that they can be gainfully employed and self-financing. Among them are retirees, housewives, people with disabilities, ex-offenders etc. They are given heavily-subsidized training programs to equip them for work in the different industries.
Although employment opportunities are plentiful, many of them would satisfy the career aspiration needs of job seekers and workers in career transition. Yet many of these opportunities are not rigorously pursued. This is because job seekers often lack self-knowledge necessary for making career decisions. They are uncertain of their career interests, strengths, skills/competencies and work values, and may lack the confidence to select and pursue suitable careers. They are not familiar with Singapore’s Labor Market Information, and the range of occupations available in various industries. Hence, they tend to limit themselves to a narrow range of job openings, even though many more other choices are available to them. Some job seekers are reluctant to come out of their “comfort zone”. They prefer to stick to familiar jobs and not venture to unfamiliar ones even though the latter may be better options for them. Job seekers frequently lack job search/employability skills. This is especially true of older workers who were not required to have these skills when they started work many years ago. Consequently, the older workders may not have developed the skills.
As a result there is a great need for career professionals who can help job seekers achieve better self awareness and understanding of themselves in order to make good career decisions. Job seekers need to develop the ability to manage work expectations realistically, as well as have the confidence to venture out of their comfort zone to transit to other careers if necessary. Job seekers require reliable labor market information, knowledge of suitable career options, employment opportunities, resources, and other information that could facilitate a more effective job search. Coaching on job search skills would be helpful for job seekers who lack the skills. Since there are many training programs available for workers to upgrade and widen their range of skills, career professionals’ guidance and referrals to suitable training programs would greatly benefit job seekers and workers in career transitions.
Career guidance is gaining importance in educational institutions, and career guidance personnel are required in schools as well as post-secondary school institutions like the universities and polytechnics.
Currently, training of career professionals is rather limited in Singapore. Most of the time, interested personnel only receive on-the-job training, and attend ad-hoc courses on job search skills like how to critique resumes, conduct interviews, etc. Some may learn administration of some psychometric tests like MBTI, DISC, etc. Several Institutions of Higher Learning offer career counseling as an elective in their counseling programs. The Career Development Facilitators (CDF) course developed by the National Career Development Association was recently introduced in Singapore. This is a more comprehensive course to develop career professionals, and is gaining popularity. Some companies offer career coaching courses.
Generally, career guidance and career counseling as a profession is new in Singapore, and has yet to achieve the recognition and status that this profession has in other countries where it is better established. Nevertheless, the techniques have been introduced, and recipients of the techniques have benefitted. Career professionals in Singapore are now challenged to develop this profession to a higher level of professionalism, through demonstrations of knowledge and skills pertaining to career guidance and development, and the assistance they give to job seekers. Its impact will be recognized when Singapore workers’ talents are better managed; workers themselves are happier and better adapted to their work, and contribute more significantly to Singapore’s economy.