Bridging the Skills Gap: How Singapore Companies Can Overcome Upskilling Challenges

Karthick ChandraSekar, Associate Director at ManageEngine, discusses the pressing need for flexible, inclusive upskilling and reskilling initiatives in Singapore, emphasizing collaborative efforts between employers, training providers, and unions to navigate the digital skills deficit and foster a robust talent pipeline.


1.What are the challenges Singapore companies face when it comes to upskilling and reskilling employees?

A common challenge in upskilling and reskilling is employees juggling family commitments and career aspirations. Given that this is a reality for many professionals, particularly for mature and mid-career workers, making upskilling and reskilling initiatives more flexible is paramount for Singaporean companies. This can be facilitated through close collaboration between employees, training providers, employers, and unions to ensure program participants can learn at their own pace.

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Another hurdle is dealing with employees who might be apprehensive about new technologies. Often, this apprehension comes from concerns about the relevance of their own roles within an organisation. It is critical to address misconceptions, of course, but businesses must also deploy effective change management to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.

2. How can Singapore cultivate a comprehensive talent pipeline that effectively enhances the digital skills of its citizens, thereby addressing the overarching skills deficit within the nation?

There’s no dispute that the shortage of digital talent and high adoption costs in Singapore pose challenges, especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises. While the government has set a goal to increase the amount of digitally skilled employees by 55%, this is still going to take a whole-of-society approach. If we’re speaking solely about what enterprises can do, then the impetus should be on developing a culture that empowers digital transformation and business innovation.

This means actively promoting best practices around data, for instance, but it also means visionary leadership that knows where the organisation is in its digital skill maturity and where it wants to be as more technology-based solutions are adopted. Additionally, organisations could consider how staff with non-IT backgrounds can contribute to bridging the skill gap. Particularly because IT programs tend to be difficult to get into, there are significant numbers of people who have adequate tech literacy and the desire to transition to a more IT-focused role but are deprived of the chance to do so. So enterprises should tap into this well of potential talent.

3. What are the challenges in terms of hiring and retaining technology talent in Singapore?

Difficulty in hiring appears to be a particularly common challenge facing many businesses in Singapore. According to a ManpowerGroup talent shortage survey, Singapore is placed as the sixth most talent-starved nation among 42 countries worldwide, with 84% of IT firms highlighting a challenge in hiring the right skilled talent they need. Due to the scarcity of tech talent, 60% of companies have opted to hire foreign talent to supplement their local workforce. However, with higher remuneration expectations, hiring and retaining such talent tends to only temporarily plug the gaps.

Organisations also appear to be grappling with how to tailor programs to organisational needs or to the existing skills of their current workforce. Overcoming this rests on pivoting to an approach that prioritises learning and effective communication via feedback loops.

4. Tips on how Singapore companies can engage their employees to devote time for upskilling and reskilling.

As mentioned earlier, effective communication via feedback loops is critical. A practical way to do this is to encourage employees to understand their expectations and interests in gaining different skills. Knowing this will help companies think about the types of courses they offer and drive the kind of personalisation that meets employees where they are. Customised learning paths will motivate employees to complete their courses step by step, without skipping any of them.

Additionally, companies must develop a system that allows employees to undergo upskilling and reskilling training without compromising their personal responsibilities.

Alternatively, adopting a robust endpoint management solution cuts this process short for businesses looking to streamline it. For instance, it not only allows tracking of employee device usage patterns—helping to spot areas where training may be needed—but also grants organisations capabilities to customise and deploy learning content directly onto devices owned by respective staff members.

5. What can other countries learn from Singapore’s commitment to upskill and reskill employees?

Singapore has taken a relatively proactive approach, perhaps because of its ageing workforce. For instance, since 2015, the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit has actively encouraged employers to invest in enterprise transformation and their employees’ abilities. Furthermore, beginning this month, Singaporeans aged 40 and older will receive a SkillsFuture Credit (Mid-Career) top-up to focus on upskilling and reskilling. These incentives drive people to empower themselves, which is something policymakers all over the world can emulate in line with their specific national contexts.


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