Being a conduit for mid-careerists and the unemployed

Technological advancements and automation—commonly referred to as Industry 4.0—has slowly changed the global workforce, with vast improvements in the digitalisation of processes, and performance. The Covid-19 pandemic also disrupted comfort zones, catalysed and concretised a new way of working, and learning.

3 March 2023

With the rise of automation and robotics, many jobs have disappeared. A ‘The Future of Jobs Report’ by the World Economic Forum highlighted that 50% of workers around the world will need to reskill to keep their jobs by 2025, and 40% of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change.

Singapore is a technological hotspot, and learning new skills is now crucial to thrive in present-day economy. Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said in a speech that the nature of jobs will change, that “those with the right skills will be able to seize opportunities and enjoy corresponding rewards, while those who are unable to adjust and adapt will face even greater challenges.” Such challenges would likely affect the older workers.

As such, SIM approached Howard Gardner, Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Senior Director of the Harvard Project Zero, to co-design a programme that would help older workers unlearn dated approaches and go on to produce quality work in uncertain times.

Project Zero was founded in 1967 at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and focuses on harnessing and nurturing human learning capabilities. The collaboration sought to apply Project Zero principles and ideas to a Singaporean context and was developed by researchers Marga Biller and Danny Mucinskas. Seven SIM Associate Lecturers were directly trained under a ‘Train-the-Trainer’ programme by Project Zero, with Professor Howard Gardner and the research team personally providing their comments and observations to the trainers before they were certified to conduct this programme.

Funded by e2i and the SIM People Development Fund, the pilot programme “Navigating Changes Successfully in the Workplace” was launched in 2022 for Singaporean workers who were unemployed, or in a period of role transition, to reframe their perspectives on learning, by adjusting their mental models and gaining insights into new ways of working. There are two pillars to the programme: Unlearning, and Good Work. Unlearning involves changing mindsets, habits and systems that may be obstacles to change. Good Work involves performing daily work that is excellent, ethical and engaging. This reframing of mindsets and perspectives, allows participants of the programme to embrace internal transformation and be ready for the next phase of their career.

The pilot run saw a total of 40 unemployed Singaporeans holding past senior leadership positions take part. Out of these 40, 15 were since successfully placed in jobs, with the placement process still ongoing.

One such participant is Ms Shirley Koh, 57. She was previously a Vice-Principal of a secondary school and left for personal reasons. She signed up voluntarily for the programme’s first cohort in September 2022 in hopes of adjusting her mindset towards work while looking out for new opportunities.

She said: “This course is insightful and provides many frameworks and concepts such as mindset change, unlearning habits, and understanding of systems. The most impactful aspect of the course was to embrace the attitude of Good Work. Having an attitude of Good Work means to adopt a growth excellence mindset, uphold ethics, and increase engagement for yourself and for other stakeholders. I benefitted from the engaging group discussions because my course mates were very experienced PMETs. I would highly recommend this course to PMETs who need a fresh perspective for the next part of their career.”

To support Shirley’s journey and lend a helping hand, SIM looked internally for positions which were relevant to her field of experience. Shirley is currently a part-time invigilator with SIM and hopes to find a full-time administrative position in either the education or banking industry eventually.

For more information on Project Zero, please contact