Achieving the three “Beyonds” at individual, industry and institutional levels: Minister Chan Chun Sing at the inaugural SIM Future of Work Series
To meet challenges in the future of industries and work, there is a need to re-examine systems at the individual, industry and institutional levels, said Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Education.
At the individual level, learners must go beyond learning yesterday's solutions to solve yesterday's problems. At the industry level, companies need to go beyond looking purely at credentials and also look at skill sets, in addition to having a local-foreign talent mindset. Lastly, institutions have to go beyond being education institutions to being lifelong learning partners.
Mr Chan was speaking at the inaugural SIM Future of Work Series on 20 September 2022 at the SIM Performing Arts Theatre. Themed ‘Futureproofing Employability’, the thought leadership event organised by SIM was aimed at demystifying the code of the future world of work and learning, and exploring how workplaces and learning institutions can come together to address and future-proof the needs of individuals and industries.
Addressing 110 guests comprising C-suite leaders from a myriad of industries, including the public sector, technology, manufacturing, logistics and e-commerce, at the invitation-only event, Mr Chan noted that it is not enough to learn today's solutions to solve today's problems. “We need our students and our learners to anticipate and understand tomorrow's challenges, frame them properly and seek the solutions for tomorrow's challenges ahead of time,” he said.
He proposed three ways for education institutions to evolve in their roles to keep in tandem with work-learning continuum changes: to nurture the culture of lifelong learning in learners at the early stage; to partner the industry in the latter’s transformation journeys; and to provide just-in-time and specific training modules for workers.
Mr Chan also stressed that companies should look at the relevance and currency of the skill sets
of their potential workforce, and tap into the global talent network in Singapore and beyond.
Sir James Dyson, Chairman and Founder of the British consumer electronics multinational company that is named after him, was also present at the event as the keynote speaker. He touched on how the workplace should be renamed as the “learning place” since “we get to work to learn and progress on our understanding of the world”.
“The future of work and the future of education is one and the same,” he said, emphasising that the workplace is all about problem solving, creativity, collaboration, research and most importantly, continuous learning. Citing the example of the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, he said that the undergraduates are working and learning alongside engineers and scientists who are global leaders in their respective fields.
“Unless we are learning every day, we all stand still,” he concluded.
The importance of continual learning was also highlighted by Ms Euleen Goh, Chairman of SIM Board of Directors, who noted that there is a widening gap between the skill sets of the workforce today and the fast-evolving needs of the future of work. “Institutions of learning must evolve to address this major shift, so that we remain relevant to both learners as well as businesses,” she said.
She added that SIM is challenging itself to do more to bridge the gap between learning and the future of work, and that the Future of Work Series event is an example of how SIM can add greater value to the ecosystem through creating a platform to enable business leaders to gather, have productive dialogues, and gain new insights and perspectives into the future workplace and workforce.
The conference featured two panel discussions based on the themes of ‘Future of Work’ and ‘Future of Learning’. The former, moderated by Mr Seah Chin Siong, President and Chief Executive Officer, SIM, involved Ms Lee Hui Li, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore, and Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, Group Chief Executive Officer, Singtel. Together, they exchanged views on how the future of work will evolve in the post-pandemic era.
Mr Yuen began the discussion by warning that the workforce is not ready for the future and we need to get ourselves ready. One way companies can get their employees prepared is to focus on equipping them to do “purposeful work”, and ensuring they are able to go “BIG”, i.e. have a sense of belonging, impact and growth. The workers should feel they are part of the team, able to create work of impact, and have the space to grow. “As leaders, we have to start to change our mindset. We have to change ourselves in order to accommodate this new workforce,” he added.
On the point raised by Minister Chan on the importance of institutions partnering the industry, Ms Lee said that learning has to be part of the culture of work, and organisations need to set aside time for employees to learn. On the other hand, education institutions can play an important role to impart to students soft skills, like critical and analytical thinking, and problem solving. “You don’t need to know it all, but you need to learn it all,” she summed up.
The second panel did a deep dive into the future of learning, exploring how learning and work can be brought closer together. Ms Sara Yik, Chief Human Capital Officer, SIM, led the discussion with panellists Mr John Churchill, Chief Technology Officer, Dyson, and Ms Feon Ang, Managing Director - APAC, LinkedIn.
On how organisations can build a culture of learning, Mr Churchill responded that the culture of doing things differently resonates from the top at Dyson, and management can play the crucial role in bringing people together. Adding another dimension, he said that learning should also be about listening and exploring. “We encourage that as part of our process in our research. Being inquisitive is very much a part of our working [at Dyson],” he said.
Ms Ang commented that a good learning culture should have elements of trust, care, inclusion, fun and transformation. Empowerment is also important, especially for workers who display lack of confidence, find it hard to speak up or have imposter syndrome. “As an organisation, what we really need to do is to create an environment so that people feel like they have a voice and are not afraid to speak up,” she said, suggesting that companies can look at learning from multiple angles, such as in-person training or learning route maps.
The Future of Work Series event was one of several initiatives launched by SIM recently. With its rebranding in July, SIM has a refreshed purpose to futureproof the workforce through inspiring and empowering individuals and enterprises to be successful via lifelong learning. SIM will also be introducing a suite of thought leadership programmes from November 2022 to equip those in senior leadership positions with the right tools and frameworks to manage the complexities of systemic change, and build an innovative and forward-thinking future for their organisations.