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Preparing for Industry 4.0


Fri, 03/27/2020 - 12:00


Industry 4.0 and the digital economy open doors to new careers and work opportunities yet to be identified. Basic STEM education prepares tomorrow’s workforce but there are developing trends that tomorrow’s workforce and employers should be aware of.

Technology will influence job descriptions not once, but many times in any individual’s career. Tomorrow’s career path may not be an upward trajectory but sideways and then onward and up again. The ability to navigate these changes require flexibility and adaptability.

Below are some observations that we should keep in mind for industry 4.0.

Postgraduates are Needed

STEM graduates considering a career in research should have at the minimum a PhD qualification. Postdoctoral fellowships are vital for those who want to hone their specialisations. To bolster scientific experience, overseas stints with reputable research labs and postdoctoral work with well-known scientists are also essential.

Being Entrepreneurial is Critical

Entrepreneurship is a buzz word but it is no hype. To be entrepreneurial, it does not mean that researchers and scientists must spin out startups. Entrepreneurship is a mindset. It means the ability to identify new areas for innovation, nimbleness in decision making and willingness to take a bet. For S&T organisations to succeed, its technical staff must have this attitude and mindset that will aid them to do their jobs better and more effectively.

Coding and Digital Fluency are Life Skills

The ability to code or write a software program helps workers construct a set of instructions to implement an algorithm to solve a problem. Every profession from microbiologists and pharmacologists to psychologists and marketers all need to know to code. There is no escape from this skill.

Linked to this is digital fluency, tomorrow’s non-technical workers must be able to discover meaning from data and communicate ideas with digital tools. Ability to do this is an advantage when seeking jobs in the S&T sector.

Go for Apprenticeships to Get a Head Start

The challenge for employers has been to get fresh hires in their first job up to speed quickly. Apprentices who have learnt new skills during their apprenticeships provide this leg-up for both employers they can get to work immediately and there is little or no handholding needed.

Hire People Who Have the Ability to Acquire New Skills

For employers and organisations, hiring practices have to evolve. Hiring managers should look for people who have the ability to acquire new skills continually because job scopes will always evolve, and formal educational requirements will no longer be sufficient to assess a potential candidate.

Continuous learning is a must-have ability. Workers today and tomorrow must be prepared for a skill upgrading marathon which does not end. They have to learn new skills to add to their baseline education to remain relevant.

New approaches to hiring are already in place. Tufts Medical Center in Boston has substituted a healthcare-oriented assessment, rather than a degree or prior work experience, as the first filter for 22 different job titles. This accounts for about 25% of its workforce. The result has been a far more diverse pool of vetted new hires.

Training the Trainers

The hunger for skills has taxed the specialists. Academia has been extensively tapped to provide executive and customised courses especially in computer science and AI. This has overwhelmed academic staff. To alleviate this problem, a “train the trainers” initiative will see the computer science academics design programmes to train experts who can then train others.

Non-computing programmes could also be set up where X-Informaticians in health, law, finance and other areas can be trained jointly by the computing and non-computing domain experts.

Update Your Skills Inventory

This is a checklist of organisational capabilities that is helpful to identify gaps in competencies and to help plot what is needed for the next three or more years.

With Singapore moving to zero manpower growth, it is even more urgent to understand the future skills needed.

In tomorrow’s automation- and data-driven workplace, the skill needs of organisations will evolve often. Job descriptions will change; some roles will become obsolete while new types of work will surface. It is impossible to predict exactly the technical skills businesses require five years or more from now. The time to act is now. Human resource managers should spend time with their business leaders to draw up future skills needs.

Retaining Talent Remains Challenging

According to the SGInnovate survey, talent retention is the biggest challenge for Singapore’s S&T sector. Employers are fighting a global war for talent. Small companies are disadvantaged because they do not have deep pockets nor the reputation to attract talent.

Instead of big salary increments, startups and organisations including public sector agencies are known to dangle juicy carrots in the form of a technical challenge to attract talent.

Visenze, a Singapore startup in machine learning and deep learning, retain its talent by offering them seemingly intractable problems to solve. Visual search problems are provided by its customers like Samsung, Rakuten and Uniqlo.

“They tell me their challenges, and I give them to my software engineers as problems to fix. They are interested in solving the problems because they can list in their CVs, the three to four projects they have successfully undertaken. This way, they get to increase their value if they want to move to another company. But in the process, they stay longer with Visenze doing important and relevant work,” said CEO Oliver Tan.

Emphasis on Intellectual Property

Industry 4.0 and the digital economy emphasise innovation and enterprise. IP leaders are crucial for organisations so that there is a focus and strategy around managing IP which includes registration of patents, copyrights, trademarks, managing IP portfolio and licensing. Currently, these tasks could be within the purview of the legal counsel, founder or a researcher.

Executives with technical education are preferred but not necessary. This is a job that needs familiarity with IP rules and regulations. It is well-suited for executives who are thinking of switching to a deep tech industry or who want to enhance their capabilities further.

In our Future Jobs for Industry 4.0 Insights Paper, we delve deeper into the emerging jobs in Science and Technology. Download our insights paper to read more on the impact of Industry 4.0 and the digital economy on Science and Technology talent development in Singapore.


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