How We Can Adapt to Digital Disruption (NDP 2021 Special)

As we continue to navigate the disruptions brought by COVID-19, Singapore is expected to move along an upwards trajectory thanks to opportunities brought about by Industry 4.0 and digital innovation. It’s no longer a luxury of choice for companies or individuals to be oriented towards the digital space. Read on to understand how you can better equip yourselves in this era of digital disruption.

Career Guides
Gordon Chen

As we anticipate the customary (albeit postponed and socially distanced) National Day Parade (NDP 2021) celebration, it’s always humbling to ground ourselves with the values that have guided our journey in the past 56 years.

The Nation is Built Through Its People

Our late founding father of modern Singapore — first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew — understood if we relied solely on trade and manufacturing, our economic growth would be stunted. With his foresight, Lee Kuan Yew recognised that in the long run, developing Singapore’s human resources was the way to go.

We went from a trading port to an era of labour-intensive factories, and now an economy focused on skills and knowledge. Key sectors currently include manufacturing, health sciences and environmental and water technology. Our citizens received quality education with an emphasis on engineering and science, nudging them towards meeting our skilled labour needs.

Government organisations were also established to lead and nurture science and research efforts. In the past three decades, six masterplans have been devised — each mapping out five-year paths Singapore would take for research and development (R&D) — to build a conducive environment that enables research.

Singapore’s Approach Towards Development

Our focus on science and technology (S&T), R&D and innovation strengthened our position as a country with a highly skilled workforce and a knowledge-based economy. Relying largely on research and innovation to create urban solutions has also served as ways for us to live sustainably and compensate for our limited resources.

On top of embracing innovation, our business-friendly environment further encourages global companies to channel resources here. They can tap into our skilled workforce and networks, making Singapore a strategic choice for them to sink their roots, with many setting up regional Asia-Pacific (APAC) headquarters here.

From having close to nothing as we gained independence, we’ve developed and changed rapidly to become what we are today. The dreams our founders had for Singapore became reality with elaborate planning and foresight. But most importantly, it came to fruition with the willingness to adapt and make changes.

Singapore's advancement over the years due to planning and foresight
Adapting and embracing change is crucial, no matter what

What is a Knowledge-based Economy

Following the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) definition, a “knowledge-based economy” is increasingly dependent on knowledge, information and high skill. All this information should also be accessible to both businesses and the public.

In essence, there is a greater need for high-skilled human capital.

In 1998, then deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan shared the same idea in a speech. Mr Tan mentioned we should have an “enthusiasm for change”. Most notably, he also said: “We must have the mindset that the job we are engaged in will not be permanent but will change every few years, and we must prepare for this by having and continuously upgrading a broad-based foundation of knowledge and skills.”

The best way to prepare against change, it seems,

is to make changes through upskilling.

As time passed this only became more true and important. This is because of the global digital disruption to workforces in the past decade.

Ushering in the Industrial Revolution 4.0 has changed how we operate and work at an unprecedented rate. Modifying business models, retaining competitive edges and filling employees’ skill gaps are but some challenges brought about by digital disruption. Technological advances have also rendered some industries increasingly obsolete.

With COVID-19 now in the picture, the impact of disruption is further magnified. Companies  switched to remote work abruptly in light of safe management measures set for workplaces. As more people worked from home, many service providers adjusted by shifting online too. Unfortunately, businesses were not equally well-equipped to match the pace of digital transformation, and their success varied. Less tech-savvy brick-and-mortar stores were hurt the most, as they lacked both a digital presence and the know-how to establish one.

Personally, I’m familiar with this as well. In July 2020, I was let go from my part-time job as a waiter because business dwindled significantly post-circuit breaker, especially slow to pick up due to its feeble social media presence.

The takeaway becomes clearer as we see the toll disruption takes on us.

Change comes unexpectedly; either try adapting to it,

or risk losing what you’ve established.

In Prime Minister Lee’s Labour Day speech in 2020, he brought up how certain industries will be permanently disrupted in the wake of the pandemic.

Issues and problems faced by businesses and employers due to COVID-19
Businesses are hurting in the aftermath of COVID-19's rise

The head of government also said “some jobs will simply disappear”, using online shopping as an example of digital disruption. Employees in displaced jobs can only move into new sectors through re-skilling.

Upgrading your skills and knowledge prepares you for various circumstances ahead of time. This helps your skillset remain relevant and competitive amidst Industrial Revolution 4.0. Most importantly, you’ll stand a better chance at clinching a job.

Our Job Market’s Future

With re-skilling fresh on our minds, it’s important to know where Singapore’s headed. This gives you a better understanding of the needs and demands our country will have, to tackle digital transformation well.

Over the next three years, there will be a total of 60,000 job openings in the Infocomm Technology industry. Amongst these vacancies include dynamic industry 4.0 technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI),software engineering, and the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics.

We’re also seeing more cross collaboration between the government and private sectors to accelerate the growth of these areas through strategic partnerships. For instance, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Sea Limited are working together to employ 500 new Sea staff under the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) Company-Led Training (CLT) programme. Job openings include analysts, product managers and User Interface, User Experience (UI/UX) designers.

60,000 job openings in the IT industry over the next 3 years
Interesting fields you could explore in the digital realm

With more companies set to chart out their own digital transformation roadmap and embrace the opportunities brought about by digital innovation, fields such as UI/UX Design and Digital Marketing are found to be among the top 10 most coveted digital skills among Singapore employers. You’ll see a demand for hires in digital solutions and financial technology too, as the pandemic stimulated the consumption of fintech, online teaching, video-calling, and so on.

Acquiring Skills For Your Next Step

So, what should your next course of action be? You could first do research on jobs you’ve been interested in before. Or, you could plan a roadmap charting out your envisioned career path. This should be as detailed as possible.

Planning ahead for digital fields to work towards
Outlining where you'd like to go is important

Suppose you wish to expand your skill set in digital marketing, you can go to SkillsFuture Singapore’s Skills Framework Resource to map out the stage you’re at, where you wish to be and how to get there. The framework will churn out a template that includes an interview checklist, job advertisement, training blueprint and performance appraisal. This helps you to clearly visualise the core and technical competencies you need to work on to further hone your digital marketing skills.

Perhaps you’re even considering a switch in career or industry — that’s great! It’s never too late to think about it as the workforce adapts to digital innovations. A lot more factors are at play here, so it’ll be helpful for you to identify your “Why” through this free downloadable career-switcher’s framework. This can help you map out your journey and the resources needed to take the leap.

When things frequently change fast and unexpectedly, preparing for the future might seem tough and oftentimes, futile. But having a concrete contingency plan benefits you more as compared to putting it aside till the last minute.

Tip: Updating your resume or CV goes a long way in keeping it relevant, even if you don’t have new details to include. Now might be the time to make some changes if it’s stayed the same for a while. Refining the right things on your resume or CV could very well be what lands you the job!

Sometimes, it’s not a simple matter of desire to acquire new skills or switch into a new career. On top of having the right mindset and discipline to achieve your career goals, it’s also about equipping yourself with the right tools, environment and resources to help you get there.

Here at Hatch Academy, we’ll build a nurturing space together

with you so you can discover your strengths, build skills,

and be supported for your career choices.

Developing Soft Skills Is Also Upskilling

Soft skills are important as well. They take a great amount of time to learn and might be tougher to quantify. But honing your soft skills makes you a much better candidate for the job. In fact, it’s crucial to have them if you want to go far in your career.

You might already be familiar with some - being empathic, proactive or open-minded are common traits that allow you to better contribute to your workplace. Aside from these, here are several important soft skills employers look out for. You’ll understand the value behind them and learn how to nurture these traits. Being equipped with good interpersonal skills sets you apart from the rest and makes you an attractive addition to any team.

Adapting To Disruption

From independence till now, Singapore has consistently been changing; adding in the disruption from the digital transformation and the pandemic have made things rather chaotic.

Regardless of your industry or job scope, it’s normal to feel a little disoriented. You’re not alone. As we head into the future, what’s important is to stay open-minded and hopeful. In a 2020 webinar hosted by the Straits Times, labour chief Ng Chee Meng also emphasised the importance of adaptability and optimism. “Whether you are in a challenged sector or in a growth sector”, Mr Ng said, “have a growth mindset regardless.”

Times have long gone since career success was directly attributed to long-term stability. Disruption is the new normal, whether by technology or the pandemic. The sooner we embrace it, the more we can reap its benefits.

We should view change and the discomfort that comes with it as an opportunity to grow. After all, it’s the only constant.

To end off, I think it would be interestingly apt to quote the theme song of NDP 2021:

“Come whatever on the road ahead

We did it before, and we’ll do it again”

Remaining open-minded and hopeful is vital in embracing change
Let's stay optimistic and do this together!

Singapore has always emerged stronger after adapting to change, and if we could do it before, we can definitely do it again.

Hatch is an impact-driven business with the mission to make digital and design opportunities accessible for all. That's why we are committed to sharing valuable resources like these freely and openly for the community.

If you’re preparing for a job, check out these resources:

Learn more about what we do at Hatch: