Can Singapore Stay as an Innovation Hub with a Rapidly Aging Workforce?
With a population of approximately five million people, Singapore is well-known for not letting its small size get in the way of leading global development in technical fields and innovation.
Singapore needs to continue to build a bold and fore-running human resources model, with highly skilled workers who are prepared to keep up with competition from larger economies and the rapid changes in technology.
The education pathway for school children is clear and well-established, and the focus now needs to expand to include older generations who have been out of school for a decade or longer. Preparing the workforce to compete in the knowledge pool of the world requires a new model of education which includes a lifelong learning aspect.
This is particularly important as we are faced with such a fast-passed and rapidly changing knowledge economy, which means that skills are becoming out-of-date much more rapidly than they did historically.
As technology advances, self-checkouts are replacing supermarket cashiers, chat-bot software is replacing call centre employees, and software designers are continually developing digital-banking apps, replacing cashiers at the bank.
To become a competitive and leading hub of innovation across industries, Singapore is encouraging residents to continually advance their skills on a long-term basis.
As local universities are employing alumni schemes that give residents access to skills-based studying programmes; Singapore is starting to see the long-term benefits of a having a high-skilled labour force and can make preparation for the potential future demands from a variety of different industries.
Regarding the rapidly ageing population, Singapore should lead from Japan’s example and focus on cultivating a culture of continuous learning to ensure that its residents don’t become irrelevant in the workforce as they get older.
Will Online Courses for Adults Become the Norm?
Usually employees with families can’t afford to take a sabbatical or stop working for a period of time to study, which means that learning has to be accessible and easy to reach at any time of day to fit around working schedules. This type of flexi-learning is similar to flexi-working.
Secondary learning institutions have been pushing the flexi-work style change; with more learning than ever before taking place remotely online. Boston University in the US has started calling the online style “boundary-less education”.
The University of Boston started distance learning back in the 60’s, with their first class of remote students receiving their weekly lecture notes via post. As the scheme grew in popularity, the university used technological advancement to start an online learning programme that now remotely teaches students all around the world.
Distance learning schemes and sophisticated education-management structures and the opportunity to connect with specialists and experts from around the world are just some of the transformational benefits that Singapore universities should strive to be like and continue to embrace.
However, Singapore should proceed with caution; rapid development can sometimes lack quality; in order to ensure that the quality of education in a digital environment remains as good as in-class education. Teachers and Professors must understand what students need to be successful and be prepared to apply it to older generations.
Singapore has huge potential to develop sophisticated education systems to build partnerships that will play an indispensable role in helping the city-state cultivate talent for the future.