• Nigel Nolan

Senior Minister Tharman Highlights the Need for Continuous Upskilling


Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, was speaking at the inaugural Global Lifelong Learning Summit held in Singapore on the 1st and 2nd November, 2022. The summit was jointly organised by the Institute for Adult Learning (IAL) and SkillsFuture Singapore.


In his address, Senior Minister Tharman stressed the need for workers, and particularly blue-collar workers and ordinary white-collar workers, to continuously update their skills so as not to find themselves bypassed by technical innovation and automation. He likened the need for lifelong and continuous learning and training to the field of sports, where "if you don't practise all the time and play all the time, you have a much higher risk of getting injured". Indeed, if you don’t practice and learn new techniques, older players may find themselves replaced by younger players or those who learned new skills!


Senior Minister Tharman also warned workers not to wait until their jobs are actually threatened, but to engage in training, retraining and upskilling now. "It requires not just waiting for crises, disruptions, and downturns, but also stepping up our efforts in normal times in peacetime, so to speak. It requires constant upskilling and reskilling, and regular injects of learning throughout life. This will become the norm."

Discussing the fundamental forces that are reshaping the future of work, Mr Tharman warned that future automation will be different than the automation we have already seem in the past few decades. “New, more powerful forms of digital automation are very likely to impact a much broader swath of jobs and tasks in every economy. We can't predict with precision exactly which types of jobs are going to be displaced. And indeed, there will be many new jobs and tasks created by the technological advances we've seen".


Workers therefore not only need to continuous upskill so that automation doesn’t replace their jobs, but to ensure that they have the new and relevant skills to take advantage of the new kind of jobs created by the introduction of new kinds of automation.

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