NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) CEO Gilbert Tan expands on the value of going for training amidst COVID-19. He advises the best steps for businesses and workers, depending on their position during this crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed the employment landscape in a way never seen before. Extending the circuit breaker has halted so many businesses, while others have been forced to find new ways of operating with social distancing in place.
Hiring trends have drastically changed as well. Many employers are on a hiring freeze as businesses are on hold. Some companies that were looking to hire have, in such uncertain times, shut their doors for the time being.
Those who have been let go, or who have been placed on a temporary hiatus, are doing their best to tide through this slump, especially the sole breadwinners. Many, fully aware of the poor job market, have played down their job expectations significantly. Today, there is greater competition for temporary jobs just to get by until the job market picks up again.
Advance your skills to stay in the game
However, with the influx of applicants, hirers in certain sectors now have a sea of applicants to choose from. They must pick those who stand out the most, with the most relevant experience or skill sets, for the task. How can those with employment gaps catch up and stay competitive so that they can secure the job?
Besides more specific hard skills that can further your career, soft skills like interviewing and resume writing are valuable too — especially in times like this. If your resume goes unnoticed, your chances of getting picked likewise dwindles.
e2i CEO Gilbert Tan discusses the employment landscape further and gives his input on the value of going for training in difficult times. He helps businesses and workers to evaluate when to go for training, and how to identify which training best suits your current job needs.
As an individual, what can I do?
Even now, there is a variety of virtual training options and assistance schemes for teams and individuals. See an opportunity for your organisation during this period? Increase your business’ efficiency and reach by equipping your team with tech skills to take your products and services online. Show that you are a forward-thinking worker and impress by demonstrating skills that will propel the industry.
With training courses ranging from applying for jobs to attaining technical skills, which should you prioritise right now? Be sure to check with the respective training providers if the workshops or courses are still available, or have shifted online in compliance with safe distancing measures.
1. Identify what training you should prioritise during this period. Assess your present job situation and consider all your job options.
Today’s job landscape is a dynamic one. In this period of economic uncertainty, hirers have grown more cautious. That is not to say that the job market has completely stopped hiring. However, these available jobs may not match the expectations and skill levels of jobseekers. The Healthcare sector, for example, is currently seeking new hires. But, these positions may not be that attractive to an engineer, who would have vastly different skills.
“Even in a crisis, I do believe that employers are looking out for workers that can help them grow when the situation turns around. While we are in a down cycle because of this virus, sooner or later, we will come out of it. That’s something employers with a longer-term vision are putting in place — recruiting the correct manpower, and deploying the correct capital and equipment so that they can grow effectively,” Gilbert shares.
If you are currently unemployed, there is a higher urgency for employment. You may not be able to wait for your sector to start hiring again as that may take months, considering the present situation. It is wise to be realistic with the openings available. Focus on tiding through this rough patch and putting food on the table.
If you don’t correct a fixated mindset, landing a job during this period is going to be more difficult. Rather than seeing your career goals completely shut down, see them as delayed.”
What many job seekers could be facing right now is a situation of “missed” matches. There are jobs out there that they can actually fill — just that they have yet to find them. Many skills are “transferrable”, meaning they can be developed to fit other roles.
e2i’s Career Coaches assist job seekers with career mapping, skills evaluation, job searching, and preparing tailored resumes for jobs. They can help direct job seekers to available and suitable jobs, and recommend them to workshops which can help fill their skill gaps.
2. Revisit the basics and strengthen your foundation by sharpening your job-seeking skills.
For jobseekers who have sent out numerous applications with no responses, the issue may lie with the quality rather than the quantity. The resumes that you are sending out could be outdated, not optimised, or not suited to the job you are applying for. Competition is high even for simpler jobs. Hirers are given more choices, with a bigger pool of candidates, to employ the best person for the job.
Gilbert advises: “For those working a temporary job or are currently unemployed, perhaps now is the time to evaluate and brush up on your job application skills, especially those who had been in the same job for years.”
The things employers look for are changing with the times. Some are moving away from standard paper qualifications, choosing to focus more on competency and attitude. This all depends on the industry, of course, but generally the workforce is getting more dynamic.”
This would be especially true for those who are in a career transition or in temporary contract job roles. They can use this period to revisit existing skills and build competencies to stay relevant and employable, for when the job landscape returns to normalcy.
Employability workshops can help those who are in a season of securing a job. Participants who attend such workshops learn more about job search trends, interview skills and salary negotiation tactics, aims to help job seekers build a solid foundation they can take off from. Once your core is strong, more doors can be opened for you.
3. Look at where your job or sector is headed, and learn new technical skills to keep up with the times.
“It’s always good to consider how employable you will be if your job is no longer around down the road. If I’m a data entry person, and data entry becomes obsolete, can I find employment in another job?” Gilbert shares.
Train with an end in mind. Before applying for training, be clear where your industry or skill relevancy is headed.”
“There are many online resources available, such as the Skills Framework and the more detailed Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs). The skills needed for your role five years down the road may be very different from now,” he adds.
Taking a forward-thinking approach to your career can help you to stay ahead of the curve. If you’re feeling lost, e2i’s Career Coaches are also available to help you uncover your career strengths, goals and needs.
Singapore’s government has also set aside a generous budget for training, so this is the best time for workers to advance their skills. There are multiple options open to those wanting to gain technical skills. Continuing Education and Training (CET) programmes seek to respond to evolving industry needs and award certificate qualifications to participants.
I’m an employer. What can I do?
1. Launch in-house training programmes to groom existing talents within the company for other roles.
Businesses that wish to stay ahead of the curve with the current economic climate need to be creative and resourceful. Be proactive and respond quickly to changes to safeguard the welfare of your workers. Larger companies with the resources and stability can take the grooming of their existing talent into their own hands.
e2i’s new in-house training support programme encourages hospitality-related companies to reskill existing workers through multi-skilling and cross-deployment. With support from e2i, the Food, Drinks and Allied Workers Union (FDAWU) and government assistance, Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel was able to embark on moving some workers to other departments to receive on-the-job training from experienced mentors. Another group of workers were seconded to sectors with a strong hiring demand, such as to the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) to be social distancing ambassadors.
2. Send company for IT training to boost digital capabilities to stay relevant in this rapidly transforming society.
With limited contact measures this COVID-19 season, businesses that can leverage technology should do so to keep business going.
A good example is how quickly some Retail and F&B owners made online orders and home deliveries possible during the circuit breaker period. Several training providers too were able to make their workshops and seminars accessible online for their attendees, marketing them via digital channels. Many business owners who were unable to put these systems in place on time are now realising its cruciality for business survival.
Smaller companies should take advantage of government training aid to raise the technological capabilities of the whole team. Tech skills are not only valuable in this present situation. They open up a wider range of business possibilities to take the company further. Taking your business online has been shown to be faster and better at engaging customers due to the increased accessibility.
e2i’s current weekly 1-day Data Science workshops, organised in collaboration with KAPLAN, are particularly beneficial for businesses wanting to get online.
This COVID-19 situation is a wakeup call to all who had previously resisted adopting technology. The world is changing dramatically quickly due to technology. Being digitally savvy is no longer an afterthought. It is a necessary step to stay relevant and ahead of your competitors. In this age of Data and Tech, don’t just survive — figure out how to thrive in it.”
“Your business needs to continue innovating, and you should propagate the idea of training for life to your workers.”
Enhance your employability by boosting your capabilities. Chart your course with an e2i Career Coach and be recommended suitable training programmes specific for your career needs. Check out our calendar of events for all upcoming workshops.