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TODAY Youth Survey: 74% think they could be retrenched at least once, amid strong belief in taking responsibility to stay relevant

85 per cent of youths agreed that it is their responsibility as a worker to keep their skills relevant for the job market, the TODAY Youth Survey 2023 found This sense of personal responsibility lies alongside some anxiety about the future: 74 per cent of them agree that it was possible they could face retrenchment at least once in their lifetimeExperts say that individuals play a large part in ensuring that they have the relevant skills for a volatile job market, as retrenchments are becoming the norm Youths tell TODAY they take up online courses, part-time degrees and mentorships to pick up new skills even while on the job, while some consider trying out new industries as a way of gaining knowledge 

By Charlene Goh & Nikki Yeo Published October 17, 2023 Updated October 17, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

SINGAPORE — Itching for a new challenge after working as a primary school teacher for five years, Ms Krystal Koh decided to leave what she called an “iron rice bowl” in order to jump into the technology industry last year. 

While preparing for this career transition, Ms Koh, who is 30 this year, took up a short coding course which she enjoyed greatly. She then left her job and enrolled in a software engineering immersive bootcamp programme from General Assembly, an education provider which provides a variety of tech-related workshops and courses. 

“I knew that teaching had honed my soft skills well, but in order to enter a new industry completely, I had to gain some technical skills that would allow me to remain employable in the private sector,” she told TODAY. 

Ms Koh, who is now a software engineer, was drawn to the technology industry for its fast-paced nature and she wanted to work in a field that is ever-evolving with innovative and emerging new technologies. 

“In the end, it is dependent on the individual to decide for themselves what type of career they want. Hence, the individual should be the one in charge of their learning to make sure they learn skills that would help them to progress in their career path,” said Ms Koh.

Many youths agree: The TODAY Youth Survey 2023 found that 85 per cent of respondents believe it is their responsibility as a worker to keep their skills relevant for the job market, while only 58 per cent believed that companies should be the ones responsible for keeping their workers relevant.

Mr Zacary Tan, who works in the building and construction industry, knew this instinctively and took action to develop himself. The 31-year-old recently completed a user experience design and digital product management course at Nanyang Technological University that he signed up for himself.

Doing this course is one of the ways Mr Tan is trying to gain a breadth of skills, as he plans to undertake courses across various fields to find interests to sustain what he thinks will be a “long road of career switching”. 

For example, he is now open to pursuing roles related to digital user experience design. 

“I would say the onus is on oneself, especially if you want to switch industries or do a rotation within a company, you have to show that you have the skills needed to rotate to a new role in your industry,” he said. 

While many of the youths TODAY spoke to said they have taken proactive steps to ensure they stay relevant, many added that having a company’s support and resources is still very important to them.

Ms Raihana Suhaimi, who is currently a deputy centre lead at preschool My First Skool, is on track to graduate next year from her part-time degree at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education. 

Her personal desire to pursue further education was made possible with her employer’s support, as NTUC First Campus is sponsoring her degree and also provided study leave for her to better manage school work and assignments.  

“The first job or the first couple of jobs is really for a person to understand what it means to be socialised into the working world. This includes the language, the behavioral norms and expectations of a workplace and to actually just learn how to do that particular job,” he said.

Through gaining different skills across various roles, Mr Tee said that young professionals will be able to discern what they really want from a job. He also believes it makes them more attractive to recruiters, whose beliefs may have evolved over the years.

“It’s no longer seen as this person is flaky for having six roles in the last 15 years, but that they have a lot more perspective and experience to offer compared to one person who has stayed at one company for all 15 years. Then that person might be seen as a limited one-trick pony.”

TODAY will be going live on Oct 19 and 20 to discuss the findings of the Youth Survey. Tune in to the webinars at https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/today-goes-live-2023-2259246

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