Building the AI-ready workforce: A switch for mid-career PMETs to the tech sector
According to the Future of Jobs Report 2020, the World Economic Forum estimates that 85 million jobs will be displaced while 97 million new jobs will be created across 26 countries by 2025 through an AI-driven shift in the division of labor driven. AI technology will have a profound effect on the nature of work for many jobs and our workers will require reskilling or constant upskilling to prepare for changing and new jobs. To follow this trend, we will post a series of articles focusing on government policies and practices regarding these challenges to learn how countries are developing strategies to build their AI-ready workforce. Our first stop is Singapore.
As many other countries, Singapore has a tech talent shortage. According to Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, in charge of the national Smart Nation Initiative, Singapore will require an additional 60,000 tech talents in the next three years. Its education system is producing 2,800 ICT graduates per year, which leaves a gap of 51,600 in three years’ time. As one of the most important business hubs in the Asia Pacific region, Singapore has attracted tech giants to setup headquarters in this city-state. However, many international businesses are concerned that the tight local tech talent pool is slowing down their speed of development. 
In its National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, Singapore plans to establish more local talent pipelines in order to raise both the quantity and quality of its AI workforce in the long run. Among the various programs aiming to meet the demand for ICT talent is TeSA Mid-Career Advance, a program under the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) initiative for mid-level ICT and non-ICT professionals aged 40+ to make a switch to tech-related careers through company-led reskilling and upskilling.
This newly designed program is supported by government, industry and the National Trades Union Congress. They believe mature workers should also benefit from opportunities created in the fast-growing tech sectors and that the digital momentum must reach all segments of the economy and society. Currently, ten companies have partnered with the program, offering around 500 tech jobs. Eligible mature workers can be hired and trained in a variety of tech jobs by one of these ten partner companies for up to 24 months.
According to the Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran, TeSA Mid-Career Advance is targeting 2,500 place-and-train opportunities over the next three years. As a start, the government will invest 70 million SGD for the initial job placements under the program. Participating companies will receive government subsidies as a contribution to the additional training costs and salaries. 
Besides meeting the tech talent demand, the program is also an attempt to fight against the issue of displacement of mature workers, another long-term challenge faced by Singapore. Based on the 2019 Labor Market Report from Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, 6,790 locals were laid off that year, over half of which were professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) aged 40 and above. The 6-month re-entry rate of all laid-off local workers by age group was 65.8% for workers aged 40-49, and 52.2% for the over-50s. These rates are considerably lower than the 82.5% and 76.3% for workers aged below 30 and 30-39, respectively.
The perceived difficulty adjusting to the tech industry at later stages of a career is a concern, as most in-demand tech-related roles are becoming more technical in nature and it can be challenging to pick up skills such as programming languages, software proficiency and data analysis when transitioning from unrelated fields. However, the tech talent shortage is across the entire spectrum of roles so there are also many opportunities in “tech-lite” roles such as technology project managers, digital sales advisors and “for-tech” roles that contribute non-tech knowledge to the development of solutions (e.g., an HR professional working on an HR tech solution). In these positions, the domain knowledge and expertise brought in by experienced PMETs will contribute in creating technology applications that meet business needs. 
Despite various successful approaches in Singapore, Wong Wai Weng, chairman of tech trade association SGTech, believes that more proactive efforts should be made, before displacement occurs and before jobs are lost. At JANZZ.technology, we also believe public employment services (PES) must act now to prepare for further shifts and turbulences in the labor market. We provide comprehensive AI-driven solutions and services tailored to the needs of PES across the globe, helping them to actively match jobseekers to suitable jobs, strengthen their labor market resilience and design and implement effective active labor market policies (ALMPs). To learn more about our solutions for PES please visit our product site for PES or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org