Singapore has enjoyed unprecedented rates of growth in the past three decades. We have transformed from a third-world nation to a first world nation. Industries, trade and banking has flourished in our island state. However, over the last couple of years, the job market has not been relatively favorable.
Wage growth has stagnated over the last few years. There are constant threats of Artificial Intelligence and automation that are perceived to be job stealers. Digitalization is taking away a lot of lower-skilled jobs. The government saw the threat in advance and introduced the Skills Future program to reskill employed people for the jobs of the future.
Singaporean students in polytechnics and universities don’t have he same kind of choice they had a few years back. Recruiters and HRs are looking today for niche skills that are not relevant for all types of students. There is a big shortage of tech talents and HR companies are looking to fill that up. However that benefits only certain degrees such as engineering, not everyone.
With such challenges that we face today, students and prospective graduates need more options. There is a new trend of freelance, part-time and project based jobs that are popping up. Recent graduates are increasingly looking at those. Surprisingly enough, only 59% of employees in Singapore are engaged, meaning are in full-time roles. This is the lowest in the ASEAN region.
The percentage is even more stark if you look at art and design graduates. NTU’s Art, design and Media (ADM) school recently did a survey where it was found that only about 45% of ADM graduates are full-time employees as of 2016. The gig economy is the new normal today. 8% of Singapore’s working residents are freelancers today.
Having considered these statistics, what can we recommend the graduates of tomorrow to focus on? At wearesg, we talk constantly to corporates about future trends that Singaporeans should be wary of. HR personnel and recruiters have spoken of the increasing need for roles such as big data architecture builders, data scientists, full-stack engineers and machine learning engineers – basically all tech roles.
One alternative is to become an entrepreneur. While it may sound risky to many, there are less riskier entrepreneurship careers such as e-commerce retail. Amazon, for example, provides affiliate programs to ensure that a retailer in Amazon can earn a substantial profit. There are stories of people who have engaged on Amazon stores full-time and earned $100,000 annually.
You can also learn programming. John Tan, entrepreneur turned investor turned entrepreneur and founder of the e-commerce label Controlled commodity, is working on something to address this. He runs Saturday Kids, a school that teaches programming to children. While his target market is too young currently, that can change in the future.
Each graduate needs to look at the market, asses the technological trends that are shaping it, and find a niche that they can be good at. Freelance jobs can be profitable once you identify your niche.