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Market Insights SEEK Employment trends Study Finds a Shortage of Skilled Employees
Study Finds a Shortage of Skilled Employees

Study Finds a Shortage of Skilled Employees

Ever found that the skills some candidates possess aren’t the complete package that employers are looking for? Is it because employers are too fussy, or candidates nowadays are lacking?

In many cases, it is simply because there is a dearth of skill sets available in the labour force, skills that employers require. Professions are now more integrated, requiring more cross-functional skills, while industry landscapes have become fast changing, demanding quicker adapting / upgrading than what the education / training system can manage. Therefore, some candidates can fulfill only several of employers’ prerequisites.

A study conducted by the Singapore Management University, in association with financial institution J.P. Morgan, found that many companies in ASEAN have difficulty in recruiting suitable graduates or mid-career professionals, as they were not immediately qualified with the necessary skill sets demanded by the relevant industries.

In Malaysia, only 10% of new recruits in the ICT sector are considered employable, while others are required to go through substantial training before they are considered work-ready employees. This is because ICT is a rapidly-changing industry – the courses taken by these graduates during their education years may no longer be relevant when they graduate and mid-career professionals face difficulty in the steep learning curves due to the quick technological change.

The high youth unemployment rate in Malaysia and the Philippines is largely due to the lack of competency in soft skills. Low-level of English proficiency is often cited as a factor for concern for employers in both countries. Even in Singapore, where employees are receiving sufficient training in technical skills, lack competency in soft skills.

Understandably, the intangible nature of soft skills means they are often undervalued and thus received far less training compared to technical skills. However, given an increasingly demanding and competitive labour market, cross-functional skill sets are must-haves.

In Indonesia and the Philippines, the markets face a scarcity of labour force equipped in science, technology, engineering, and mathematical skill sets. Having already built strong presence in low-skill sectors within manufacturing and services, both countries remained comfortable in extending the competitive edge. As a result, the development and upgrading of skills sets were neglected.

Thailand aims to break out of the middle-income trap, but is hampered by a workforce that is lacking in technology- and knowledge-based skills sets. Without adequate supply of skilled workforce necessary to move the nation up the value chain, Thailand remains reliant on foreign unskilled labour. This creates a conundrum to the current skilled workforce; being too few in numbers, it is unable to support Thailand’s transition into high-income economy, and therefore have to accept low-skilled, low-paying jobs.

Singapore also grapples with another problem. Its skilled and educated labour market is at the forefront of technological changes, and is therefore the most exposed to disruptive technology that could render some jobs obsolete. The island nation faces a challenge to continually manage the effect of such disruptions.

The study proposed recommendations to tackle various issues facing the nations’ labour market. Education system needs to be revamped to cater to industries’ demand for skills sets that focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Stronger emphasis should also be given to English proficiency as well as other soft skills.

Governments have to plan and devise a clear roadmap on development of skills sets that caters specifically to their economic objectives. Clear objectives allow various interested parties, including employers, to focus efforts on training and development of skills sets in the labour force. Through this, ties between institutions and industries can be strengthened to create a mechanism for consultation and feed-back, further accelerating the bridging of skills gaps in the market.

Current system relies heavily on government, be it through policies or public institutions, to narrow the mismatches between available labour market skills sets and those that industries require. Off-loading some of these responsibilities to the private sector institutions, some of which may be better equipped in terms of knowledge and experience, may yield better results.

In dealing with the disruption caused by rapid technological changes, the market needs a workforce that is not only skilled, but one that is flexible and nimble, at the same time equipped with the correct mind-set to adapt to the ever-transforming landscape.

Readily available and employable workforce is the foundation on which economies forge ahead. Failure of the workforce to change, adapt or even keep up to pace present a lurking danger that could stagnate an economy and drag an entire nation into the doldrums.

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