Workforce Development and what it means for a country and individual

A presentation on the history of workforce development in Singapore

Recently, I was invited to share on the history of workforce development to a visiting group of delegates from a foreign country. This gave my team an opportunity to conduct research on the topic and trace what was involved in the nation building of Singapore since independence.

The evolution of Singapore’s economy and the genesis of the importance of lifelong learning in workforce development was apparent when my team and I researched into Singapore’s history. Yet as important as they are, this has been perceived by others as a very niche area of consulting to enter. Many people have given me quizzical looks when I reveal that I am interested in these areas of work. After presenting on this topic, I am further convinced that these topics are important to anyone who wants to understand how to navigate the seas of change that are awash in today’s economies. To better understand current challenges and where we are right now, it is apt to look at where we came from.

I brought the foreign delegates through a history lesson of Singapore’s nation-building. I partitioned the fifty odd years of our nation-building history into phases:

(1) Learning to Survive from the 60s’ to the early 70s’;
(2) Learning to Stay Ahead from the mid 70s’ to the early 80s’;
(3) Learning to Compete from the mid 80s’ to the early 2000s’;
(4) Learning for Life from the mid 2000s’ to the early 2010; and
(5) Learning for a New World, from mid 2010 to the present.

I concluded with some learning points that in my view had contributed significantly to our current state of development as a nation. 

As I was elaborating on the history of Singapore’s workforce development, the delegation was very curious and asked several questions at various points of the presentation. What came to my mind then was why would leaders of position and influence fly thousands of miles to hear our Singapore story? Besides feeling a sense of pride that there are worthy lessons to learn, I am heartened to learn that there are still leaders who wish to learn from others’ experiences and make a difference in their own country. I was happy to know that they enjoyed the presentation based on the feedback I received from the organizer the next day. 

Reflections on the history of workforce development in Singapore

First, the learning journey of Singapore’s nation-building is largely very similar to what we all go through in life, whether as an individual, a corporation, a community district, a city, or a country. Each one of us has our own unique environment and circumstances to deal with, and we are all shaped by the differing obstacles we face.

Secondly, with a clear mind and intention and driven by purposeful goals, Singapore mapped out our economic strategic vision and adopted two key policy concepts of strategic pragmatism and developmental state model. Strategic pragmatism involved having both a vision and a master strategy for development and the practical intelligence to pragmatically and innovatively make it happen without at any point compromising the vision. The developmental state model involved an overwhelming policy focus on stimulating economic growth through the actions of developmental agencies like the Economic Development Board. Singapore also conducted timely strategic reviews so that if necessary, we changed our overall economic direction on key policies.

Thirdly, the government played an active role throughout in workforce development strategy to harness the potential of every individual citizen. Afterall, human resource was the only resource Singapore could depend on in her economic development strategies. While government interventions were key, they could not have been effective without strong collaboration with key stakeholders. This is analogous to the corporation’s success which is also dependent on its people, human resource departments, line managers, and leaders who drive the company’s vision and mission. Community leaders, such as mayors and members of Parliament, will not be able to move the needle of citizenry engagement and community development if there are no strong partnerships and commitment by key stakeholders. This is where business owners, educational institutions, and residents can work together synergistically to transform their community for the better. That is why a major ingredient of Singapore’s success is the tripartite collaboration between the government, trade unions and employers is the pillar of our strength as far as workforce development and inculcation of lifelong learning are concerned. The government needs the support of the employers and workers (individuals) to make the economic policies and strategies to work.

Fourthly, improvement in the policies to evolve the education and training system at multiple junctures were key to transform the nation from a labour-intensive economy to a knowledge-based economy in the midst of strong competition. Despite facing constant challenges due to economic recessions, economic downturns, financial crisis, and geo-political situations, we needed to have a productive workforce to weather those challenges as a nation and stay resilient and relevant to continue to achieve economic growth. The latest transformation of our economy is one where we are moving towards the innovation-based economy. Our challenges in this era are learning how to deal with the impending wave of technological disruptions and the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Closing Thoughts

Steering an entire economy is not easy. Every individual in the country needs to be aware of the impending challenges facing them. Therefore, everyone needs to be aware and proactive in the roles we play. Lifelong learning is now more important than ever. In this world inundated with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA), we need to be a lifelong learner to constantly keep ourselves relevant and resilient.

In my opinion, workforce development and lifelong learning are topics that concerns everyone and is not as niche as we might believe. When we funnel down from country to city, to corporations to individuals, these various blocks form the eco-system that we operate and contribute in. Therefore, ownership at every level is key to our success. Even if economic strategies and policies are well thought through, it will be futile if there is no effective ground implementation from a top-down perspective. Conversely, from the bottom-up perspective, even if people are ready to adopt the right mindset, they will be powerless without informed and effective leadership and policies. We need synergistic and wholehearted commitment from everyone to have this shared vision of a prosperous and advancing economy. In my humble opinion, we have a long way to go in this regard.

That is why I believe a national endeavour starts with an effective narrative with every man and woman in the street. With clear understanding and strong sense of purpose from each individual, we can start to impact entire groups. We will then be able to achieve our goals regardless whether at the individual, family, corporation, community, city, or the country level.

Workforce Development and what it means for a country and individual

A presentation on the history of workforce development in Singapore

Recently, I was invited to share on the history of workforce development to a visiting group of delegates from a foreign country. This gave my team an opportunity to conduct research on the topic and trace what was involved in the nation building of Singapore since independence.

The evolution of Singapore’s economy and the genesis of the importance of lifelong learning in workforce development was apparent when my team and I researched into Singapore’s history. Yet as important as they are, this has been perceived by others as a very niche area of consulting to enter. Many people have given me quizzical looks when I reveal that I am interested in these areas of work. After presenting on this topic, I am further convinced that these topics are important to anyone who wants to understand how to navigate the seas of change that are awash in today’s economies. To better understand current challenges and where we are right now, it is apt to look at where we came from.

I brought the foreign delegates through a history lesson of Singapore’s nation-building. I partitioned the fifty odd years of our nation-building history into phases:

(1) Learning to Survive from the 60s’ to the early 70s’;
(2) Learning to Stay Ahead from the mid 70s’ to the early 80s’;
(3) Learning to Compete from the mid 80s’ to the early 2000s’;
(4) Learning for Life from the mid 2000s’ to the early 2010; and
(5) Learning for a New World, from mid 2010 to the present.

I concluded with some learning points that in my view had contributed significantly to our current state of development as a nation. 

As I was elaborating on the history of Singapore’s workforce development, the delegation was very curious and asked several questions at various points of the presentation. What came to my mind then was why would leaders of position and influence fly thousands of miles to hear our Singapore story? Besides feeling a sense of pride that there are worthy lessons to learn, I am heartened to learn that there are still leaders who wish to learn from others’ experiences and make a difference in their own country. I was happy to know that they enjoyed the presentation based on the feedback I received from the organizer the next day. 

Reflections on the history of workforce development in Singapore

First, the learning journey of Singapore’s nation-building is largely very similar to what we all go through in life, whether as an individual, a corporation, a community district, a city, or a country. Each one of us has our own unique environment and circumstances to deal with, and we are all shaped by the differing obstacles we face.

Secondly, with a clear mind and intention and driven by purposeful goals, Singapore mapped out our economic strategic vision and adopted two key policy concepts of strategic pragmatism and developmental state model. Strategic pragmatism involved having both a vision and a master strategy for development and the practical intelligence to pragmatically and innovatively make it happen without at any point compromising the vision. The developmental state model involved an overwhelming policy focus on stimulating economic growth through the actions of developmental agencies like the Economic Development Board. Singapore also conducted timely strategic reviews so that if necessary, we changed our overall economic direction on key policies.

Thirdly, the government played an active role throughout in workforce development strategy to harness the potential of every individual citizen. Afterall, human resource was the only resource Singapore could depend on in her economic development strategies. While government interventions were key, they could not have been effective without strong collaboration with key stakeholders. This is analogous to the corporation’s success which is also dependent on its people, human resource departments, line managers, and leaders who drive the company’s vision and mission. Community leaders, such as mayors and members of Parliament, will not be able to move the needle of citizenry engagement and community development if there are no strong partnerships and commitment by key stakeholders. This is where business owners, educational institutions, and residents can work together synergistically to transform their community for the better. That is why a major ingredient of Singapore’s success is the tripartite collaboration between the government, trade unions and employers is the pillar of our strength as far as workforce development and inculcation of lifelong learning are concerned. The government needs the support of the employers and workers (individuals) to make the economic policies and strategies to work.

Fourthly, improvement in the policies to evolve the education and training system at multiple junctures were key to transform the nation from a labour-intensive economy to a knowledge-based economy in the midst of strong competition. Despite facing constant challenges due to economic recessions, economic downturns, financial crisis, and geo-political situations, we needed to have a productive workforce to weather those challenges as a nation and stay resilient and relevant to continue to achieve economic growth. The latest transformation of our economy is one where we are moving towards the innovation-based economy. Our challenges in this era are learning how to deal with the impending wave of technological disruptions and the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Closing Thoughts

Steering an entire economy is not easy. Every individual in the country needs to be aware of the impending challenges facing them. Therefore, everyone needs to be aware and proactive in the roles we play. Lifelong learning is now more important than ever. In this world inundated with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA), we need to be a lifelong learner to constantly keep ourselves relevant and resilient.

In my opinion, workforce development and lifelong learning are topics that concerns everyone and is not as niche as we might believe. When we funnel down from country to city, to corporations to individuals, these various blocks form the eco-system that we operate and contribute in. Therefore, ownership at every level is key to our success. Even if economic strategies and policies are well thought through, it will be futile if there is no effective ground implementation from a top-down perspective. Conversely, from the bottom-up perspective, even if people are ready to adopt the right mindset, they will be powerless without informed and effective leadership and policies. We need synergistic and wholehearted commitment from everyone to have this shared vision of a prosperous and advancing economy. In my humble opinion, we have a long way to go in this regard.

That is why I believe a national endeavour starts with an effective narrative with every man and woman in the street. With clear understanding and strong sense of purpose from each individual, we can start to impact entire groups. We will then be able to achieve our goals regardless whether at the individual, family, corporation, community, city, or the country level.

Workforce Development and what it means for a country and individual

A presentation on the history of workforce development in Singapore

Recently, I was invited to share on the history of workforce development to a visiting group of delegates from a foreign country. This gave my team an opportunity to conduct research on the topic and trace what was involved in the nation building of Singapore since independence.

The evolution of Singapore’s economy and the genesis of the importance of lifelong learning in workforce development was apparent when my team and I researched into Singapore’s history. Yet as important as they are, this has been perceived by others as a very niche area of consulting to enter. Many people have given me quizzical looks when I reveal that I am interested in these areas of work. After presenting on this topic, I am further convinced that these topics are important to anyone who wants to understand how to navigate the seas of change that are awash in today’s economies. To better understand current challenges and where we are right now, it is apt to look at where we came from.

I brought the foreign delegates through a history lesson of Singapore’s nation-building. I partitioned the fifty odd years of our nation-building history into phases:

(1) Learning to Survive from the 60s’ to the early 70s’;
(2) Learning to Stay Ahead from the mid 70s’ to the early 80s’;
(3) Learning to Compete from the mid 80s’ to the early 2000s’;
(4) Learning for Life from the mid 2000s’ to the early 2010; and
(5) Learning for a New World, from mid 2010 to the present.

I concluded with some learning points that in my view had contributed significantly to our current state of development as a nation. 

As I was elaborating on the history of Singapore’s workforce development, the delegation was very curious and asked several questions at various points of the presentation. What came to my mind then was why would leaders of position and influence fly thousands of miles to hear our Singapore story? Besides feeling a sense of pride that there are worthy lessons to learn, I am heartened to learn that there are still leaders who wish to learn from others’ experiences and make a difference in their own country. I was happy to know that they enjoyed the presentation based on the feedback I received from the organizer the next day. 

Reflections on the history of workforce development in Singapore

First, the learning journey of Singapore’s nation-building is largely very similar to what we all go through in life, whether as an individual, a corporation, a community district, a city, or a country. Each one of us has our own unique environment and circumstances to deal with, and we are all shaped by the differing obstacles we face.

Secondly, with a clear mind and intention and driven by purposeful goals, Singapore mapped out our economic strategic vision and adopted two key policy concepts of strategic pragmatism and developmental state model. Strategic pragmatism involved having both a vision and a master strategy for development and the practical intelligence to pragmatically and innovatively make it happen without at any point compromising the vision. The developmental state model involved an overwhelming policy focus on stimulating economic growth through the actions of developmental agencies like the Economic Development Board. Singapore also conducted timely strategic reviews so that if necessary, we changed our overall economic direction on key policies.

Thirdly, the government played an active role throughout in workforce development strategy to harness the potential of every individual citizen. Afterall, human resource was the only resource Singapore could depend on in her economic development strategies. While government interventions were key, they could not have been effective without strong collaboration with key stakeholders. This is analogous to the corporation’s success which is also dependent on its people, human resource departments, line managers, and leaders who drive the company’s vision and mission. Community leaders, such as mayors and members of Parliament, will not be able to move the needle of citizenry engagement and community development if there are no strong partnerships and commitment by key stakeholders. This is where business owners, educational institutions, and residents can work together synergistically to transform their community for the better. That is why a major ingredient of Singapore’s success is the tripartite collaboration between the government, trade unions and employers is the pillar of our strength as far as workforce development and inculcation of lifelong learning are concerned. The government needs the support of the employers and workers (individuals) to make the economic policies and strategies to work.

Fourthly, improvement in the policies to evolve the education and training system at multiple junctures were key to transform the nation from a labour-intensive economy to a knowledge-based economy in the midst of strong competition. Despite facing constant challenges due to economic recessions, economic downturns, financial crisis, and geo-political situations, we needed to have a productive workforce to weather those challenges as a nation and stay resilient and relevant to continue to achieve economic growth. The latest transformation of our economy is one where we are moving towards the innovation-based economy. Our challenges in this era are learning how to deal with the impending wave of technological disruptions and the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Closing Thoughts

Steering an entire economy is not easy. Every individual in the country needs to be aware of the impending challenges facing them. Therefore, everyone needs to be aware and proactive in the roles we play. Lifelong learning is now more important than ever. In this world inundated with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA), we need to be a lifelong learner to constantly keep ourselves relevant and resilient.

In my opinion, workforce development and lifelong learning are topics that concerns everyone and is not as niche as we might believe. When we funnel down from country to city, to corporations to individuals, these various blocks form the eco-system that we operate and contribute in. Therefore, ownership at every level is key to our success. Even if economic strategies and policies are well thought through, it will be futile if there is no effective ground implementation from a top-down perspective. Conversely, from the bottom-up perspective, even if people are ready to adopt the right mindset, they will be powerless without informed and effective leadership and policies. We need synergistic and wholehearted commitment from everyone to have this shared vision of a prosperous and advancing economy. In my humble opinion, we have a long way to go in this regard.

That is why I believe a national endeavour starts with an effective narrative with every man and woman in the street. With clear understanding and strong sense of purpose from each individual, we can start to impact entire groups. We will then be able to achieve our goals regardless whether at the individual, family, corporation, community, city, or the country level.

Sharing Singapore's workforce development history and current challenges with Brunei

Sharing Singapore's workforce development history and current challenges with Brunei

Sharing on Singapore’s workforce development, the 4th Industrial Revolution & the Future of Work, and lifelong learning & learning neighbourhoods
Workforce Development and what it means for a country and individual

Workforce Development and what it means for a country and individual

A presentation on the history of workforce development in Singapore
Sharing Singapore's workforce development history and current challenges with Brunei

Sharing Singapore's workforce development history and current challenges with Brunei

Sharing on Singapore’s workforce development, the 4th Industrial Revolution & the Future of Work, and lifelong learning & learning neighbourhoods
Workforce Development and what it means for a country and individual

Workforce Development and what it means for a country and individual

A presentation on the history of workforce development in Singapore