Jobs Transformation Map launched for Singapore’s wholesale trade sector

SINGAPORE – A Jobs Transformation Map has been rolled out to help companies in the wholesale trade sector navigate the challenges from evolving consumer demand, technology advancement and sustainable practices.

The map was launched by Enterprise Singapore (ESG), Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Workforce Singapore (WSG) and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) in the 27th Jobs Situation Report on Friday (Nov 5).

ESG worked with risk advisory firm Willis Towers Watson to conduct a review using artificial intelligence (AI), interviews and surveys to identify how emerging trends will impact the sector over the next three to five years.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said one challenge he foresees in getting firms to prepare for the future comes from the fact that “many companies are not sure about the uncertainties”.

“I think what they are concerned about is how fast the recovery (from the pandemic) is going to come, how the industry will transform and whether the workforce is ready. Those are the challenges that the companies are giving us feedback and pushback on.”

Pushing transformation efforts too quickly could mean that companies may not be able to keep pace, while moving too slowly could be detrimental for businesses.

“So finding the right balance, calibrating it carefully, deliberating and carrying the bulk of the businesses along with us, are some of the significant heavy lifting that we have to do,” said Dr Tan.

He was speaking to reporters on Friday via webconference after a visit to local information technology product distributor Ban Leong Technologies in Ubi.

Last year, the wholesale trade sector contributed to 16.8 per cent of Singapore’s gross domestic product, generating $75.3 billion in value.

The sector comprises about 50,000 companies and employs close to 10 per cent of the workforce, or about 300,000 people.

ESG, MOM, WSG and SSG said in a joint release that in most cases, the use of data analytics and adoption of new technologies will spawn new job roles.

For example, companies will bank on supply chain performance managers to combine functional knowledge along with an understanding of data analytics to help make timely decisions.

Roles linked to the green economy, including sustainability managers and sustainable sourcing managers, are expected to see high demand.

Of the 53 job roles studied, more than eight in 10 existing roles are projected to undergo a “medium or high degree of change”.

 Dr Tan See Leng interacting with employees at Ban Leong Technologies on Nov 5, 2021. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

With greater adoption of digital technologies, operations coordinators, sales associates and sourcing assistants are among jobs identified for potential displacement or merger.

“Employees in such jobs spend a significant amount of time carrying out repetitive tasks which in the near future could be potentially automated,” the four organisations said.

With the roll-out of the map, companies can anticipate the transformation to key jobs within the sector over the next three to five years, they added.

Firms can adopt recommended strategies to enhance their competitiveness and talent pool. Support measures include the Productivity Solutions Grant to help them tap easy-to-use digital and productivity solutions at the early stage of their digitalisation journey.

Those eyeing more substantial and customised capability upgrading, business transformation and internationalisation can go for the Enterprise Development Grant.

The Productivity Solutions Grant (Job Redesign) can be used to reshape work processes, tasks and responsibilities.

To equip workers with skills for emerging roles in blockchain, data analytics, programmatic trading systems and robotic process automation, employers can sign up for WSG’s career conversion programmes.

ESG’s Global Ready Talent programme aims to expand the Singaporean pool through overseas internships and work.

Dr Tan said Ban Leong Technologies has seen success in hiring employees based on their aptitude and potential, and provided required training through career conversion programmes to top up their skills.

Mr Chee Hong Tat, deputy secretary-general of NTUC, which is one of the Government’s tripartite partners pushing for workforce transformation, said the best form of protection for “employability is lifelong learning”.

The Jobs Transformation Map for the wholesale trade sector is the fourth such map launched to date. The existing three cover financial services, logistics and human resources.

Eleven more are being developed to cover sectors such as retail and food manufacturing.