Jobs vanishing? Prepare students for new ones

I was not surprised to read about disappearing middle-skilled jobs and the possibility of robots taking over our roles in the near future ("Why you should worry about disappearing jobs"; last Saturday).

Perhaps our globalisation strategy and open market system have quickened the pace of job elimination.

Most industrialised economies have seen middle-skilled jobs vanishing due to computerisation and automation. It is not possible to bring back those jobs or to stop the trend, but we must prepare for the new jobs that will pop up.

Today's blue- and white-collar workers are different from those in the past.

Single-function machines have been replaced by high-speed automated production lines, while complicated prototype samples can now be easily made by 3D printers.

The job of troubleshooting and servicing fully automated production lines and other high-tech equipment requires mechanics with good engineering backgrounds, special skills and problem-solving capabilities.

We need to fine-tune our education system to go beyond academic examinations, and train students to meet uncertain and complex challenges in a fast-changing world.

Our future job-seekers should not only be well trained in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but should also be all-rounders who can think on their feet and work with people from different backgrounds to meet the demands of a globalised economy.

Letter from Paul Chan Poh Hoi

This article was published on April 10 in The Straits Times.

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