The Care Economy is a vibrant field that is continuously innovating ways to care for, support and empower citizens to reach their full potential.
Singapore’s diverse and ageing population poses an ongoing demand growth for care services. With one in four citizens expected to reach 65 and above by 2030 17, the government has taken steps to address the need for various care services to promote preventive health measures, including proactive initiatives such as Healthier SG.
Health technology continues to be a key enabler in expanding care services through virtual consultation and ward management and enabling coordinated care provision supported by the National Electronic Health Record.
Education services are an integral part of the Care Economy. Singapore adopts a holistic approach to developing its citizens, beginning with early childhood education and continuing through lifelong learning.
Employers play a major role in adopting a skills-based talent development and management approach to address skills competitiveness. The ongoing innovation initiated by the stakeholders within the lifelong learning ecosystem will continue to strengthen the responsiveness and scalability of Singapore’s reskilling and upskilling efforts.
As the Care Economy transforms, care professionals will correspondingly embrace new work practices, augment their work with technologies, and maintain their learning agility to acquire new skills.
A. High Demand Growth
These skills are in niche and specialised domains with limited transferability.
Examples of Skills:
- Learning Mode Design
- HR Practice Implementation
B. High Demand Growth
These skills signify the demand for targeted and personalised care services. Skills that support learning at the workplace are seeing significant increase in demand.
Examples of Skills:
- Community Partnership
- Professional Consultation
C. Moderate Demand Growth
These skills are specialised within specific care areas or have stabilised in demand.
Examples of Skills:
- Staff Training Facilitation
- Pharmacy IT Management
D. Moderate Demand Growth
These skills are required to support organisational transformation through human interaction, sound operations management and employee communications.
Examples of Skills:
- Change Management
- Staff Continuous Learning
Ongoing demand for care services spur demand for skills that support holistic care provision and innovative business models.
Community Partnership and Professional Consultation, have experienced high demand. These skills are required by various job roles such as medical social workers, early intervention educators, and psychologists.
Singapore’s labour market remains tight, and volunteers remain a vital augmented resource in segments of the Care Economy, particularly in areas such as befriending seniors and mentoring youths. These social support services have led to a surge in demand for skills such as Volunteer Retention and Engagement and Mentoring for Youth. Staff Communication and Engagement, as well as Coaching and Mentoring skills, also remain important to hiring many job roles to ensure staff are aligned with the organisations’ transformation journey and skilled accordingly.
With ongoing changes in the Care Economy, employers recognise that innovating business models would require them to keep abreast with best practices, use technology to harness services, and involve staff in ideation. Skills experiencing high growth and sought after in many job roles include Business Opportunities Development, Research Data Collection and Management and Operational Excellence.
Employers continue to demand skills that enhance service experience and service delivery value chains.
Continuous Improvement Management is essential to enhance service quality and respond to changing business environments. Staff members require this skill at all levels to identify issues, brainstorm workable solutions, and implement change. Various job roles in care services provision require this skill, from frontliners such as staff nurses and operation executives, to middle-office enablers, such as facilities managers.
Ethical and Professional Integrity is a vital skill in the Care Economy as it builds trust, upholds moral principles, maintains confidentiality and promotes patient/client autonomy. Many job roles require this skill, including teacher aides, centre managers, policy officers and researchers.
Care service recipients are often vulnerable and expect individualised care tailored to their needs. Excellence in Service ensures that care providers can deliver responsive services to the needs of the individuals and their families. Job roles requiring this skill include: healthcare assistants, patient service executives and allied health professionals.
Demand for care skills is increasing because professionals within and beyond the Care Economy require them to achieve collective care outcomes.
Practice Supervision provides a structured and supportive process for professionals to reflect on their practice, identify areas for improvement, and develop new skills and competencies. This skill is not only needed by care professionals in healthcare, social service and early childhood sectors, but is increasingly in demand by employers for researchers, site supervisors, and sous chefs.
Professional Consultation enables interdisciplinary teams comprising medical and social service professionals to work together to address client’s’ physical, emotional, and social needs. Job roles requiring this skill include care staff, occupational therapists, nurse managers, and social service workers.
Employers are looking to Mental Health and Well-being Support to promote good mental health practices at the workplace. Job roles requiring this skill include business leaders, like a head of department or director, to lead in this effort, especially in high-stress environments. .
Today, about 1 in 5 citizens is 65 years and above. By 2030, it would be almost 1 in 4 citizens over 6518. This is a familiar narrative, and indeed, we are on the travellator to be a super-aged society. While Singapore
is building more healthcare facilities in anticipation of expected healthcare needs, it is imperative that we make a parallel and timely pivot in care models for a more sustainable healthcare system which would otherwise burden
Healthier SG was launched recently, shifting emphasis from acute care to preventive care. It calls for healthcare institutions to go beyond the familiar operating models, by collaborating with one another and with community and social care partners, to encourage healthy individuals to stay healthy and for discharged patients to be cared for comfortably at home and in their community.
What does this mean in terms of priority skills for the Care Economy? It calls for healthcare professionals to develop Community Partnership skills to establish and foster partnerships with community stakeholders, through a culture of collaboration, to develop mutually beneficial programmes for residents, patients, and their caregivers. Operational Excellence and service design are critical to designing a user-centred healthcare experience that yields effectiveness and efficiency. Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s (TTSH) Integrated Care Hub (ICH) is designed to facilitate rehabilitation at every moment, such as allowing eligible patients to self-administer medications, to easing the transition from discharge to home and community.
Digitalisation is a key enabler for easier access to care and services in patients’ homes through remote monitoring technologies, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI). The Mobile Inpatient Care at Home (MIC@Home) enables patients to receive hospital-type care in the comfort of their homes through teleconsultations and home visits by healthcare professionals until they are deemed fit for discharge. Practice Supervision is another required skill for healthcare professionals to scale the use of digitalisation in a safe and ethical way. Our medical 3D printing centre, which started operations in 2020 with the printing of jigs or custom tools to aid in surgery, has since honed its capabilities to print custom-made prostheses, such as prosthetic noses for cancer survivors.
A multi-generational workplace is becoming common in the healthcare industry as well. Staff Engagement and Communication is an essential skill to manage the dynamics of a multi-generational workforce, and bring out the best in our people to serve the mission we have. One of TTSH’s workforce transformation strategies is to build a competent and future-ready workforce through annual competency and training framework reviews and learning needs analysis for all staff.
The skill, Effective Client Communication, is expected to grow in demand in the healthcare sector, especially as we advocate for residents, patients, and their caregivers to take charge of their healthcare needs. This requires healthcare professionals to understand ‘what matters’ to our ‘clients’, for an effective nudging to adopt a healthy lifestyle and follow through of treatment plans.
18 Population Brief 2022, jointly published by National Population and Talent Division, Strategy Group, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore Department of Statistics, Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority and Ministry of Manpower
Spreadsheets and schedules: A life in finance to a career in operations
After 12 years in finance, Chua Wan Ting was comfortable in her role and doing well in her career at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). But, this curious lady wanted to explore ‘the other side’ – specifically, the other side of the spreadsheets and budgets she received from her colleagues in the operations department.
A curiosity that led to a career switch
Wan Ting wanted to experience what the hospital was like outside of the finance office, where communications typically revolved around emails and phone calls. In the office, decisions were always made with numbers in mind, and Wan Ting wanted to see – with her own eyes – how the budgets she looked at every day, were being used for the betterment of the hospital and its patients.
When opportunity knocked and Wan Ting learnt about an available position in TTSH’s Hospitality & Environmental Services department, she leapt at the chance and to her delight, was brought into the team as an executive.
Essential skills in the care economy
“In this position, Inter-professional Collaboration and Continuous Improvement Management are incredibly important.” Wan Ting shares.
“In an operations role at a hospital, the main part of our job is working with outsourced vendors and end users. It’s our responsibility to create a scope of work, working closely with users to determine the amount of manpower needed, and make sure everything stays within budget.” Continuing, Wan Ting details, “That’s why Continuous Improvement Management is key. We must know how to keep improving productivity and optimising the resources we have. This way, we can serve patients better, without necessarily increasing costs.
Wan Ting places ‘Inter-professional Collaboration’ at the top of her list of ‘must have skills’ – especially for operations professionals in the Care Economy. Explaining her decision, Wan Ting elaborates, “Building good relationships with people is the key to getting things done. In a hospital, we often have to make last-minute ad-hoc requests, and getting vendors to agree to these requests can be tricky.
“But, if you’ve managed to develop rapport with them, they will be more willing to help when you reach out to them – and they’ll be happier while doing so, too!”
Finding joy in a new role
11 months into her new career, Wan Ting is delighted with all the learning opportunities she has received – primarily through on-the-job training and looking to her colleagues as role models, which involves observing how they communicate with people, solve problems and improve processes.
To others who are considering a mid-career switch, Wan Ting shares her heartfelt advice. “Be open to giving it a try! Just think about building good relationships, having a positive and resilient mindset, and embracing lifelong learning – and you’ll do well.”
Turning inspiration into action: Taking on a new challenge after 50
When Jumahat bin Leman’s mother suffered a stroke, he witnessed how life could be turned upside down due to physical limitations. Every day, he saw his mum unable to do basic tasks like walking, and this significantly impacted the quality of her life.
Thankfully, she attended physiotherapy sessions regularly and month after month, Jumahat saw consistent improvements in her physical abilities. He explains, “After all the physiotherapy sessions, she recovered well enough to be independent. Most importantly, she’s been able to do all the things she loves like shopping, going to market, cooking, and more.
The next thing Jumahat tells us, explains his biggest motivation for making a brave late-career switch. “I knew then, that this (helping a patient with rehabilitation) was something I wanted to pass on to someone else.”
From promoting furniture to promoting recovery
Over the following years, Jumahat kept that thought at the back of his mind as he took care of his biggest financial responsibility – paying off his housing loan, which he eventually did. Following his 50th birthday, and after over a decade of success handling graphics communications at IKEA, the creative professional thought to himself, “It’s time.”
Considering his options, Jumahat decided to enrol in a Rehab Support Course as it offered an accelerated pathway into healthcare. The four-month course was followed by a three-week attachment to Ren Ci hospital. Thereafter, he officially took on the role of therapy assistant at Jurong Community Hospital and will transfer to Woodlands Health in 2024 when the fully integrated acute and community hospital opens.
Nurturing skills for the Care Economy
Jumahat credits the Rehab Support Course for instilling in him most of the skills needed for his new career in healthcare. Specifically, he names Change Management, Continuous Improvement Management, Effective Client Communications, Ethical and Professional Integrity, Excellence in Service, and Operational Excellence as essential skills that he picked up from the course.
Additionally, Jumahat has also upskilled in several other areas, thanks to training provided by Woodlands Health. These include Staff Communication and Engagement, Staff Continuous Learning, and Staff Training Facilitation. Jumahat explains, “These skills enable therapy assistants to communicate clearly with patients, therapists, and one another – so we can work more effectively and better help patients.”
Heartfelt advice for aspiring care professionals
For individuals who hear the calling of the Care Economy, Jumahat shares some words of encouragement.
“The first step to a smooth career switch is planning your finances. When you first switch, your pay may not be the same as before, so set your expectations accordingly. Get the support of your family, as they will be very important during this period. Most importantly, be open about learning new things, immersing yourself in a new environment, and meeting new people!”
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