patrick tay ntuc

Recently, the report by the Committee of Future Economy has raised considerable interest and concern in Singapore. Against this backdrop, we have the huge privilege of having 5 minutes with Mr. Patrick Tay, the assistant secretary-general of NTUC today. He will share with us some of his thoughts about preparing Team Singapore for the future workforce.

Mr. Tay will also be at the Singapore Management University tomorrow to talk about the opportunities and threats of the future workforce. Do join in if you are interested in this topic!

WW: Hello Mr Patrick Tay! Can you tell us more about yourself and what you are doing?

Patrick Tay: Hello Wan Wei!

I am the assistant secretary-general of National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and am currently overseeing the Future Jobs, Skills and Training (FJST) Department and Legal Services Department.

I Am also an elected Member of Parliament (West Coast GRC) and Chairman for the Manpower Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC).

WW: On Feb 9, the Committee of the Future Economy recommended 7 strategies to take the Singaporean economy forward. Strategy #2 is to utilise and acquire “deep skills”. What is the meaning of “deep skills”?

Patrick Tay: It means we must go beyond trying to attain the highest possible academic qualification to focus on acquiring a personal mastery of skills.

As we embrace digital disruption and technology, we must acquire deep skills to create and add value and utilize these skills effectively on the job.

WW: How do you suggest Singaporeans be prepared for future jobs that do not even exist currently?

Patrick Tay: The future jobs will either be very “Hi-Touch” or very “Hi-Tech” because what can be Digitised, Robotised or Mechanised will be Digitised, Robotised or Mechanised.

Singaporeans can be prepared by being:

  • Agile (flexible to move across, move into and move up);
  • Able (upskill, second skill, multi-skill, deep skill); and
  • Adaptable (to changes).

This is so that Singaporeans stay ready, relevant and resilient….ready with new skills, relevant for new jobs and resilient to new changes.

WW: Singapore’s growth for 2017 does not really seem too optimistic. Singapore is also not a welfare state–so there might not be enough cushioning in the event of layoffs . Do you have some tips for Singaporeans to cope with acquiring deeper skills in the event that they are structurally unemployed?

Patrick Tay: The 2016 growth results of 2% is promising.

I expect continued uncertainties, consolidation and disruptive challenges in 2017.


There will be industry transformation maps for all 23 clusters/sectors of the economy. What is important will be how we translate that to the ground and properly execute/implement the manpower strategies entrenched in those maps so that workers can benefit.

In this respect, the Labour movement is working closely with tripartite partners and stakeholders to identify what are the future jobs, skills and training needed and to cascade it to all workers sector by sector.

WW: How can Singaporeans continue to be competitive in a region where wages are lower than within the country? Apart from “working harder”, is there anything else we can do?

Patrick Tay: We need to be better than the ‘cheaper’ countries.

We need to create value and have that extra value add to ensure we are always ahead in terms of quality and reliability than those who are ‘cheaper’ than us.

WW: What are some programmes that NTUC has for Singaporeans that will value-add us greatly in 2017, but we are likely not to know about yet? Perhaps because they are not as widely publicised as hoped, or simply too complicated?

Patrick Tay: We are hard at work in expanding the Labour movement network to ensure we look after the interests and welfare of ALL workers and the entire working population in the areas of

  • Care (caring for our workers in need),
  • Fair (ensure fairness, protection and progressive practices), and
  • Grow (helping the working population grow in their jobs and careers).

WW: What is the one biggest misconception that Singaporeans are likely to have about NTUC that is far from the truth?

Patrick Tay: That the Labour movement only looks after rank and file workers.

We now have an expanded Labour movement that look after all workers and the working population in Singapore.

We hope you have enjoyed the interview with Mr Patrick Tay today! Featured picture courtesy of Singapore Press Holdings.