Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of Google Career Certificates on 12 January 2022.
Mr Scott Beaumont,
President, Google Asia Pacific,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am happy to join you at the launch of the Google Career Certificates in Singapore this morning.
This is a very meaningful initiative. The launch is most timely as COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of digital transformation in Singapore and globally.
The digital revolution was already gaining pace even before COVID-19. When the pandemic struck, the movement of people was curtailed to contain the spread of the virus. Many around the world pivoted from physical to digital activities.
By now, many of us are adept at telecommuting, video conferences, e-learning and online shopping. Businesses have also adapted by offering their services and wares online.
The shift to digital is here to stay and will continue to gain momentum. In fact, the internet economy in Southeast Asia is projected to double by 2025. As Scott mentioned earlier, Singapore’s digital economy will grow significantly. How do we respond to a more digital world?
As an economy, we will need to redouble our transformation efforts to ride on the new wave of opportunities that the digital economy has to offer.
We have a head start, as we embarked on economic transformation more than five years ago.
In fact, digitalisation is a key pillar of our Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs), and we are currently refreshing our strategies to better respond to the accelerated shift to digital and other trends.
We will also need to intensify efforts to upskill our workers. Some industries and occupations will be disrupted by digitalisation, but new sectors and jobs will emerge. I believe that in the longer run, advancements in technology will create more and better jobs for workers.
As businesses accelerate their digitalisation efforts, we must provide our workers with a strong digital foundation so that they can take on upgraded roles within their companies. At the same time, we are supporting those who are able and willing to take on jobs in the infocomm and tech sector.
Through the TechSkills Accelerator programme (TeSA), tech companies and IMDA have come together to help over 110,000 Singaporeans develop digital skills. The TeSA programme has also enabled more than 10,000 Singaporeans to find good jobs in the tech sector.
In the next bound of TeSA, we will continue to build a strong core of local tech talent, with a greater focus on emerging skills in areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and blockchain.
Google has been a key partner in our efforts to help workers develop digital skills that are in-demand. Under TeSA, Google launched the Skills Ignition SG Programme in 2020, with support from Government agencies. This programme is on track to equip 3,800 Singaporeans with in-demand digital skills through vocational and on-the-job training.
Melissa Tan is one of them. Melissa had worked in Southeast Asia and the Middle East for the past decade. Prior to joining the programme, she was in the travel and tourism sector.
When COVID-19 disrupted the tourism sector, Melissa took the opportunity to explore the tech industry by signing up for Skills Ignition SG in October 2020. After graduating from the programme, she joined Google as a full-time Accelerated Growth Strategist.
Melissa’s experience shows that there are many opportunities in the tech space available to mid-career entrants, as long as we are open to venturing out of our comfort zone.
Encouraged by the response to Skills Ignition SG and the outcomes of those who took part, Google has decided to further expand the programme.
I am happy to launch the Google Career Certificates in Singapore today. This is a new pathway under the Skills Ignition SG programme. Google will also be offering 5,000 scholarships to complement this new initiative.
The Google Career Certificates offer online training programmes in the areas of IT Support, Project Management, Data Analytics and User Experience Design, which workers can access in their own time and at their own pace. As you heard from Scott earlier, these are areas of high demand. Through this initiative, interested learners will now have an additional avenue to develop new skills, while working or studying.
Google will also be offering 5,000 scholarships in partnership with our polytechnics, ITE, self-help groups, and social service agencies. The scholarships will fully cover the Coursera course fees for the Google Career Certificates. This will provide more inclusive access to the programme.
I am also happy to hear that Google plans to form an employer consortium to recognise these Career Certificates for recruitment and employee professional development.
Google is a good example of how our companies can contribute to economic transformation.
It does not invest narrowly in its own needs, nor does it operate alone. Instead, Google contributes as part of a wider consortium to support transformation, innovation, and human capital development across industries.
This will in turn benefit companies and workers in the longer-term. This spirit of collaboration and contributing to the greater good is a critical ingredient for our future success.
Be it through TeSA and Skills Ignition SG, our Alliances for Action, or other initiatives, I hope collaboration will come to embody all sectors, as we work towards ITM 2025.
Singapore as a Global Node
By industry, government, unions, and workers working together, Singapore has a key competitive advantage as we seek to grow as a global node for start-ups and technology.
Today, a number of tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Alibaba, and Grab already have a presence in Singapore. Despite the pandemic, many have continued to grow their operations here in the past year.
Our start-up scene is relatively nascent but thriving. Last year, ten of the 21 unicorns that emerged in Southeast Asia were based in Singapore. In the first nine months of 2021 alone, Singapore-based tech startups raised more than $11 billion.
We are committed to making Singapore an even more vibrant global node of technology and innovation.
We do so by enhancing both our physical and digital connectivity to the world, through initiatives such as the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement.
We continue to invest significantly in R&D under the Research, Innovation, and Enterprise 2025 plan, of which smart nation and the digital economy are key focus areas.
We are redoubling our efforts to nurture start-ups and create a more conducive innovation ecosystem.
As importantly, we continue to welcome global companies like Google to deepen and grow their presence in Singapore.
Companies such as Google constantly push the frontiers of innovation, and contribute to our vibrant enterprise and tech ecosystem.
The Google team in Singapore has expanded from a team of just 24 employees back in 2007, to one that is more than 2,000 strong today.
I am happy to note that Google’s Next Billion Users team in Singapore has been building products to serve the fast-evolving needs of the region.
The team was instrumental in the development and launch of the new Google Pay experience. Singapore was the first country in Southeast Asia, and second country in the world, to enjoy this.
This deep understanding of the market was what enabled you to innovate and create useful localised solutions around the world. For example, upon seeing the impact of the pandemic on Singapore’s F&B sector, the team built and launched the Menu Discovery feature on Google Pay in less than three weeks. This helped improve discoverability, pickup, and delivery options for over 200 F&B merchants in Singapore.
The team also developed products that will improve digital inclusion and accessibility, such as AndroidGo for low-memory devices, and offline Google Maps for locations with weak internet connectivity.
Google’s investments and innovations are exciting, and I hope that more global tech companies and startups will likewise be part of Singapore’s vibrant tech and innovation ecosystem, to explore opportunities in the region and beyond.
Let me conclude. We live in a world that is increasingly more digital.
We will need to redouble our industry transformation and digitalisation efforts, and upskill our workers to take on new opportunities in this more digital world.
The way we go about this must be a collective one, with the private, public, and people sectors working closely together, with each of us contributing to the greater good. A vibrant and thriving economy will in turn benefit all of us in the longer-term.
The Skills Ignition SG programme is a good example of what it means to take a collective approach. The launch of the Google Career Certificates will create a new pathway for our workers to join the tech sector.
I am excited for our learners and encourage them to seek out opportunities in the growing tech sector. I also look forward to the continued support from Google and your partners to develop our workforce.
This way we grow and succeed together, and we build a vibrant and thriving economy that will benefit everyone.
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