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Credit: Singapore Economic Development Board

Credit: Singapore Economic Development Board

Singapore’s Professional Services ITM identifies data science, analytics and artificial intelligence as high-growth areas

Singapore’s Professional Services Industry Transformation Map (ITM [1]) was launched today, charting a roadmap to develop the industry to become a global market leader in high-value, specialist services, driven by innovation and partnerships, over a five- to ten-year horizon.

Professional Services firms in sectors such as Architecture and Engineering Services, Consulting, Accounting, Legal and Advertising. Professional Services, which employed more than 230,000 people, made up 6.5% of Singapore’s GDP and contributed around $25 billion in value-add in 2016.

Through the ITM, the sector is projected to post an average growth rate of 4.6% from 2015 to reach a value-add of S$31 billion by 2020 and generate 5,500 new Professional, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMET) jobs every year during the same period.

The ITM is an inter-agency effort led by the Economic Development Board (EDB), alongside agencies including Building Construction Authority (BCA), IE Singapore, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Ministry of Law, Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC), SPRING Singapore, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG), as well as industry partners, trade associations and professional bodies.

Key initiatives in the ITM aim to drive innovation in the industry and to equip Singapore’s workforce with specialised skillsets in high-growth areas such as data science, analytics and artificial intelligence.

Similar to the other sectoral ITMs, partnerships are viewed as critical to the growth and transformation of the services industry and hence, the Government will work closely with key partners such as industry associations and professional bodies, as well as the unions.

Launching the ITM at the opening of Dentsu Aegis Network’s Asia Pacific Headquarters in Singapore, Ms. Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law & Ministry of Finance and Co-Chair for the Future Economy Council (FEC) Modern Services Sub-Committee, said, “The Professional Services sector is a growing industry with tremendous potential for job creation. Singapore has the right conditions for companies to innovate world-class business solutions and forge cross-disciplinary partnerships. The ITM is an integrated plan that will enable our firms to scale, innovate and increase their productivity, while preparing Singaporeans to take on exciting new jobs such as digital product developers, data modellers and risk advisory professionals.”

Growth areas

Companies in advertising, consulting and engineering services are looking to build key digital capabilities in data science, analytics and artificial intelligence. There are also significant opportunities for strategy and operations consulting as clients embark on digital transformation projects. In addition, the steady growth of engineering and infrastructure projects, and financial services is expected to increase demand for specialised services such as project management, risk management, business valuation and dispute resolution.

To harness opportunities in high-growth areas, continuous building of innovation capabilities by firms and individuals is essential. Innovation in Professional Services involves delivering services and solutions through different business models to be more effective and cost-efficient, and continual investment into technology. This is accelerating in Singapore.

For example, home-grown accounting firm Precursor Group has diversified from traditional audit services to also offering HR and analytics services, through its proprietary cloud-based services delivery platform. This has allowed them to scale their offerings to over 500 local and multinational clients with just 60 staff.

WongPartnership, a leading full service Singapore law practice, adopted AI tool, Luminance, to enhance its due diligence processes for Merger & Acquisition transactions. The firm is harnessing the predictive power of AI to discern patterns and detect anomalies across large volumes of contracts and unstructured data.

Innovation is also about continuously building differentiated competencies. In this regard, global firms have been establishing leading Centres of Excellence (COEs) in Singapore, to serve global and regional markets. Recent examples include Dentsu Aegis Network’s Global Data Innovation Centre, McKinsey’s Digital Capability Centre, Deloitte’s Future of Work COE, Booz Allen Hamilton’s Singapore Cyber Security Solutions Center and Mott MacDonald’s Advanced Building Information Modelling Technologies COE.

The Government will also play an active role in facilitating collaborations through convening innovation platforms, bringing together companies, start-ups and research institutes to work on common challenges and co-create solutions.

Such innovation platforms include setting up living labs where companies can collaborate to test-bed and commercialise solutions in a live environment. An example is the HDB’s Smart Urban Habitat Masterplan (SUHMP) which focuses on the usage of digital technologies to improve liveability in public housing. The implementation of SUHMP has created opportunities for NCS, Arup, AECOM and other engineering consultants to identify and recommend smart initiatives for deployment.

Another innovation platform that will be created is a data-sharing consortium.

This will see leading firms such as Google, Grab and Adobe collaborating to help businesses with smarter data use to drive marketing innovation. According to the press release, more details will be made available in the coming weeks.

Skill development

The high-growth areas in Professional Services have spawned many new jobs which did not exist until the last few years. Existing professionals and new entrants can expect comprehensive support from the ITM.

As part of the ITM, the Government will work with firms and industry players to re-design jobs, and actively upskill and reskill their workforce for high-growth areas.

Under the Adapt and Grow initiative, Workforce Singapore (WSG) has launched more than 10 Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) relevant to Professional Services. PMETs are trained to take on roles ranging from global infrastructure projects, digital advertising to HR management.

Four new PCPs for Programmatic Advertising, Internal Audit, User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) and Building Information Modelling are under development.

Skills Frameworks and related accreditations will be developed for relevant sub-sectors to support professionals in better understanding the range of career pathways, skills requirements and available training programmes. This follows the Skills Framework for Accountancy launched in October 2017, which identified emerging skillsets such as data analytics, valuation research and analysis. The skillsets were mapped to 6 career tracks and 25 job roles.

In addition, Institutes of Higher Learning are strengthening work-learn collaborations with firms in Professional Services to ensure greater industry relevance of training programmes. SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programmes (ELPs) have been launched for Accountancy, Visual Communications, UX Design and Management, and Branding and Digital Marketing. To-date, SSG has enrolled over 130 ELP participants into companies such as PwC, Deloitte and BBDO. Future ELPs under development include more specialisations such as UX and Accountancy.

Beyond the ELPs, advertising agencies such as DDB are also working with Institutes of Higher Learning to groom next-generation talent. DDB’s COE in Temasek Polytechnic, “Equator”, trains 20 students per semester across faculties through academic programmes and hands-on experience with client projects, working together with DDB’s senior leadership team.

Support for internationalisation and productivity enhancement

Initiatives will be put in place to enhance Singapore’s global market position and grow exports of services to regional and global markets. An example is the Tech Start for Law programme to help Singapore law firms adopt productivity tools.

SPRING Singapore (SPRING) and IE Singapore [2], together with the rest of the Government, will strengthen efforts to work with businesses with the ambition and ability to scale. This aims to grow more firms such as Allen & Gledhill, Rajah & Tann, TSLA, Surbana Jurong and Meinhardt, which have set up business operations covering ASEAN, China, the Middle East and Africa.

In addition, more market- and sector-specific lead generation and profiling platforms will be developed, such as the annual Asia-Singapore Infrastructure Roundtable to bring together infrastructure players in the region to discuss project opportunities. SPRING and IE Singapore will continue to work with industry players to promote overseas business opportunities for home-grown firms via overseas business missions and events.

[1] Roadmaps are being developed for 23 industries to address issues within each industry and deepen partnerships between Government, firms, industries, trade associations and chambers. The ITMs are grouped into 6 broad cluster: Manufacturing, Built environment, Trade & connectivity, Essential Domestic Services, Modern services and Lifestyle. Most of the ITMs have been released.

[2] SPRING Singapore and IE Singapore are going merge in 2018 to form a new government agency named Enterprise Singapore.

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