WEF, Sea survey reveal 81% ASEAN youths believe internships equally or more important than school

  • List the two least important skills as maths & science and data analytics
  • Believe internships either equally important or more so than school education

WEF, Sea survey reveal 81% ASEAN youths believe internships equally or more important than school

Young people in Southeast Asia (SEA) face a relentless challenge to upgrade their skills as technology disrupts job markets, according to research released yesterday by the World Economic Forum and Sea a SEA and Taiwan focused internet company.

The 56,000 survey respondents were users of Sea’s e-commerce platform, Shopee, and digital entertainment arm, Garena. It explored what skills ASEAN youth regard as important for the future, and whether they believe they are proficient in these skills. (the Association of South East Asian Nations is composed of the 10 nations located in SEA)

In the survey of ASEAN citizens aged between 15 and 35, some 9% of respondents say their current skills are already outdated, while 52% believe they must “update their skills constantly.” Only 18% believe their current skills will stay relevant for most of their lives. [View the full results and analysis of the ASEAN Youth Survey here]

These concerns about skills are reflected in attitudes to jobs. ASEAN youths say the number one reason they change jobs is to learn new skills – the desire to earn a higher income comes second. 5.7% report having lost a job either because their skills were no longer relevant, or because technology had displaced them. Other reasons include the desire to create a more positive social impact and to have a more innovative working environment.

The survey also shows 81% of ASEAN youths believe internships are either equally important or more important than school education. In addition, over half are keen to spend time working overseas in the next three years, probably to gain new skills, with a significant portion wanting to work in another ASEAN country.

“It is impossible to predict how technology will change the future of work.” said Justin Wood, head of Asia Pacific and member of the executive committee at the World Economic Forum (WEF). “The only certainty is that job markets face accelerating disruption, where the lifespan of many skills is shortening. It is encouraging that ASEAN youths are aware of these challenges and show a deep commitment to lifelong, ongoing learning.”

Youth prioritize soft skills over STEM skills with innovation and creativity key

Overall, ASEAN youth attach greater importance to soft skills, and less importance to STEM skills – science, technology, engineering and maths. They see “creativity and innovation” as the most important skill – in which they also rank themselves highly – followed by the ability to speak multiple languages. They are confident about their soft skills, such as emotional intelligence, and list the two least important skills as “maths and science” and “data analytics”. They are particularly positive about their ability to use technology such as social media platforms, e-commerce sites, and e-payment systems.

Santitarn Sathirathai, group chief economist of Sea, noted: “While it is essential that the region continues to invest in developing STEM skills among young people, we can also see that soft skills will have a vital role to play – even in the tech sector. In the world where knowledge becomes obsolete more quickly, soft skills such as adaptability, leadership and creativity will be crucial in ensuring young people have the resilience to constantly evolve their skill-sets in step with a changing market.”

The importance of re-skilling and the ASEAN Digital Skills Vision 2020

Responding to the need to train workers in the face of technological change, the ongoing ASEAN Digital Skills Vision 2020 programme, launched by WEF in Bangkok in November 2018 is assembling a coalition of organizations to train 20 million workers at ASEAN SMEs by 2020, and to provide internship and scholarship opportunities.

“The ASEAN Digital Skills programme is delivering significant impact. In its first eight months, the initiative has already secured commitments to train over 8.9 million workers at SMEs, and to provide over 30,000 internships,” said Wood.

Some 16 organizations have so far joined the programme: BigPay; Certiport, a Pearson VUE Business; Cisco; FPT Corporation; General Assembly; Golden Gate Ventures; Google; Grab; Lazada; Microsoft; Netflix; Plan International; Sea; thyssenkrupp; Tokopedia; and VNG Corporation.

“Government policy and business practices need to catch up to what is happening on the ground. Advances in technology will continue to impact labour markets into the future, and this requires ongoing education and skills training,” said Saadia Zahidi, managing director and head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society at the WEF. “Anything less than a systematic shift in our approach to education and skills will see the risk of people left behind.”

WEF, Sea survey reveal 81% ASEAN youths believe internships equally or more important than school

Future jobs

When asked what type of organization they work for today, and where they would like to work in the future, ASEAN youths show a strong preference for entrepreneurial settings. Today, 31% are either entrepreneurs or work for a startup. In the future, 33% want to work in an entrepreneurial setting. 19% also aspire to work for foreign multinationals (the current figure is 9%).

Traditional SMEs (as opposed to startups) are seen less favourably. While SMEs form the backbone of ASEAN labour markets, the survey reveals that small companies face recruitment challenges. 18% of youths work for SMEs today, but only 8% want to work for an SME in the future. One reason for the low interest is because young people say they receive less training at small companies compared to larger ones.

When asked what industry sectors are most attractive, the results reveal a clear preference for the technology sector, with 7% working in the industry today and 16% aspiring to work there in the future. In comparison, more traditional parts of the economy may face recruitment challenges. For example, 15% of youths work in manufacturing today, but only 12% want to work there in the future. Likewise, 8% work as teachers, yet only 5% want to work in education in the future.

 
 
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