In Conversation With: Mr Jeremy Ong, CEO of NTUC LearningHub

In Conversation With: Mr Jeremy Ong, CEO of NTUC LearningHub
JobStreet content teamupdated on 29 May, 2023

If you’re looking to upskill and reskill in Singapore, you’ve undoubtedly heard of NTUC LearningHub. As the leading Continuing Education and Training (CET) provider in Singapore, it has helped over 26,000 organisations and achieved more than 2.6 million training places.

Helming operations is Mr Jeremy Ong, CEO of NTUC LearningHub, who has over 30 years of working experience with a deep appreciation in technology, operations, and innovation. He holds a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from the National University of Singapore and is a graduate of the inaugural Asian Financial Leaders Programme from Singapore Management University, IMD Business School, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and Tsinghua University. With 32 years of rich professional experience, he is an extraordinarily accomplished business leader, but above all, he is a proud father, husband, and son who dedicates all his achievements to his family.

Mr Jeremy Ong started his career in the public sector, where he worked for 14 years before rising to senior positions. He defines his career journey as one of lifelong learning, which can be divided into three phases. In the first phase, he spent 25 to 30 years learning and practising, and in the next phase, which he calls the practitioner phase, he practised and continued to learn, unlearn, and relearn at the same time to grow competency through experience. The last phase is what he calls the mentor phase, where he now contributes his experience to help grow the next wave of leaders.

It is with this spirit of lifelong learning, both as a learner and a mentor, that Mr Jeremy Ong shapes the future of NTUC LearningHub’s next initiatives to promote a robust culture of learning in Singapore.

Why did you choose to join NTUC LearningHub?

Joining NTUC LearningHub as the CEO is a sweet spot and I thank the larger NTUC family for this opportunity. I say this is a sweet spot because NTUC LearningHub’s mission is to drive lifelong employability of our workforce in this current geo-economical disruptive and transformational digital age. This is not a typical company—we strive to do well and do good at the same time, and it is very challenging to drive excellence with this bipolar mission. It really stretches me and my entire management team.

Our purpose is to achieve “Every Worker a Better Worker, Every Job a Better Job, and Every Company a Better Company” through training and lifelong learning initiatives that help workers uplift and stay employable, and companies transform and thrive in the long-term. As the CEO of NTUC LearningHub, I have a great sense of mission to do good for the country. We contribute towards the Labour Movement by journeying forward with our tripartite partners, alongside employers and the government, in continuing to support and empower both workers and businesses.

What is your best piece of advice for overcoming challenges at work?

As a leader, it is important to remain level-headed, calm, and focused on the challenge at work. While it can be difficult to maintain composure during difficult times, especially when things are not progressing as planned, it is precisely during this time that we need to maintain a clear head to avoid making rash decisions that might impact the whole organisation.

You also need imagination and confidence to be an effective leader to succeed in the disruptive business environment of today. For example, understanding the possibilities of what technology can do, or in other words, understanding the applications of technology, can help you imagine how much a business can be transformed into. This will make you a more effective leader to overcome challenges at work and transform businesses.

What are some of the initiatives that you have implemented since joining NTUC LearningHub?

NTUC LearningHub has a sizable outreach team and network to touch not only individuals, but also enterprises, large companies, or SMEs, and especially unionised companies because we are part of NTUC and we are plugged into the Labour Movement network of CTC companies, Trade Associations and Chambers, and all tripartite committees involving the government, employers, and unions.

I’m transforming our outreach team to focus on Jobs and Skills instead of selling courses, because all training must lead to jobs as an outcome. I’m also trying to drive a new pathway for learning, working more closely with large and leading companies, to curate and develop top quality courses or programmes. Employees going through the programmes will not only earn badges that are equivalent to stackable micro-credentials, but it also helps them stay employable in the same or different industries for a much longer time.

Why micro-credentials? As I believe all training must not go to waste, we will make micro-credentials stackable to higher and industry-recognised qualifications, thereby enhancing the employability of every worker.

I want NTUC LearningHub to be able to curate and customise programmes that train employees with essential skills which will enable companies to innovate and accelerate the transformation of their business models to succeed in this disruptive digital age.

What are some of your most popular courses at NTUC LearningHub and why?

Some of the popular courses for 2022 include Python Programming and Data Analysis using Microsoft Excel due to its versatility for use at work, and ICAgile (Certified Agile Professional) certification courses that teaches individuals about agile methodologies and equips trainees with the skills needed to be more productive and efficient, which is especially important in the fast-paced and ever-changing business environment. These courses are popular as they equip learners with relevant skills that are in high demand today.

However, given a constantly evolving and volatile business environment, we also expect the following courses to be in demand this year: courses focusing on “tech-lite” skills, Critical Core Skills, and sustainability-related courses.

“Tech-lite” refers to job roles that require basic IT skills to facilitate use of technology solutions to achieve business outcomes, and they are transferrable skills that can be applied horizontally across different job roles and industries. Many non-tech industries and companies are looking to scale up and deepen their digital capabilities, and to adopt new ways of working.

Courses focusing on Critical Core Skills also equip individuals with transferrable skill sets across different job roles and functions, which help them pivot into new opportunities more easily. Such skills include Communication, Adaptability, Digital Fluency, Self-Management, Creative Thinking, and Transdisciplinary Soft Skills.

Lastly, sustainability-related courses are also expected to be in demand this year as conversations around corporate sustainability awareness and implementation continue to take centre stage.

In the face of recent tech layoffs, how can NTUC LearningHub help tech talents?

We recognise that tech talents have valuable tech skills that are in high demand today, and such skills are useful even in non-tech companies. For example, cybersecurity skills are sought after by many companies. Tech talents are also required in non-tech sectors such as hospitality, and food and beverage sectors.

For example, in the hospitality sector, hotels are quickly filling up with returning tourists, and the strong rebound warrants an investment in tech talent to better manage data and digitalise its check-in system. The food and beverage sector is also ramping up on serving customers efficiently, such as through the use of self-order kiosks. Normalisation of such services will see the need for talents with tech skills.

We are also seeing other traditional businesses undergoing digital transformation, by means of modernising traditional resource planning systems with digital systems such as cloud and automation, and tech-lite skills are especially essential in such transformational journeys.

At NTUC LearningHub, we help tech talents equip transferrable skills that can be applied horizontally across industries through Critical Core Skills courses. Such skills can help tech talents pivot into new opportunities across industries with ease.

It seems that NTUC LearningHub has been moving towards digitalisation. Can you tell us more about the NTUC LearningHub Learning eXperience Platform (LXP)? Why did NTUC LearningHub launch the LXP?

We launched LXP in 2021 as a subscription-based online learning platform, given the intensification of the call for continuous education and training for Singaporeans. This one-stop online learning mobile application brings the “classroom into your pocket” for every youth and working adult in Singapore.

LXP offers a comprehensive catalogue of modular and bite-sized learning on the go for individuals and enterprises, anytime and anywhere, in the form of asynchronous courses and webinars. On the app, users can choose from over 135 categories of high-quality courses in partnership with world-class content partners, in areas such as technology skills, sustainability, adaptive skills, technical skills, critical core skills, and even mental health and fitness. To ensure that learning remains bite-sized, these courses are kept short, easily digestible, and tailored to meet the needs and interests of every learner.

Our goal of launching LXP is to help learners from different backgrounds and competency levels upskill or diversify their skill sets with a wide range of topics and courses. Our vision for LXP is for it to be a key enabler for workers and companies to upskill and reskill, which is instrumental in Singapore’s efforts towards continuous lifelong learning.

Moving forward, how do you think the education landscape will change? How do you think the employment landscape will change?

Keeping up with the pace of technology will challenge the future workforce. Individuals need to continuously develop new skills and knowledge to remain competitive. As such, the rise of stackable micro-credentials will change the education landscape and disrupt the traditional model of education. With stackable micro-credentials, learners earn a series of related certifications which build upon one another to create a comprehensive skillset.

Micro-credentials will become the alternative pathway to career and training development. It will gain popularity as it allows learners to excel in specific areas rather than rely solely on traditional degrees or diplomas. With the increased availability of online learning platforms, individuals can learn and earn certifications on their own terms. Learning new skills will become a motivation rather than a chore as the credentials are acquired through a flexible and modular method.

Employers will also be more efficient in assessing a candidate’s skills and qualifications as they can get a sense of competency and how they can transfer such acquired competencies at work. It will also streamline the hiring process and lead to better job matches between workers and employers.

In your opinion, how can NTUC LearningHub better help jobseekers, employees, and employers? What do you think is NTUC LearningHub’s role in relation to jobseekers, employees, and employers in Singapore?

We aim to be the heart of Singapore’s lifelong learning culture. We want to empower every learner with the skills they need to succeed personally and professionally, and we want to champion lifelong employability for all workers.

The growth journey of NTUC LearningHub will anchor on our commitment to promote a culture of lifelong learning across all sectors. NTUC LearningHub will be in the nexus of the training and learning landscape to build a holistic ecosystem for training in demand and emerging skills, facilitating the placement of skills-ready workers to redesigned or emerging job roles through multiple training pathways. This is further made possible by stackable micro-credentials that help workers fast-track to earn higher certificates or qualifications that help to enhance workers’ employability. We want to bring together quality skills programmes and training partners, job placement partners, all viable training support schemes, widely recognised certification partners, an established pool of experienced mentors, enterprise workplace learning partners, and the tripartite labour movement network to fulfil our vision of building that holistic learning ecosystem.

What are your future goals for NTUC LearningHub?

My vision for LHUB is captured in these 5 lines:

  1. Articulate and aggregate the demand of skills so that we activate the supply of skills
  2. All good and relevant training programmes will be funded
  3. All learnings will stack up to qualifications for upskilling and reskilling
  4. All trainings must lead to job outcomes
  5. Facilitate lifelong learning enabled by an ecosystem of partners within our LXP Digital Platform

We will grow our business in 13 sectors, although we will focus on certain sectors more. For examples, ICT deep tech and digital skills, healthcare, lifestyle and retail sectors, and sustainability which includes workplace health and safety and mental wellness. We will be sharp in articulating the skills so that we can activate the supply of skills training in these sectors.

We will play a key role in some of the Jobs Skills Integrators that Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong announced in his budget speech, and NTUC LearningHub will be in the nexus of coordinating and providing skills training and working with partners to place trained individuals in relevant and emerging job roles.

We aim to be the heart of Singapore’s lifelong learning culture. We want to empower every learner with the skills they need to succeed personally and professionally, and we want to champion lifelong employability for all workers.

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