Silver lining for tech and health graduates amid economic gloom

Published Sun, Jun 23, 2019 · 09:50 PM
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AMID the gloomy economic outlook and a tight labour market, the tech and healthcare industries are poised to remain buoyant with plenty of job opportunities, according to various recruitment firms.

These good tidings come even as the Ministry of Trade and Industry in May narrowed its GDP growth estimate for 2019 to come between 1.5 per cent and 2.5 per cent, at a time when the global growth outlook is marked by "uncertainties and downside risks".

Despite these challenges, fresh graduates in healthcare and tech may be in luck when it comes to hiring prospects. The Business Times took a closer look at the market conditions they face, as well as the arsenal of hard and soft skills they must arm themselves with to boost their employability.

Fresh graduates armed with tech-related degrees can expect a basic monthly salary in the ballpark of S$2,500 to S$3,200 this year for entry-level jobs, said Achieve Group's executive director (Talent Acquisition) Adrian Tang.

On the other hand, at S$2,600 to S$3,300, the basic starting pay for this year's biomedical engineering degree-holders puts the best performers of the healthcare sector on par with their peers entering the tech industry.

These estimates are based on Achieve Group's records, drawn from new graduates who applied for jobs through them as well as the recruitment firm's clients.

Regional director of Michael Page Singapore Jeffrey Ng's estimates for average starting pay in tech and healthcare also hover around S$3,000 to S$3,200.

The information technology and healthcare industries may not be as affected by anticipated economic changes, for there remains a steady global demand for innovative products and services, said Clarence Quek, senior client solutions director of Randstad Singapore.

Technology is an employment driver, according to Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard, managing director of Robert Half Singapore. He noted that the global technology race is in full swing, with businesses on the lookout for candidates conversant in the latest tech innovations, such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and virtual reality.

In particular, Mr Imbert-Bouchard identified cybersecurity, data science, and software development as sectors with a more "promising" hiring outlook.

As for healthcare, the industry is considered "recession proof", said Archita Tekriwal, senior consultant (sales and marketing, healthcare) at Robert Walters Singapore.

Sectors in healthcare earmarked for hiring growth include design engineering and medical devices, added Michael Page's Mr Ng.

While job seekers in the tech and healthcare industries face rosier prospects, they too can hardly rest on their laurels.

Mr Imbert-Bouchard said possessing strong technical skills is "no longer enough" these days. Soft skills have become indispensable to outshine the competition, he added.

In the same vein, Linda Teo, country manager of ManpowerGroup Singapore, pointed out that in order to stand out from their peers, fresh graduates "can work on soft skills such as communication, problem-solving and collaboration skills, which are in demand, but hard to find in Singapore".

Said Claire Teo, a consultant (Infrastructure and Tech Sales) at Robert Walters Singapore: "For senior roles, and especially when it involves people management, soft skills may be even more important than hard skills."

Ninja Van Singapore fresh hire Harsh Gadodia, who recently graduated with a degree in computer engineering from the National University of Singapore, shares the same sentiments.

"Hard skills get you through the door, but soft skills help take you far, especially with respect to managerial roles, which many junior engineers aspire towards," the software engineer said.

On the other side of the coin, the 2019 edition of Hays Asia Salary Guideindicated that 65 per cent of bosses favour candidates who bring a strong suite of technical skills to the table.

The recruitment company, which polled 3,000 employers in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore for its report, listed project management, statistical analysis and data mining, and computer skills as the top three hard skills in demand.

Despite the findings, regional director of Hays Singapore Grant Torrens emphasised that employers still need to pay attention to soft skills in candidates to "complement even the deepest of knowledge and widest breadths of experience".

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