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OPINION

Multi-pronged approach to fix tech talent crunch

Expect demand for tech skills to rise as more companies go digital

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Collaboration among all stakeholders - governments, investors, educators, employers, and young people - is critical to preparing the younger generation to contribute to the workforce of the future.

THE lack of talent in the tech sector has emerged as a major concern for the government and businesses today. While this skills shortage has long been a bugbear in the tech industry, it is becoming increasingly felt as companies across sectors ramp up their digital transformation efforts.

The 2018 Singapore Budget put in place several strategies to support and encourage the adoption of new technology, as well as nurture skillsets critical in today's digital economy. However, the impact of various training initiatives such as the Tech Skills Accelerator (TeSA) will be gradual and take time.

Rising demand for digital capabilities

Digital disruption has placed agility and real-time analytics as a major competitive advantage for businesses to succeed today. Regardless of size, businesses are looking to hire talented data scientists to improve their competitive edge and make quicker, more effective business decisions.

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Although the skills shortage was once confined to the tech industry, today firms in sectors such as retail and banking are struggling to find the tech talent to embark on the digital transformation journey.

Recruiting the right talent remains the top concern for technology firms in Singapore, according to the latest annual business survey by industry association SGTech, formerly known as the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation.

Eighty-five per cent of firms surveyed cited manpower constraints as the top challenge faced in the preceding 12 months.

Similarly, a 2016 survey by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) revealed that the demand for infocomm professionals across all sectors is expected to rise by more than 42,000 from 2017 to 2019. Most in demand were technical IT specialists in areas such as data analytics and cybersecurity, with jobs expected to grow by about 33,400 over the period.

Raising digital capabilities in the workforce is critical for Singapore to truly embrace the Smart Nation vision and become a digital hub. As technology-driven transformation permeates every business sector, firms and people must develop digital skills to remain relevant and competitive in the workplace, in Singapore as well as on a global level.

To ensure that the next generation of companies is agile enough to harness the opportunities of the digital economy, it is vital that businesses and governments collaboratively invest in their people - through education, skills training and mentorship.

Closer collaboration needed

To create the skills and attitudes needed to match the ambition of national visions, we must see much closer collaboration between the government, private sector companies and educational institutes. There must be concrete initiatives to ensure the generation now coming through school is equipped and motivated to compete in the digital economy.

This applies across the board: not only do young students need to be given the digital skills that will let them create the future, but the experienced older workforce needs constant training and reskilling to ensure they are still relevant and valued members of society.

Collaboration among all stakeholders - governments, investors, educators, employers, and young people - is critical to creating the supportive ecosystem needed to prepare the younger generation to contribute to the workforce of the future.

Specific steps that must be taken

The private sector should have a degree of input in shaping and driving educational content. Only when curricula is aligned with employers' needs can students truly be prepared to enter the workforce, and be able to contribute to what businesses need.

Developing the workforce through experience and training is also critical. Educators, together with the government and private sector, must encourage and nurture interest in a career or sector, allowing students to explore and eventually focus on achieving various career targets and goals.

At the same time, exposure to the private and public sector helps foster professional behaviour, develop soft skills, and provide essential hands-on training and internship programmes to pique students' interests at a young age.

Beyond a paper chase for the best grades, students need access to information about job opportunities, qualification requirements, application processes to prepare to enter the workforce. Having a glimpse into the working world helps them explore various opportunities, interests and identify their strengths and talents with support from career coaches.

Partnerships with tertiary institutions

We are taking multiple steps to address the data scientist shortage in Asia, most recently with partnerships with Nanyang Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic to develop data analytics capabilities in Singapore and promote digital transformation among local Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs). We have also collaborated with the Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) to expand data analytics capabilities and knowledge in Indonesia.

TIBCO will provide students with the right data analytics skills, technology and experience to excel in today's evolving job landscape.

Jointly conducted guest lectures, competitions, workshops, master classes and other training programmes will promote the development and nurturing of data analytics skills for the younger generation.

Exposure to intuitive data visualisations and predictive analytics, and streaming analytics combining real-time connectivity with analytical insights will ensure students are adept in all the analytics technologies needed for digital business.

Ultimately, only when people are able to use their skills to bring greater benefits to their business and society will the goals of being a Smart Nation be truly realised: to uplift the quality of life in Singapore and the region, enhance economic competitiveness and promote social inclusion.

  • The writer is general manager, Asia Pacific and Japan, at TIBCO Software Inc