12 April 2016

Singapore commits to growing talent in infocomm sector

Growth in the ICT sector and Singapore's Smart Nation initiatives are driving increased demand for infocomm professionals, said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Singapore Minister for Communications and Information, at the Committee of Supply Debate* in answer to queries by committee members. An additional 30,000 infocomm jobs must be filled by 2020, he said.

"As demand far outstrips current supply, and because the landscape is changing so rapidly, it is difficult to meet company needs for skilled manpower without non-Singaporeans entirely. But we must do our best to support our Singaporeans to be highly skilled so that they can compete with global talent," he said in a speech during the debate.

In addition to ensuring sufficient computing science and IT places in institutes of higher learning (IHLs), Dr Yaacob said that students should have work-ready skills, while current workers in the sector should be able to renew skills easily. "We will focus our efforts in high demand areas such as software development, data analytics, cybersecurity, and network & infrastructure. We will hence set aside S$120 million to support training efforts in developing infocomm manpower capabilities, to address immediate and future manpower needs," he said.

Measures to boost the pipeline in talent include:

The Code@SG movement to develop coding and computational thinking as a national capability.

Ensuring more students from each cohort in the infocomm disciplines enter the sector, by providing them with work experience even prior to graduation. The new Industry Preparation for Pre-Graduates (iPREP) Programme will nurture selected students in a structured internship and mentorship framework so that they can build their portfolios and gain sufficient entry-level skills and experience prior to graduation.

"Over three years, we hope to increase the supply of professionals by 2,400," he said.

The government's co-funding of Company-Led Training (CLT) programmes with industry partners has been particularly successful. According to Dr Yaacob, every single participant in Google’s Squared Data and Analytics Programme, with the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) as a partner, found a job after the programme. "Hence, we will expand our CLT programmes to help more than a thousand professionals each year, compared to 160 today. Mid-level professionals will now also benefit from the local and oversea s training and attachments to build expertise and competencies  for jobs in demand, especially in emerging areas like cybersecurity and analytics," he said.

Helping  experienced professionals deepen their skills, or convert to new infocomm disciplines. "IDA’s Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme (CITREP) helps approximately 3,000 mid-level professionals take up professional short courses and certifications every year. Moving forward, we will expand the CITREP+ programme and also," Dr Yaacob noted.

More accelerated Tech Immersion and Placement programmes, or bootcamps. Last year, IDA partnered with General Assembly to offer bootcamps, providing immersive training for people with no background or industry experience in tech, but who have interest in a tech career. "Participants are taught through industry projects by industry practitioners, receive career support, and have job placements opportunities with potential employers. We will ramp up the capacity for to support more than 1,000 Singaporean trainees over the next three years, especially those with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) backgrounds," Dr Yaacob elaborated.

Partnerships through the newly-announced TechSkills Accelerator initiative. "The infocomm industry associations – Singapore IT Federation, Singapore Computer Society and the IT Management Association – have already played a huge role in the past, to develop the National Infocomm Competency Framework. These associations will continue to define new competencies, under the TechSkills Accelerator, and support our shift towards greater recognition of skills mastery.," Dr Yaacob said.

Proxor, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff, will introduce their skills validation platform as part of the TechSkills Accelerator, allowing employers to test potential employees’ skills in solving realistic problems. Funding support will be provided to Singaporeans who use the platform to validate their skills, Dr Yaacob said.

"A new feature of the TechSkills Accelerator is that the partnership will be anchored by major employers in the sector. This is important because employers must also themselves want to develop a strong Singapore core and offer competitive remuneration to recognise skills achievement, and not just paper qualifications," he added, calling the Government Technology Agency, Singtel, Mediacorp,  ST Electronics, Integrated Health Information Systems, DBS and UOB  anchor employers' of TechSkills Accelerator.

Finally, the minister shared that more than 300 SkillsFuture Study Awards will be given out by this time next year to early-to-mid-career Singaporeans to support aspirations in the infocomm media and design sectors. "Recipients will receive a monetary award of S$5,000 which can be used to defray out-of-pocket expenses associated with the course that they will take," he said.

"I encourage more companies to come on board and to put more emphasis in talent development, so that we can together, build a strong Singapore core for infocomm," Dr Yaacob concluded.


Read the WorkSmart Asia blog post about the Singapore Budget announcement

Read the TechTrade Asia blog posts about the Singapore government boosting national cybersecurity and content creation

Hashtags: #SGBudget2016, #SmartNation, #YaacobIbrahim

*A Committee of Supply in Singapore consists of the whole Parliament, which will debate to consider the business of supply. It usually sits for seven days or more to deal with the estimates of expenditure for the coming financial year. The Committee considers each ministry’s request for funds and votes on it. In 2016, the debate runs from 6 to 14 April.