Supporting both ICT and non-ICT sectors to build our Digital Economy together
Dr Chong Yoke Sin, President of the Singapore Computer Society,
Prof Subra Suresh, President, Nanyang Technological University,
Ladies and gentlemen
Good morning. I am happy to join you all at SCS’ Tech3 Forum today.
(A) Gearing up our workforce for the digital-as-usual age
2 Singapore has embarked on an exciting journey to realise our vision of a Digital Economy. We envisage a digital economy where every company is digitally empowered, every worker is digitally skilled, and every citizen is digitally connected. In other words, an inclusive vision that embraces all parts of our society and our economy. We want to move forward together, not leave anyone behind and avoid the digital divide.
3 As I shared at my Ministry’s Workplan Seminar last week, we are gearing up for what we call a digital-as-usual age. We have to accept that digitalisation is the norm, and then find ways for us to adapt to this, take advantage of it, and fully benefit from it. We need to recognise change and the impact it is having on all our sectors and jobs, and adapt to the best of our abilities to this change, to ensure we are able to be part of the change and contribute productively. So that means investing in cutting-edge 5G technology, building our cybersecurity capabilities and strengthening resilience in our telecoms system. Cybersecurity programmes for secondary and tertiary students have been launched, as well as coding enrichment lessons for upper primary school students. One thing is clear, a rich pool of talent is indispensable if we are to fully realise these ambitions for the Digital Economy and grow our ICT sector. The people factor is key, and each and every one of you in the industry, and even those who are outside of the industry, can play a very important role in this sector.
4 The ICT sector continues to be a bright spot in our economy that creates a good number of attractive job opportunities. Our DISG office has been engaging a whole host of companies, international and domestic, and the interest-level in working with Singapore, in Singapore, and through Singapore in the region is significant. The forecast is that we will be able to create at least 10,000 over jobs over the next three years. The ICT sector being one of the bright spots in terms of economic opportunities is also reflected in the enrolment that we see in Universities and Polytechnics.
5 However, the nature of jobs in the ICT sector, and consequently the skills that workers need to succeed in these jobs, are ever-changing. Indeed, with the rise of the Digital Economy, technology can help our workers take on higher-value jobs, develop higher order skills, do more meaningful work and be effective. At the same time, technological shifts are also creating new possibilities and new industries. Hence, we will help our workers acquire new skills to keep pace with a changing industry landscape and to capitalise on new opportunities. I want to share with you this morning, three ways we are supporting these efforts.
(B) Strengthening the core of our ICT workforce
6 First, we will continue to strengthen the core of our ICT talent.
7 The Digital Economy is redefining the competencies that are required of our ICT workers. The location and function of today’s top jobs is telling. They lie in emergent areas like AI, cyber security, data analytics, product management and UX design.
8 Looking ahead, it is also important to master new, higher-end tech skills. According to a LinkedIn report published last month,1 the demand for skills in Artificial Intelligence, blockchain and workflow automation are rising in Singapore and the region, and will potentially see wide-scale adoption in the future. Professionals who can develop deep skills in these fields would be well-positioned for future job opportunities and to contribute to our Digital Economy.
9 But it takes more than innovative technologies for companies and workers to succeed. For example, beyond technical abilities, tech professionals also require strong go-to-market skills. They need to gain a solid understanding of their target market and customer segments to deliver a product effectively.
10 This is why it is essential for Singapore to develop a broader and deeper pool of ICT talent. To do this, the government will work with all stakeholders – companies and professionals, and associations like the SCS.
11 The TechSkills Accelerator (‘TeSA’) is a SkillsFuture initiative driven by IMDA in collaboration with SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore. TeSA was set up to ensure our workforce remains competitive and relevant to meet emerging skills that are in-demand by our companies.
12 Through TeSA, we have worked with companies to nurture young professionals through the Company-Led Training (CLT) initiative, a structured On-the-Job programme to enable professionals to acquire the requisite tech skills. We have also partnered training and coding schools through the Tech Immersion and Placement Programme (TIPP), which helps upskill individuals from non-ICT backgrounds with tech competencies. The placement rate in this is also very high and it is somewhere in the excess of 90%. Since the launch of TeSA in 2016, the number of training places which have been taken up or committed has risen to over 74,000.
13 We have seen many success stories, including Mr Kok Chee Kean, a 39-year-old mid-career Education Officer who was enrolled in TeSA’s TIPP by General Assembly. Through the bootcamp, he acquired new industry-ready tech skills and is now employed as a Systems Lead Engineer in Maltem Consulting. TIPP has seen over 90% of job-seeking trainees secure jobs in companies, ranging from start-ups to large enterprises.
14 Companies have also taken the lead to train and hire workers via the CLT initiative. It is encouraging to see more non-ICT companies embarking on CLT, and they make up a quarter of our CLT participants. They are from non-ICT sectors like Insurance, Pharmaceutical and Professional Services, and include companies such as Accenture, Aviva, MSD and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Collectively, they have committed to train over 550 ICT professionals in areas like cloud computing and cybersecurity. Companies have a key role to play in developing talent that not only adds value to their organisation but also uplifts the larger ICT community.
15 I would like to especially commend today’s recipients of the Best Tech Company to Work for Award. Besides supporting the improvement of workers’ skills, it is important to nurture an inspiring culture and innovative spirit within the organisation – that is the key to workplace excellence in the infocomm media industry. Your experience and achievements will serve to motivate others in the industry. I want to congratulate you and also urge you to share your best practices in the development of talent and culture in your respective organisations.
(C) Developing talents by expanding support for non-ICT sectors and non-ICT professionals to also benefit from digitalisation
16 Beyond the development of ICT talent, we want to expand opportunities for non-ICT sectors and non-ICT professionals to also benefit from digitalisation. It is not just about those who are in the tech industry and those who have tech-education background. We want to bring those from outside the traditional ICT sector into this movement as well.
17 Digital technology is relevant to every industry and we want to ensure that there are channels to embrace this. At the same time, there are real concerns that businesses will be disrupted and jobs might be replaced by automation. While these fears are understandable, they are not new. From the industrial revolution to the present digital revolution, we have learnt time and again that while technology is a disruptive force, it is also a creative force. We see this again in the current digital revolution. In order to navigate this transition successfully and seize the opportunities, we need a workforce with deep skills and a lifelong learning culture, that can adapt to new technology and use it effectively.
18 Thus, we are working with partners to reach out to the broader ecosystem of non-ICT sectors and non-ICT professionals, so that our workers can use technology to gain an edge. That is why I announced last week that IMDA is collaborating with SCS to reach out to non-ICT Trade Associations and Chambers, such as in the manufacturing, accounting and legal sectors, to equip their workers with digital skills. This is exactly the kind of cross-sector collaboration that we want to catalyse.
19 Earlier this year, I also shared how IMDA and SSG are working on the Digital Learning Guide (DLG), which enables employers in non-ICT sectors to better identify and plan for their workers’ digital training needs. This will help our businesses and workers stay competitive through the use of digital solutions. We are rolling out the DLGs for the retail and logistics sectors, and will soon extend the DLGs to the media and other non-ICT sectors.
(D) Developing partnerships across ICT and non-ICT sectors
20 Finally, government aims and needs to build strong partnerships with stakeholders across ICT and non-ICT sectors. This will enable us work together and in tandem to reap the maximum reward from the Digital Economy.
21 This year’s Tech3 Forum is an excellent example. For the first time since its launch, SCS has worked together with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, the Singapore Academy of Law and the Singapore Manufacturing Federation to create industry-specific tracks. I hope that this will promote community building across ICT and non-ICT domains and support the career development of professionals in the manufacturing, accounting and legal sectors.
22 In support of life-long learning and stronger industry-education linkages, SCS is in works with IMDA to reach out to the Institutes of Higher Learning and students. This includes engaging industry speakers who bring industry relevance into University’s and Polytechnic’s pre-employment and continuing education training curriculum. This will help both students and lecturers keep up to date with emerging digital trends.
23 At the core of Singapore’s digitalisation efforts lies our objective of ensuring inclusive growth. We want all our businesses, whether you are a start-up, an SME, or an MNC; and all our workers, regardless of age, sector you are in, or educational background; to be well-prepared for the digital economy and well-equipped to seize the opportunities it brings.
24 As leaders and representatives of key sectors in our economy, I urge you to join us in this journey to develop and implement plans to strengthen our workforce and ensure that Singapore continues to thrive in our shared digital future. I wish you all a successful conference.