It was announced last week that the Singapore government is introducing a new tech passport to attract highly skilled tech professionals from overseas and to boost the tech sector here.
It is known as the Tech.Pass and is awarded to “top tech talents” and experts who want to set up a company, lead company teams or teach.
As Singapore is on its way to becoming a smart nation and tech giants are establishing their regional bases here, we need more tech talent.
Among us, most of the software developers and IT support engineers are from other countries such as India, China and Vietnam.
This begs the question: Why do we need to look for technical talent overseas rather than hire locals?
S’pore is facing a tech talent crunch
The tech scene in Singapore is booming and this is great news for us. The bad news is that technical talent on the island may not be enough to generate a surge in vacancies.
From a young age we have had the choice of studying what we want and pursuing our own career paths.
Children who wish to devote themselves to computers have the option of enrolling in computer science diplomas and courses offered at institutions in Singapore.
Coding schools have always been around and we have unprecedented access to online resources to learn these skills.
School of Computer Science and Engineering's Overseas Entrepreneurship Program for students at NTU / Image Credit: NTU
For one, the National University of Singapore's Overseas College program offers internships in San Francisco's Silicon Valley, where many startups and global technology companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google are based.
In addition, technology leaders such as Microsoft's Bill Gates and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg have been highly revered in the world including Singapore.
Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates / Photo Credit: Geekwire
However, the education system in Singapore only produces 2,800 information and communication technology (ICT) graduates per year.
According to Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Smart Nations, the technology sector in Singapore currently employs around 200,000 people and will need another 60,000 over the next three years.
This leaves a deficit of 51,600, with only 8,400 graduates produced in three years.
"If you're a programmer, a UX designer, or an expert in Python, artificial intelligence, and machine learning … or better yet, you create robots, you're not short of jobs," said Balakrishnan.
Even so, acceptance is low and we have a lack of technical talent here (except for GovTech). Why is that?
Why do so few S & # 39; poreans want to study engineering?
Photo credit: SIT
As a Singaporean, it occurred to me that we should study and work in business administration or medicine in order to excel in life. My colleagues would agree.
For one thing, my parents didn't know what technology was or how important it was.
Additionally, so many students get through all of their school years without exposure to computer science – a rapidly growing field of study that is an important key in opening doors to jobs at tech giants like Google, Apple, and Facebook.
We haven't been exposed to the terms computer science, coding, or hackathons. It was a dark area that we didn't feel comfortable in.
Image Credit: TechCrunch
According to Payscale Singapore, an early career software engineer with 1 to 4 years of experience earns an average total compensation of S $ 53,466, based on 859 salaries.
A mid-career software engineer with 5-9 years of experience earns an average total compensation of S $ 65,116, based on 395 salaries.
All in all, the salaries are quite good, but a lack of awareness, support from families and friends, and mentoring could have made it an unpopular career.
If some of us had known that technology was going to be a booming industry, we might have studied it.
S’pore needs to improve his game to develop local technical talent
Photo credit: Asean Today
According to Balakrishnan, the Singapore government is trying to address the shortage of technical talent by "promoting mid-career changes" and "persuading thousands of people willing to learn to enter the sector".
We have mid-career advancement programs such as TeSA by IMDA, which offer Singaporean residents 40 and older the opportunity to develop or study while in a technical position.
Local tech giant Sea Limited (Sea) and IMDA have also signed a letter of intent to hire and train 500 Singaporeans in areas such as product management, software engineering and user experience design.
Local gaming hardware giant Razer's financial arm, Razer Fintech, hosted an innovative hackathon to attract new Singapore graduates interested in exploring the financial technology (fintech) field in the county.
There are also various tech scholarships offered by the big institutions like NUS, NTU, SIT and SUTD, as well as our media agency IMDA.
These initiatives are great, but more needs to be done – from raising awareness to educating people about the importance of technology in a digital economy.
Prioritize technical education
Last year it was announced that all upper elementary school students will take coding classes to nurture young talent.
The 10-hour enrichment program was tested in some schools for students after their PSLE exams this year and will be rolled out in all elementary schools this year.
Photo credit: Ong Ye Kung's Facebook page
This initiative is beneficial, but not enough. 10 hours of coding will just teach you the basics of HTML, help you take small steps, but far from being a programmer.
Additionally, students have many subjects to complete here, in addition to homework assigned by each subject teacher and after-school lessons. Additional coding classes just don't fit into an already bursting schedule.
Schools and parents need to recognize that the future of work is digital and that all jobs ultimately require basic technical skills. As a result, technical education in school needs to be prioritized.
It would also be helpful if there were incentives for Singaporeans to major in engineering, such as exclusive internships or more attractive perks at technology companies.
Yes, it is indeed important to attract and anchor fast-growing tech companies and established tech talents to Singapore.
It will also create more opportunities for local tech talent to work in globally competitive teams alongside top tech talents from around the world, as they bring their capital, networks and expertise to the country's tech ecosystem .
However, I am sure that more Singaporeans would be interested in starting technology as a career if more opportunities were presented to them.
We can also reduce competition with the likes of France and Thailand to attract skilled tech professionals into our ecosystem if we promote local tech talent.
Selected image source: Asia campaign