The Singapore government embarked on its Smart Nation initiative in 2014, envisioning the country as a nation where people live meaningful and fulfilled lives, enabled by technology. Singapore could also be a living lab to test and implement smart technologies to tackle issues presented by mega-trends such as an ageing population and increasing urban density that not only affect the nation-state, but also countries worldwide.

The infrastructure is already there: Singapore has one of the world’s highest mobile and broadband penetration rates, boasting among the speediest broadband access at two gigabytes per second. It also topped the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Information Technology Report as well as Waseda University Internationale’s 2015 Government ranking.

The Singapore infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF) Chairman Shirley Wong said the government is embracing the digital revolution in a big way now.

“Our ambition towards being the world’s first Smart Nation underscores that,” said Wong. “This revolution forces our traditional businesses to transform, creating disruption in established ecosystems. We are seeing transformation in our healthcare, finance and transport sectors.”

Technology trends like digital transformation will continue to be a top priority, moving to become a core corporate strategy. Digital transformation is driving the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and agile software development, which presents new business models.

Dimension Data Singapore’s Managing Director Png Kim Meng said productivity is also expected to improve significantly by digitally transforming many processes from human to software based delivery – with more workers using automated assistance technologies to make decisions and get work done.

Fast-paced industry requires more skilled workers

However, the rapid drive for technology innovation will come at a price. SiTF’s Wong believes the increase in adoption of ICT has created a critical shortage of infocomm professionals.

“We are not able to churn out skilful engineers fast enough to meet the growing demand,” she said.
"The industry is moving and changing so fast, there is an urgent need for continuous upgrade and education of relevant applicable skills.“Our call to action for our workforce is to keep pace with the changes in technology so as to remain relevant.”

Dimension Data’s Png believes necessary skills for the future will include in-depth knowledge and training in emerging areas like cyber security, cloud architecture, mobile development, Internet of Things, big data analytics and data science, cloud computing, additive manufacturing, and cognitive computing.

Tackling the skills shortage

To combat this critical shortage, the Singapore government has committed S$120 million to develop and train more than 20,000 infocomm professionals for the next three years – 2016 to 2018. Key to this will be the Tech Skills Accelerator (TeSA) which will identify in-demand skills and help infocomm professionals acquire and deepen their skills to enable job placement and enhance their employability.

The TeSA framework will focus on developing foundational ICT skills and business sector-specific ICT skills. To do so, TeSA Core will feature training programmes that focus on ICT core skills which can be applied across all businesses, including emerging areas like cyber security, software development, networks and infrastructure, and data analytics. TeSA Sector, on the other hand, will focus on providing ICT professionals who already have tech skills, with further training in specific domains such as finance and healthcare.

Partnering industry to train professionals

One of the training programmes under TeSA Core is the Company Led Training Programme (CLT) by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA). CLT is a structured development programme that aims to enable fresh and mid-level professionals to acquire specialist, expert, or mastery-level competencies for jobs in demand by the industry, especially those that support Smart Nation projects. 
Eligible training partners for CLT include Singapore-registered companies/organisations, which are employers of ICT professionals for job roles in demand by industries.

IDA’s spokesperson, Assistant Chief Executive Khoong Hock Yun, said infocomm is the “bright spark” in Singapore’s economy even as globally economies slow down.“There are many exciting job opportunities for someone who wants to specialise or is already specialising in tech,” he said.

“But with opportunities comes the danger of displacement, since tech disruption and increasing automation are shaking up almost all business sectors.

“For a tech professional, it is critical that they continue to sharpen and upgrade their skills to be in pace with the evolving technologies and business landscapes, so as to stay employable and progress in their career.”
Tan Poh Choo, Operations Director at SAS, said SAS has been working with IDA since 2009 to position Singapore as the analytics hub to spur economic growth.

“SAS highlighted the shortage of skilled data analysts available in the marketplace for hire to enable customer organizations to embark and embrace their analytical journey effectively,” she said.

When IDA came up with the CLT programme in 2011, SAS was roped in to be the pioneer participating organization.SAS’ programme covers data management (structured and unstructured data, big data - Hadoop); exploratory/approachable analytics; advanced analytics spanning from descriptive to predictive analytics; forecasting; and text analytics. It also covers group learning; problem solving; project based assignments; interpretation of insights - presentation of results are embedded into the training programme.
This programme helps to raise awareness of the possibility of exciting career choices for data analysts where they can do meaningful work leveraging on a broad set of technical and soft skills, said Tan.

Contributing to Smart Nation

Dimension Data Singapore is also a partner on IDA’s CLT programme. Png of Dimension Data said developing workforce skills through this programme is how the service provider can contribute towards the Smart Nation initiative.

“The programme ensures that there will be talents with the knowledge, skills and experience required to build new expertise and new capabilities in relation to network and security issues of smart city solutions,” he said.“Our programme began in February this year and extends beyond the obvious technical skills development needed to achieve the Smart Nation goal.”

“For example, the skills imparted by our Digital Practice, which engages in smart city and smart home opportunities, span across industries such as healthcare, transportation, retail and banking. This extends the skill set development to include soft skills such as organizational change management.”

According to Png, once technical skills have been adopted, these soft skills are critical in digital transformation, as it involves organizations’ implementation of technology, which in turn impacts the way business is conducted and consequently requires the understanding of how to manage the change of an organization’s culture.

“A culture of experimentation and innovation is nurtured, where young local professionals with less than three years of experience, are provided with opportunities to work in real life projects under close mentorship, from staging to testing and implementation in a client environment,” he said.

Dimension Data will provide on-the-job training and industry experience over a period of nine months to selected Singaporean graduates, who are either fresh out of university or have not had more than three years of work experience.

Key skills include conducting research to evaluate new technologies; applying cryptographic standards; implementing, managing and reviewing risk of network security; configuring firewalls; monitoring and implementing an intrusion detection system; installing and maintaining authentication process; and system testing.

Additionally, a focus on soft skills is ensured through training in business communications and presentation skills. Mentorship is also given both internally through Dimension Data’s senior executives and specialists, and externally by exposure to client projects.

“A culture of experimentation and innovation is nurtured, where young local professionals with less than three years of experience, are provided with opportunities to work in real life projects under close mentorship, from staging to testing and implementation in a client environment.”

Reaping the rewards

Singaporean trainees who are above 25 years of age who enroll and complete TeSA courses are eligible to tap on the SkillsFuture credits. The ability to align with the government’s SkillsFuture initiative to equip Singaporeans with the know-how and critical skills to build an advanced economy is a great way to contribute more to Singapore’s economy and goals, while also improving company branding.

“From a business perspective, the CLT programme is re-shaping our manpower model to build a stronger local talent base to increase the availability of talent options in the long run,” said Png.

“This programme can maximise the potential of the professionals to meet the talent demands of Singapore’s infocomm industry and in turn, create more opportunities for businesses with the right expertise on board.”

Company-led training programme is open to Singapore citizens who are either fresh or mid-level professionals. It offers professionals the opportunities to deepen their infocomm technology skills and acquire specialist-level competencies through on-the-job training and in-depth training hosted by companies. To find out more about CLT Programme, enquire here