As hiring activity picks up across sectors and professionals look to switch jobs, one thing is clear - there is fierce competition for skilled talent, and tech talent still comes up top in demand.

Beyond the digital push from the pandemic, more companies are evolving their strategies and processes to focus on users’ internet behaviours - or the idea of how, when and why people use technology. In order to leave their digital footprint in an impactful way to gain more brand awareness, businesses are collecting and capitalising on data more than ever.

As companies deal with greater data loads, they require greater support to safeguard this data from newer technological threats such as phishing or ransomware attacks. Besides cybersecurity, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students and those who possess technical skills will be increasingly sought-after in areas such as product development and data analytics. Industries like manufacturing, supply chain, and healthcare have also begun digitising and automating their processes for higher efficiency and accuracy.

By 2030, the information communications technology (ICT) sector will require another 60,000 tech professionals. The tech industry is growing at a rapid rate and we can also expect to see rising demand for new IT jobs opportunities in the near future. However, there is still a severe lack of local talent to fill these roles.

How can employers look for the right talent who are capable of bringing their organisation up to speed with new technologies amidst a global tech talent shortage?

demand for tech talent in singapore
demand for tech talent in singapore

the lack of STEM talent to fill the widening talent gap

Apart from tech companies, other companies coming from other fields are also in search of tech talent, especially within STEM. However, it is known that a few are exploring careers in this industry. In 2020, the percentage of graduates in engineering sciences, information technology and natural and mathematical sciences in Singapore accounted for 44.5% of the degrees among male graduates, down from 51.6% in 2010. For women, this figure measured at 20.2%, down from 25.1% a decade ago.

The dip in STEM students and emergence of new technologies has only further widened the skills and talent gap in our workforce, which means that employers are going to have a challenging time finding quality talent and securing the best candidates. Given that STEM students undergo a curriculum that is not only challenging but highly competitive, fewer students may be interested in pursuing an education in STEM due to its academic rigour.

uneven talent demand across tech verticals

Singaporeans accounted for 70% of the net job growth for cybersecurity engineers and UX/UI designers; and 50% of the net job growth for data analysts and data scientists in 2019. However, less than 20% of software engineering jobs that year were taken up by Singaporeans.

Some examples of the most in-demand tech jobs include AI specialist, digital marketer, robotics engineer, fullstack engineer and backend developer.

Global tech talent serves as an immediate remedy to fill our existing skills and talent gaps, particularly in big data, DevOps and quality assurance. Besides solving our immediate talent needs, global talent are also able to drive more partnerships with educational institutions, pass on their knowledge and help to upskill Singaporean workers to command higher management roles.

Yet this is still not enough to resolve the talent shortage issue at hand. Materially, technology is advancing too quickly for humans to catch up. There is simply not enough skilled talent to take up roles in disruptive industries with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP).

Businesses may want to hire such talent now, but it takes time for educational institutions to develop a programme that can effectively train and prepare people for these emerging roles.

COVID-19 has temporarily impaired our ability to attract and retain global tech talent

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major change in our work dynamics, where remote work is considered a norm today. For starters, the process of finding a job and settling down in a foreign country as an expat has become much more convoluted. Meanwhile, on-and-off border control measures due to new COVID variants have made it difficult for expats to return home to visit their families and friends. For two years, many who wanted to visit their families during critical times were worried that their applications to return might not be approved. So, they stayed put.

The world has also become much more divisive. In times of crisis, the ideology of “us versus them” has become more prevalent, causing many to become more protective of what’s theirs. This mindset has created a great gulf in our local and global workforces and placed a tremendous amount of stress on our expats, many of whom are simply seeking a safe environment to work and live in.

Businesses have been constantly reviewing their business continuity plans since the start of COVID-19, and some are endeavouring to support expats who return home to visit their families during critical times. This includes preparing their paperwork for their re-entry to Singapore and ensuring that they have the tools and resources they need to work remotely, especially during quarantine. This is one of the ways in which employers retain their top talent and ensure that they have enough headcount to work on projects.

A diverse workforce brings about many benefits to our local population. Our local workforce is able to learn directly from experts - whether that’s learning how to build new products or apps, write new code, optimise internal processes or manage teams of diverse individuals. When local IT talent leverage these learning opportunities to expand their technical skills and gain greater commercial acuity, they will have more opportunities to grow in their careers.

how is singapore tackling the tech talent shortage?

Despite the significant shortage of talent within STEM and tech, Singapore has had a fair amount of success in attracting ICT talent owing to its position as a regional technology hub. Our strategic location offers a global connectivity unique to the city-state, allowing businesses to easily access the region’s growth opportunities and its growing consumer market.

These factors have created many new and exciting opportunities for both local and global talent, as they will have the chance to work on state-of-the-art innovation projects and be at the forefront of the world’s future-facing technology agenda. As new business entrants become more diverse and innovative in nature, the job opportunities these companies create will give rise to Singapore’s efforts to woo highly-skilled tech workers.

Despite having new and exciting careers to explore in and apart from in tech companies, many tech workers are hesitant to change careers. In the Randstad Tech Talent Expectations Survey conducted in November 2021, 36% of Singaporean IT workers stated that a potential reason for turning down job offers was due to being comfortable in their current positions. As such, employers are investing more deeply in attracting and retaining existing talent through offering incentives such as bigger salary increments, comprehensive health benefits, and flexible working arrangements.

global talent crunch
global talent crunch

how ‘tech.pass’ has helped Singapore bridge existing skills gaps with the help of global talent

Given the evolving nature of tech jobs and the increasing number of jobs, upskilling and reskilling the local workforce can help prepare more people to both remain in and break into the ICT sector. However, there is still a shortage of available talent.

Initiatives such as Tech.Pass - or the visa which allows established tech entrepreneurs and leaders to work and stay in Singapore - become crucial in helping to usher in skilled talent. Since its launch last year, 180 individuals have been approved for the Tech.Pass scheme. 

The Tech.Pass initiative sets the seal on resolving some of our headcount and skills challenges, especially at the senior level, where employers need someone with the experience to lead transformation projects. Besides filling immediate skills gaps, Tech.Pass holders are also instrumental in fostering greater innovation and growth in the sector as they offer advisories to IT start-ups and SMEs, as well as the education sector. In the long run, their direct contributions will help build a larger local talent pool and drive commercial viability and sustainability in Singapore.

commercial-centric tech firms driving talent movements

A significant contributing factor to the country’s success is the government’s ability to take big steps in digitising sectors from fintech to manufacturing, and offer an enabling environment for both global talent and firms looking to expand into the Asia Pacific region.

The recent introduction of Singapore’s SPAC listing framework is an effort from the government and Singapore Exchange (SGX) to show global markets that Singapore is taking measures to become a key fundraising destination. The move will not only help to attract more funding to the city-state, but it will entice more companies to scale up their businesses in Singapore.

Singapore has also seen an influx of blockchain and cryptocurrency firms looking to take advantage of the nation’s growth potential. Companies such as US-based cryptocurrency Gemini and Australian crypto exchange Independent Reserve have been hiring aggressively since receiving their licences.

New technology verticals such as fintech, medtech and agritech are highly attractive to the local workforce, and not just because of the sheer number of jobs they are creating. The premise of their businesses aligns with the values and beliefs of many of our modern customers. They also offer “tech-lite” jobs so that talent with skills in other functions can slowly build their digital capabilities simply by working in a tech environment.

Meanwhile, more companies within the ICT sector are also embracing hires from adjacent industries and putting frameworks and training mechanisms in place for them to succeed in their new roles.

how can employers manage their expectations for tech talent and meet their hiring needs?

The search for tech talent will not only remain a local priority but a global one. We will see more job seekers being active in the market in 2022, simply because there are more opportunities being created in tech. If border restrictions can continue to be safely lifted within the coming year, we will likely see more global tech talent coming to Singapore to fill additional headcount.

Though hiring skilled tech workers and STEM professionals today is tedious given the scarcity in talent, there are workarounds for the present challenges faced during the hiring processes. The key lies in truly understanding your business needs and the exact skills that are needed to fill the skills gaps in your organisation.

When promoting new job opportunities, it is crucial to get the hiring manager’s input as early as possible so that the responsibilities and skills detailed in job descriptions are true. A whopping 59% of Singapore ICT professionals reported that the key reason they would turn down a job offer is due to a mismatch between the advertised job scope and the actual job or project scope. Creating more accurate job descriptions can help prevent avoidable mistakes such as hiring the wrong person for the job or creating a poor candidate experience, which will cost the company more time and money to rectify.

By knowing exactly what duties and skills are needed to fill the gaps, you can adjust your HR budgets and expectations to recruit specialised workers with an agile approach in mind. Our Tech Talent Expectations Survey highlights and reveals what tech candidates are looking for in today’s changing world of work, their evolving expectations of employers and their views on the skills shortage in the technology sector.

Find out more about our specialised IT recruitment services and let us help you build a winning talent attraction strategy.

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