Rethink how to beef up IT talent

Visitors at the Festival of Tech trying to strike up a conversation with a mini Merlion through mobile texting on Oct 10, 2015.
Visitors at the Festival of Tech trying to strike up a conversation with a mini Merlion through mobile texting on Oct 10, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

I read about the impending shortage of IT talent as Singapore embarks on its Smart Nation drive with interest ("IT talent in short supply amid Smart Nation push"; Feb 8).

It brings three questions to mind.

First, do we really need that many IT professionals and such a strong IT industry in the push towards a Smart Nation?

While we need to be at the forefront of IT applications, we also need to focus on what is critical to the nation, based on its IT talent pool, and import the rest from other countries.

In this way, we may not require 30,000 local professionals.

Second, we need to understand why Singaporeans are unwilling to join this industry.

Is it because of salaries, lack of career advancement, long working hours, or simply a lack of information?

Once we have a better understanding of the issue, we can then make the necessary adjustments.

Lastly, why have our fresh graduates been sometimes taught outdated skills?

We need to focus on what is necessary for both school and working life, and have a requirement for people to continue learning, to keep their skills updated and relevant.

We need to break down the skill requirements to various levels, so that one can master the basic skills required for a specialised task first, and then go on to other areas.

In this way, we can have a bigger pool of IT professionals with skill sets that enable them to work on specific areas.

Leong Kok Seng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2016, with the headline 'Rethink how to beef up IT talent'. Print Edition | Subscribe