Parliament: IT manpower training gets a boost to fill 30,000 new jobs by 2020

The Code@SG programme offers enrichment lessons to primary school students, and is targeting 24,000 school-goers a year, up from the current 22,000.
The Code@SG programme offers enrichment lessons to primary school students, and is targeting 24,000 school-goers a year, up from the current 22,000. PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

SINGAPORE - More will be spent on infocomm technology manpower training as Singapore looks to fill some 30,000 expected new jobs in, for instance, software coding, data analytics and cyber security by 2020 to build smart nation projects.

The Government has earmarked a total of $120 million over three years to expand the reach of existing training schemes that target professionals and students, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim announced during Monday's (April 11) Committee of Supply debate over his ministry's Budget.

Half of this amount was spent over four years previously.

MPs Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC), Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) and Nominated MP Randolph Tan had earlier raised concerns about IT manpower shortages and asked how Singapore can reduce its reliance on foreigners.

Recognising the need to build a strong Singapore core for infocomm media, Dr Yaacob said: "We must do our best to support our Singaporeans to be highly skilled so that they can compete with global talent."

His ministry is starting with the very young with its Code@SG programme to make coding a national capability to create a base of technology professionals.

Launched in April 2014, the scheme offers enrichment lessons to primary school students, and is targeting 24,000 schoolgoers a year, up from the current 22,000.

Specifically, lessons will be offered to more lower primary students, and increase the complexity of lessons for upper primary and secondary school students. For instance, the Python programming language - not offered at present - will be taught to secondary school students.

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) will also offer more structured internship and mentorship programmes to the 6,000 students each year who are already in infocomm disciplines. It is hoped that through these, they can gain sufficient entry-level skills and experience even before they graduate.

The new outreach target is 800 pre-graduates a year - up from the current 130 - via its Industry Preparation for Pre-Graduates programme.

"Today, our estimates indicate that a significant proportion of them do not enter the sector upon graduation. This is a missed opportunity," Dr Yaacob said.

Overall, MCI hopes to almost double the number of professionals and pre-graduates trained a year to 8,000.

Towards this goal, his ministry will also do more to support existing IT professionals by co-funding their training with companies such as Google via its Company-Led Training programmes. It is hoped that more professionals will be trained for jobs in demand, especially in emerging tech areas like cyber security and analytics.

An existing broad-based IT training programme called Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme (Citrep) will also be expanded to include, say, foundational security courses. It used to focus only on specialised courses.

Citrep, which funds up to 70 per cent of course fees, has been reaching out to 3,000 IT professionals a year since 2014, but the expanded programme has a new target of 5,600 professionals a year.

A separate $1.55 million will also be set aside by MCI for the SkillFuture Study Awards, aimed at people looking to hone their skills, including software developers, satellite engineers and master craftsmen. A total of 310 awards will be given by MCI this year.