To plug talent gap, boost image of IT profession

Bukit View Secondary School students showing game scripts and working on softwares on Feb 19, 2016.
Bukit View Secondary School students showing game scripts and working on softwares on Feb 19, 2016. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

As a business owner, information technology practitioner and adult educator in the field of IT, I read with interest the feedback and Forum letters regarding our lack of IT talent ("IT talent in short supply amid Smart Nation push"; Feb 8, "Prepare students to be IT savvy" by Mr Calvin Yong Chee Yean; Feb 12, "Pull together pieces from all over to build our Smart Nation" by Mr Geoffrey Kung; Feb 13 and "Rethink how to beef up IT talent" by Mr Leong Kok Seng; Thursday).

The issue at hand is not just about providing academic pathways, degrees and courses. Many of these educational options have been available and remain available to all.

Instead, the root of the problem is the outlook of the job itself.

In the Feb 8 report, the local industry is portrayed as looking for a specific group of IT professionals - coders and developers. The question that begs to be answered is: Do young Singaporeans aspire to be coders and developers?

If no one aspires to be a coder or developer, no amount of education is going to change that.

Our young Singaporeans are a generation of go-getters. Unlike generations before, many of them are unconcerned about what the economy needs but, rather, what their own ideals and goals are.

It will take a lot more than just providing courses, degrees and education to fill the gap.

We need to get into the mindset of this generation and understand its ideals and aspirations, changing them if required.

As a nation and as a society, we must first recognise the efforts and struggles of our IT professionals.

It is not a profession with long working hours, constantly being on call, typing away at the keyboard.

It is a profession with distinct possibilities of touching every aspect of our daily lives. It is a profession that keeps us connected in this globalised world.

It gives one a chance to not only influence the community or nation, but also the world.

When we begin to change the current perception of the IT profession, we will then, perhaps, have a chance of filling the gap and encouraging the next generation to take up what is both a very fulfilling and challenging career choice.

Ong Ban Guan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2016, with the headline 'To plug talent gap, boost image of IT profession'. Print Edition | Subscribe