SINGAPORE - It is back to the classroom for 40 adults, who are staring intently at their laptop screens, solving coding challenges assigned by their instructor and designing user-friendly websites.
Their intensive infocomm and technology classnow takes place in a bigger space to facilitate collaborative learning, group projects and networking.
On Tuesday (April 30), General Assembly, a four-year-old private institute that specialises in information and communication technology-related training, launched its new campus in the 79 Anson Road building.
At 6,000 square feet, the campus is able to take in more students and conduct more courses than at its previous location in a coworking office space in Claymore Hill.
The move is timely as demand for ICT professionals is increasing. According to the 2018 Infocomm Media Manpower Survey, the demand for infocomm professionals in areas such as IT development, data analytics and the internet of things is set to grow by 28,500 by next year.
Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamed, who was the guest-of-honour at the campus' opening ceremony, noted that as the country shifts to a digital economy, it will become mandatory for employees to equip themselves with deeper skills and knowledge such as data analytics and user experience design.
"There is a shortage of some of these skills today, and we can expect this skill gap to widen. This means that businesses that only depend on hiring ready talent will find themselves facing a very tight labour market," he cautioned.
Mr Zaqy added that for businesses to stay competitive in the infocomm sector, employers will need to become more sophisticated at developing talent by upskilling their employees and hiring people who may not possess the complete skillsets, but can be trained to excel at their jobs.
General Assembly has supported the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore's (IMDA) efforts to bring in more ICT professionals and those contemplating a mid-career switch into the digital economy.
Since 2016, the institute has been a partner of IMDA's Tech Immersion and Placement Programme (TIPP), which converts individuals unfamiliar with ICT to tech professionals through immersive training.
Under TIPP, General Assembly conducts four full-time courses in the areas of web development, digital marketing, data science and user experience design. At the end of the 10 to 12-week courses, the institute will help students land jobs by providing career coaching, portfolio building advice and connecting them to hiring events.
Singapore citizens who apply for the courses are eligible for subsidies.
Close to 97 per cent of graduates from the four courses have found employment. So far, over 2,000 individuals have benefited from the institute's digital and ICT-related courses.
One of them, Mr Arif Rahman, 30, graduated from the three-month web development course in June 2017.
As a teenager, he made frequent trips to Sim Lim Square with his uncle to purchase new computer sets and repair gadgets.
Though he had interest in IT and computer hardware and software, he did not pursue his passion because he had only a GCE O-level certificate and assumed that one needed a computer science degree at least to become a web developer.
As a private hire car driver in 2017, he chanced upon General Assembly when a passenger told him it was possible to enroll in the web development course with an O-level certificate.
Four months after graduating from the course, Mr Arif landed a job as a front-end developer at Indorse, a local blockchain company.
"In my previous jobs as a hair-dresser and private hire driver, I was not able to network and make connections, which is important for career advancement," he said.
"In the tech industry, I am making multiple connections, and learning about new trends, technologies and coding languages."