SINGAPORE - Mr Jackson Sin lost his job as a business insights analyst last year, but after a nine-month stint at technology giant Google, he secured interviews with other companies like Amazon, TikTok and UOB.
The 37-year-old, who now works in a data science role at tech solutions firm Johnson Controls, was among 2,600 Singapore residents who underwent a training programme launched last year by Google.
Google announced on Tuesday (July 27) that it will expand the training programme, called Skills Ignition, to benefit another 600 people here.
Separately, another 100 on-the-job trainees will join the company in October.
The programme was launched last year with the aim of training 3,000 Singapore residents - comprising 2,400 upskilled through online vocational training and 600 who will undergo a mix of online training and on-the-job experience at 38 host companies.
It is supported by the Economic Development Board, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and SkillsFuture Singapore.
An additional track in data engineering and machine learning fundamentals will be added to the programme, which has existing tracks in digital marketing and cloud technology.
At a graduation ceremony for last year's trainees on Tuesday, Google Singapore's country director Ben King said: "Our intention was to help Singaporeans through a difficult period during the pandemic, by building in-demand skill sets for the future through meaningful work experience and through training opportunities.
"With the acceleration of a digital economy, the role of artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to grow in prominence as the centrepiece of Singapore's smart nation road map. As long-time global leaders in AI and machine learning, we want to support the nation by developing a pipeline of local talent who are proficient in these areas."
Mr King added that the demand for data analysis skills has grown by 86 per cent from 2013 to 2018.
Meanwhile, Singapore's digital economy has 19,000 unfilled technology jobs each year, according to an IMDA estimate earlier this year. In comparison, there are only about 7,000 information and communications technology graduates from Singapore universities and polytechnics as well as the Institute of Technical Education available to fill them.
"There is a substantial talent gap, based on just the rapid evolution of digital (technology) that's only been fuelled by the pandemic. It's up to both the public sector and the private sector to come together to try to solve that," Mr King said.
Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo, who was guest of honour at the graduation ceremony, said in her opening address that industry partners like Google play an important role in the growth of Singapore's digital ecosystem - as enablers for its industries and enterprises.
"They create a more robust environment that benefits all of us," she said, noting that start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are also vital in advancing digital economy efforts.
She added: "The digital economy that is currently driving economic growth globally brings with it many challenges and also enormous opportunities, especially through its need for resourceful people equipped with skills in emerging areas such as cloud technology and machine learning. As always, Singapore will focus on investing in our people, who are our most important resource."
Mr Sin told The Straits Times: "I wanted to get into the data science field last year after being retrenched from my previous company. I applied for many roles but couldn't get shortlisted because I didn't have the technical knowledge."
He applied for the Skills Ignition programme and was accepted. Under the programme, he attended three months of vocational training online from last October, before working on two projects at Google for six months.
"It was quite challenging for me because it was really hands-on and I had to learn a new technical language... I had to pick up skills in a short amount of time," he said. "But the experience was very fruitful and helped a lot in boosting my resume."
Another trainee, Ms Low Sok Leng, 45, switched from her previous role in accounting to digital marketing after going through a six-month track of the programme.
She has since set up her own company, The Noisy Agency, which provides digital marketing services for SMEs.
"During last year's circuit breaker, I saw the physical world come to a standstill, but the digital world remained vibrant. I realised that digital marketing is very relevant in the market."