EDB and IDA acting to meet demand for cyber security talent

The Economic Development Board has been nurturing key industries that are driving Singapore's economy and will take it into the future with attractive employment prospects for people here. Arti Mulchand profiles computer security professionals in the information and communications technology sector.

The global threat of malware and hackers has never been higher, and the shortage of experts who can fight them has never been more acute.

This is according to networking giant Cisco's Annual Security Report, released last month.

This year, the world will grapple with a shortfall of one million cyber security experts, the report estimates, and Singapore will not be spared.

However, within the threat lies opportunity, notes the Economic Development Board's (EDB) director for infocomms and media, Mr Kiren Kumar.

He explains: "With the rapid evolution of threats, we recognise the importance of developing a vibrant cyber security industry; not just to improve our own cyber resilience, but also to reap economic benefits from this fast-growing market."

Figures from the Infocomm Development Authority's (IDA) Infocomm Technology Roadmap 2012 - Cybersecurity, released in 2011, show that the global cyber security market was worth US$63.7 billion (S$80 billion) that year, and is expected to grow at a rate of 11.3 per cent a year to an estimated US$120.1 billion by 2017.

The market in the Asia-Pacific is expected to grow even faster, at 13.4 per cent a year, to reach US$26 billion by 2017.

It is one of the key drivers in the booming information and communications technology (ICT) sector, which is also experiencing unprecedented growth. ICT is one of Singapore's most significant service sectors, contributing about $9.1 billion to GDP in 2011 and accounting for close to 6 per cent of service sector employment.

But to keep this going means having to up Singapore's game by growing the talent pool quickly.

Mr Kumar noted that in 2012, just 0.8 per cent of Singapore's 144,300 ICT workers were IT security specialists, with an acute shortage in the middle and senior tiers due to a shortage of training programmes and entry routes for mid-career professionals.

He says: "Companies will be increasingly selective of locations which are able to provide a steady and ready pipeline of cyber security professionals."

The same rings true for other ICT experts, including software engineers, research scientists, pre-sales engineers and solutions architects.

The EDB and other government agencies, such as the IDA and tertiary institutions, have been quick to plug those gaps.

The inroads that have been made in ICT research and development, by drawing teams from leading multinational companies like SAP, Oracle, PayPal and Symantec, as well as innovative ones such as FireEye, have created exciting job opportunities in Singapore.

To further woo top cyber security graduates and professionals, a new grant - part of the EDB's Strategic Attachment and Training programme, which was put into place to build Singapore's manpower capabilities through overseas training and attachments with leading companies - kicked in last year.

US-based security firm RSA is among the first to sign up for the grant, which will place successful candidates in one- or two-year residency training stints at its Anti-Fraud Command Centre outside Tel Aviv, Israel.

Singapore's universities and polytechnics will also help feed the pipeline.

To add to the local core of ICT professionals, the IDA's Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme offers funding to both infocomm and non-infocomm professionals to deepen their infocomm skills.

Mr Kumar says: "To meet the needs of the future, we need a combination of strong technical expertise and the ability to understand and create solutions for different industries.

"Such skilled Singaporean ICT talent will contribute to our economy as a whole."

This article was first published on May 5, 2014