Singapore will keep building local tech talent amid job cuts: Josephine Teo

Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo (second from right) chatting with the trainees from Step It Up talent accelerator programme, on Jan 26, 2023. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Technology will continue to undergird the growth of Singapore’s economy and create job opportunities despite the ongoing massive tech job cuts around the world, said Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo on Thursday.

Singapore will also continue to invest in Singaporeans by reskilling and upskilling them for career opportunities in tech, she said, citing opportunities in the development of the green economy.

Other sectors ramping up their hiring of tech talent include banking, logistics and accommodation.

Mrs Teo was allaying fears that tech opportunities may be dwindling following announcements last week that Microsoft and Amazon had started cutting a total of 28,000 jobs across the globe, citing slowing sales and a possible recession.

Google’s parent company Alphabet, Facebook owner Meta and Twitter have also announced layoffs, which may impact their Singapore presence.

“The question, of course, on everyone’s minds, is: Should we be worried about opportunities in tech? Is it foolhardy to continue encouraging our people to look at opportunities in tech?” she said at the launch of Step IT Up, a tech talent conversion programme.

“Right-sizing the workforce for these tech companies is a painful exercise, particularly for the affected individuals and their families. But without a more disciplined approach to headcount growth, tech companies risked becoming more bloated and less agile,” she said.

As part of the Step IT Up programme, about 400 people without coding experience will be trained to become software developers over the next two years.

Organised by tech consultancy firm Temus and supported by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the Step IT Up programme is exclusively meant for Singaporeans or permanent residents without a background in tech. They will be trained specifically for tech jobs secured for them.

Each cohort will undergo a four-month intensive training phase that is tailored specifically for jobs that trainees have been placed in, exposing them to the workplace and platforms used.

The first batch of 22 graduates, who started in late 2022, will join Temus as full-time employees in March. They were coached to code using Microsoft’s .Net framework to prepare them to work with public- and private-sector clients, said a Temus spokesman on Thursday.

Programme graduates will eventually work at Temus or be matched with its partners, or be given other opportunities.

Most in the first batch are mid-career switchers, who come from unrelated sectors such as education, healthcare and the service industry, said Temus chief executive Yeoh Keat Chuan on Thursday, when the programme was launched at the Temus office in Pasir Panjang.

He added that at least 800 applicants signed up in last year’s recruitment drive.

With plans to increase Temus’ workforce by five times to 1,000 by 2025, Mr Yeoh said training workers without a tech background is crucial in today’s market, where there is a limited pool of tech talent.

“That’s one way to get a competitive advantage today. We could choose to compete in the (market) for those with tech careers. But if you do that, you’re hiring from a limited pool, where the demand for tech talent is high.

“With Step IT Up, we are investing in building up skills and the much-needed tech talent pool for Singapore and the region,” he said.

He added that graduates will be paid a competitive wage in line with the market. Trainees are also paid $3,000 monthly during the training.

Mrs Teo, who is also Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation and Cybersecurity, added that the IMDA continues to invest in tech talent here.

It has placed more than 13,000 individuals in tech jobs since 2016 under the TechSkills Accelerator programme, and trained 180,000 others in cyber security, artificial intelligence and data analytics.

Trainees interviewed said that tech jobs in the open market are highly competitive. Ms Melissa Chua, 36, who will graduate from the course in March, developed an interest in programming after dabbling in Python and other programming languages outside of her work as a copy editor.

Work opportunities in the tech market seemed out of reach at the time, because of the prior experience required by employers, she said.

Mr Eric Tan, 31, signed up for the programme with his brother, former optometrist Christopher Tan, 38, after applying for at least four tech jobs that turned out to favour those with at least two years’ training in tech.

Mr Eric Tan, a former researcher, said: “Ads I saw promoted tech jobs for those without experience, but in the end, it was only for those familiar with computer sciences, so the job hunt was tough.”

He added: “I was getting a bit too comfortable in my previous role and there wasn’t much growth, so I wanted a new challenge.”

To apply for the Step IT Up programme, visit

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.