Local employment in infocomm media sector grew 5% in Singapore amid Covid-19

The infocomm media sector grew 4.8 per cent last year, even as the broader economy shrank 5.4 per cent. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Local employment in the infocomm media sector grew by 5 per cent last year, or about 8,000 people, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The sector has been "remarkably resilient", Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said on Wednesday (July 7). It grew 4.8 per cent last year, even as the broader economy shrank 5.4 per cent.

Speaking at an event held by NCS, local telco Singtel's infocomm technology business unit, at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Mrs Teo said the local share of Singapore's infocomm media workforce had remained steady at about three in four over the past few years.

The latest figure for the growth in foreign hires in the sector was not immediately available. But Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng had said on Tuesday that from 2005 to last year, the number of Employment Pass holders - usually higher-skilled foreigners working here - in the infocomm sector increased by around 25,000, while the number of jobs created for local professionals, managers and executives was around 35,000.

Dr Tan said the infocomm sector has 6,000 jobs unfilled, adding that Singapore currently does not have enough locals to fill the jobs available as demand for technology talent has grown, with the economy going digital.

On Wednesday, Mrs Teo, in her first public speech as Minister for Communications and Information after a Cabinet reshuffle in May, also said there was a significant proportion of new jobs for tech talent here.

Of the jobs expected to be created from the Economic Development Board's committed investments in 2019 and 2020, about 40 per cent, or 20,000, are expected to be digital roles across Singapore's economy.

"Collectively, these trends point to a picture of Singapore's digital future that is very much at the forefront of our economy and that offers exciting opportunities for Singaporeans - both our people as well as our businesses - that are willing to take on these challenges, build up their own capabilities and... innovate," Mrs Teo said.

The infocomm media sector is likely to expand beyond its current 10 per cent contribution to Singapore's economy and grow in the next couple of years, she added.

While the coronavirus outbreak caused businesses and schools to go digital quickly, with strong demand for tech talent, as well as digital products and solutions, early investments in digitalisation here made the switch less painful, she said.

These included initiatives such as the Infocomm Media Development Authority's SMEs Go Digital programme, which provided support for businesses to continue their operations remotely.

Past investments in building Singapore's Internet infrastructure proved essential during periods when people had to work and learn from home during the pandemic.

"The (infocomm media) sector will be vital in building up Singapore's digital innovation capabilities and creating sophisticated digital products and services that have the potential to reach global markets," said Mrs Teo.

"It will also be a growth multiplier for the broader economy. Digital technologies can help firms become more productive and competitive, and... position these companies to capture the opportunities that will come from pervasive digitalisation across the board."

She pointed to how in the Asia-Pacific region, total infocomm technology spending is expected to exceed US$1 trillion (S$1.35 trillion) by 2024, according to market research firm IDC.

One company seeking more tech talent is NCS, which on Wednesday said it plans to hire up to 2,000 people over this year and the next as part of plans to expand and transform its business in the Asia-Pacific region.

While NCS was not able to say what proportion of the hires will be Singaporeans and permanent residents, it plans to hire in Singapore as well as in Australia and China, the markets it plans to expand in over the next three to five years.

NCS has close to 10,000 employees now.

The new employees in the overseas markets will include the local people there, who would, among other things, be familiar with the work culture and environment. But Singaporeans will also be posted to the NCS offices abroad.

NCS expects to hire in the three areas that it wants to do more in, said chief executive Ng Kuo Pin - 5G mobile, artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

Mr Ng said NCS is also planning to hire for its core services in infrastructure, big information technology system applications and cyber security.

The company announced on Wednesday that within the year, it will launch its own in-house learning academy and platform, dubbed NCS Dojo.

Besides training new and existing staff in technical skills, the learning platform aims to pass on years of experience from senior staff to younger employees, Mr Ng said. NCS has been in business for 40 years.

"We want to impart that full learning experience on how to do real projects in real-time settings for all our people," said Mr Ng, adding that this could include seniors sharing their insights on how to deal with difficult scenarios, pressure from projects and sensitive matters.

NCS also said it started two new business groups - Gov+ and Telco+ - about a month ago to scale up its work with the Singapore public sector and telecom companies.

Beyond Singapore, the two business groups will also look to grow NCS' business in the Asia-Pacific region.

Telco+, a joint initiative between NCS and its parent company Singtel, will look at developing 5G solutions for governments and large enterprises. These include applications that can help coordinate different systems, such as those at airports.

Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, Singtel's group chief executive, said NCS has been "a key growth engine" for the telco over the years.

"It will play an even more important role now as we look to tap new growth opportunities in infocomm technology and digital services, and capitalise on the rising trend of digitalisation," said Mr Yuen.

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