THE availability of talent is critical for the growth of Singapore’s infocomm industry. In 2007, the industry recorded double-digit growth of almost 14 per cent, generating close to S$52 billion in revenue. Corresponding to this was a 9 per cent growth in Singapore’s talent pool to hit a new employment record of over 130,400 infocomm professionals.
These numbers are the result of years of careful nurturing of Singapore’s infocomm talent. Since 2004, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has invested about S$120 million toward manpower development efforts for the industry.
Bridging business and technology
|The focus will be on equipping infocomm professionals with both technical skills and business knowledge.
GOING forward, IDA - together with industry partners - will invest a further S$70 million to ensure that Singapore's infocomm sector has the talent to create and capitalise on the global digital opportunities. Of particular focus will be the nurturing of a new generation of infocomm professionals equipped with both technical skills and business knowledge.
Speaking at the Singapore Computer Society Gala Dinner and IT Leader Awards in February 2008, Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, noted that there has been a shift in the employment of infocomm professionals, from those with pure technical expertise to those with business and management skills as well. "We need to adopt a new strategy to ensure an adequate supply of infocomm talent in tune with the rest of the economic sectors. This is critical in sustaining our growth," he said.
Nurturing a new generation of infocomm professionals
|Last year, a record number of 48 students received the National Infocomm Scholarships.
THE Techno-Strategist Programme is a key thrust in this strategy. Targeted at infocomm professionals, the programme aims to equip them with sector-specific domain knowledge and solutioning capabilities. The aim is to groom some 1,000 techno-strategists, or 10 per cent of the middle-tier infocomm professionals, in the healthcare, finance and banking sectors over two years. Moving forward, IDA will expand the Techno-Strategists Programme to meet the infocomm manpower needs of other economic sectors such as retail and hospitality.
Whilst the Techno-Strategists Programme focuses on practicing infocomm professionals, initiatives such as the Enhanced Learning in Infocomm Technology Programme (ELITe) and the National Infocomm Scholarships (NIS) are aimed at grooming the next generation of infocomm professionals.
ELITe is talent development programme jointly undertaken by IDA, the three local universities (Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University) and 27 industry partners who will offer industry attachment and project work opportunities to the students. ELITe targets the top 20 per cent of the infocomm undergraduate cohort with the aim of producing graduates with the relevant industry experience and application skills. For its inaugural intake in 2008, 73 infocomm graduates were accepted under the programme.
A second initiative aimed at undergraduates is the NIS, which is also focused on developing industry-ready infocomm professionals. Last year, a record number of 48 students received the NIS ?the highest number since the Scholarship's inception five years ago. More industry-leading organisations including non-infocomm companies have also joined the NIS, bringing the total number of industry sponsors to 27. They included Barclays Capital, e-Cop, MobileOne, SAS Institute, ST Electronics (Training & Simulation Systems), Symantec Singapore and United Overseas Bank. Since its launch four years ago, the NIS has been awarded to 155 top infocomm students.
Taking aim at an even younger cohort are the Infocomm Clubs, which are set up in schools to inspire young minds to explore the exciting possibilities of infocomm and the opportunities that await them should they take up a career in the infocomm industry. Since the launch in 2006, the number of Infocomm Clubs has grown to over 200, with an 8,000-strong membership spread across primary and secondary schools and junior colleges.
Bridging the digital divide
While it is important to nurture top-tier talent to spearhead the growth of Singapore's infocomm industry, there is an equally strong onus on the infocomm community to ensure that the benefits of technology percolate into different segments of the society.
|The Infocomm Accessibility Centre aims to train 4,000 people by 2010.
Reaching out to a different set of demographics are programmes aimed at bridging the digital divide in Singapore. These initiatives are targeted at those who may have difficulty accessing or making use of infocomm resources. Speaking in Parliament in February 2008, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports said S$43 million will be invested in these efforts over the next five years.
One such initiative is the setting up of Singapore's first dedicated pan-disability training centre which will enable people with disabilities to pick up IT skills. Launched in July 2008, the Infocomm Accessibility Centre aims to train 4,000 people by 2010.
The 600 sq m facility is set within the premises of the Society for the Physically Disabled. The centre is equipped with a range of computer accessibility tools that make it possible for those with physical, sensory and developmental disabilities to pick up basic computing skills like word processing and industry-relevant skills such as digital imaging and graphic design. These include large-key keyboards and communication devices using eye-tracking technology for those with physical disabilities, zoomtext software and Braille note takers for the visually handicapped and sound amplifiers for the hearing impaired.
Trainees will have an individualised training plan based on prior personal assessment and appraisal. After completing the IT course, those with the aptitude and capability may progress to the IT Apprenticeship Programme which incorporates competency training, internship placements and engagement in commercial projects to prepare the trainees for employment in the open market.
In a separate initiative, two new infocomm learning hubs, called the Silver Infocomm Junctions (SIJ), were opened in November 2008 to further promote infocomm literacy among senior citizens.
Located at the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) Multi-Service Centre in Bukit Panjang and at the Marine Parade Family Service Centre (MPFSC), the two new learning hubs are in addition to the first SIJ set up last year at the RSVP Singapore in Bishan. In all, IDA is aiming to set up eight such centres in the heartlands for senior citizens by 2010.
IDA has also engaged RSVP Singapore and MPFSC to jointly develop a new set of bilingual (English and Chinese) infocomm curriculum to increase infocomm literacy among senior citizens. There are two tracks, iBEGIN and iLIVE, for senior citizens to learn basic infocomm and digital lifestyle skills, respectively.
Tackling the digital divide on yet another front, Dr Balakrishnan also said IDA will accelerate its enhanced NEU PC Plus Programme, which was launched in 2006 to provide highly-subsidised computers and Internet access to low-income families. In his Parliament address in February, he noted that some 4,200 families have taken advantage of this programme to date. IDA has also set up the iNSPIRE Fund which will allow needy students to perform community service in lieu of co-payment. The schemes will contribute to iN2015's goal of having all families with school-going children to own a PC by 2015.
Acknowledging concerns by fellow Members of Parliament over the potential divide between the digital haves and have-nots, he said, "We are aware of this and we do not intend to let a digital divide exist in Singapore."