During the launch of the ICT skills framework on 10 Nov 2017, Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said that over 42,000 IT professionals would be needed over the next three years (TODAY, 2017). This is good news for those of us who dream of making a career out of programming. I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr Mark Ng, Head of Creative at Flair Technologies to learn more about his experience with being a programmer.
Trends in the region
Mr Ng has observed that while demand is rising for IT professionals, local graduates still face challenges in finding employment as companies outsource to countries like Vietnam to reduce costs. At the same time, companies are being pressured to find new ways to engage their customers through online channels. Traditionally, many companies looking to engage customers online have used Facebook to advertise. However Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced only a month ago that their algorithm is being changed and users will “see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.” (Facebook, 2018). With this change in algorithm, users will see far less content from businesses and therefore companies will need to “take quick action with their Facebook content strategies to dig in to the data on ‘who’ their fans are and what makes them tick so that brand content is synonymous with relevant content” according to Billy Boulia, DigitasLBi vice president and group director of social strategy. (Adweek, 2018)
Riding on the trends
As more companies outsource jobs, it is important for university students to start building relationships during their studies and internships since finding a job by referral gives more certainty than applying through the job market. Everyone on the Flair Technologies team, including Mr Ng, was hired through referrals.
Additionally, training from Singaporean universities is among the best in the world and will equip students with the skills to navigate shifting digital channels. In terms of employer reputation in the Engineering & Technology industry, NUS is ranked 1st and NTU 8th in Asia (Top Universities, 2018). In terms of teaching quality, NUS is 4th and NTU is 21st in Asia (Times Higher Education, 2018). We live in dynamic times and with Facebook’s announcement shaking up the online advertising space, it is all the more important that Singaporean students make the most out of their education from local universities to show employers that by hiring local talents they will gain innovators with relevant skills who can bring their companies into the future.
While the cost of hiring local graduates is higher, there are various schemes that the government has rolled out to offset the costs and give local graduates a chance to prove that the benefits of hiring them is worth the cost. For example SPRING Singapore’s SME talent programme provides up to 70% of funding support covering the internship stipend for SMEs who take in interns who are Singaporean or Permanent Resident full-time students in an ITE, polytechnic or university (SPRING, 2018). In the Budget 2018, there were also no measures to ease Singapore’s foreign manpower rules. (The Business Times, 2018). Hopefully with this approach, employers will be more inclined to hire locally.
Mr Ng has noticed that there are creative tech communities in Singapore but they are all clustered only around the JTC launch pad area. However even within the communities at the launch pad, there is limited interaction which Mr Ng feels stems from our Asian culture where we keep to ourselves in our offices if there is no reason to go out and interact. This, he says is in stark contrast with countries like the US and UK where they actively share and discuss ideas without fear of having their plans stolen by competitors. To create more room for interaction, Mr Ng suggests a simple solution of installing vending machines along the common corridors. Additionally co-working spaces can be improved to have better amenities to encourage people to come out of their respective offices.
Mr Ng also recognises that JTC is doing its best to improve the culture at the Launchpad and has been organising a variety of events such as Start-up mixers to promote interaction between the start-ups. However these events are usually block-specific and Mr Ng feels that they tend to create a culture similar to the school system at Pulau Tekong BMT where people feel that their identity is tied to the school that they are from and do not interact with people from other schools. Therefore Mr Ng feels that more events that involve the whole Launchpad should be organised to allow start-ups from different blocks to meet and build relationships.
Call to Singaporeans aspiring to be app developers
In the coming years, more app developers will be needed in Singapore as we move towards becoming a smart nation. This presents those of us who are passionate about programming with a plethora of opportunities to contribute to the smart nation vision. However we need to let our creativity shine and prove that by hiring local talents, employers will have access to staff that have radical ideas and skills to make those ideas a reality to steer their companies through the dynamic waves of the IT industry.
*The opinions expressed in this article are Mark’s personal opinion and not Flair’s.
Adweek. (2018). The Ad Community’s Reaction to Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm Change. [online] Available at: http://www.adweek.com/digital/the-ad-communitys-reaction-to-facebooks-news-feed-algorithm-change/ [Accessed 24 Feb. 2018].
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TODAY. (2017). 42,000 IT professionals needed over next 3 years. [online] Available at: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/42000-ict-professionals-needed-over-next-3-years-yaacob [Accessed 24 Feb. 2018].
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