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HR & EDUCATION | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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ICT faces manpower crunch in 2017

It would need additional 15,000 workers in cyber security segment.

Despite Singapore's low unemployment rate, skills challenges exist in a number of key growth industries as a result of the ongoing structural changes in the economy, the impact of disruptive technologies and the shortage of students enrolled in certain critical fields. According to a study by Singapore Management University (SMU) and global financial services firm J.P. Morgan, the industries in Singapore most in need of skilled workers include the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, which currently employs about 150,000 workers.

"The government projects that by 2017, the industry will require an additional 15,000 workers, particularly in the areas of cyber security, data analytics and development and network infrastructure – a number that could rise to 30,000 by 2020," the study revealed.

More so, the electronics and electrical engineering manufacturing – the largest component of Singapore's manufacturing base – also faces a skills gap.

"A lack of necessary work experience and specialist skills, and the perceived uncompetitive pay are the main reasons why engineers are shunning the industry. The skills gap is set to widen as Singapore moves towards an innovation-driven economy, especially in newer engineering fields like robotics and digital manufacturing," SMU noted.

The study furthered that the rapid adoption of Fintech could render a number of jobs obsolete, but that also means more workers are needed in niche areas like IT development and programming, according to the study.

"The increased use of mobile banking and web-based wealth management service Robo-Advisers could also require talent possessing both technical and entrepreneurial skills," the study cited.

It attributed the skills gaps to the rapid changes in the country's key growth industries, which it states are partly encouraged by the frequent changes in the government's industrial policy. This has perpetuated the need for foreign workers to make up for the shortage of new skills that are in demand. Despite some tightening of the foreign workers policy in recent years, the total number of foreign workers continues to increase, and was comprised of 38 percent of the workforce by the end of 2015, according to government data.

With this, the study recommended the government to consider moderating the pace of change in targeting new sectors for growth. Industries should be given time to mature to gain scale and depth, and achieve international competitiveness.

"This would also allow time for skilled workers to keep up with changing demands. Given the dynamic nature of Singapore's economy, the emphasis on education and training should also include promoting soft skills and adaptability," it underscored.

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