Why SMEs should upskill to face the tech talent crunch

Shumin Lai, Data Analytics Trainer at Smartcademy

The tech market has been volatile of late. We’ve witnessed massive retrenchments and lay-offs in the tech industry recently at tech giants like Tesla and Shopee.

Despite this, there remains a tech talent crunch, and experts suggest that tech-related job roles will still continue to be highly sought-after in the long-term, as the global economy continues opening. And these jobs include software developers, business analytics professionals, and data scientists.

Singapore is no different, as our national employment is set to increase further, to pre-pandemic levels, and Minister Tan See Leng is optimistic that the current lay-offs are providing an opportunity to leverage on the talent pool.

Tech and Web 3.0 as the Future of the Economy

The global economy and labour market is increasingly being shaped by data and emerging technologies, further accelerated by the advent of Web 3.0. AI and automation have been interwoven so seamlessly into our everyday lives, from our robot vacuums to our smartwatches, to even simple processes like making payments on smart devices!

We’ve also witnessed the huge spike in adoption of telecommunications. With remote working becoming the new norm, people are shifting from physical workplaces to working and collaborating online. Communication tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams are constantly innovating to identify new features to enhance the experience. And this convenience and comfort comes with a heavy reliance on data, which is collected and analysed.

The future of work will never be the same. Technology has been, and will be, integrated into various industries and Singapore has been investing heavily into smart technology for the post-pandemic world. Many tech jobs and opportunities have sprung up, and job postings for tech, data and science have risen to a record 120% above pre-pandemic levels, with 54% of employers looking to hire talent for roles in data analytics.

I believe that tech skills, particularly data analytics, will remain relevant in the evolving global economy. The data boom has inadvertently enabled the massive collection of data for organisations to tap on and turn into knowledge and ultimately wisdom to improve and enhance their current business processes and offerings. Data analytics insights will pave the way for more informed decisions in improving workflows and practices.

Data skills can also easily be transferred across industries, given how many industries have started incorporating data collection in their systems. Having a strong foundation in data analytical skills boosts employees’ competitive edge and allows businesses to expand their system repertoire to include data engineering, data visualisation or data science.

The Importance of Upskilling

The Government has been taking steps to encourage innovation and growth amongst Singaporeans of all ages, through various schemes such as career fairs targeted for mature employees, and the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) for building digital capabilities. Most recently, Minister Josephine Teo has also outlined the Government’s plans to build additional infrastructure and invest in research and development to develop the digital economy. Despite these efforts, the growth of the talent pool remains bleak and vacancies are still on the rise, especially in traditional industries like finance and healthcare.

This phenomenon can be attributed to a lack of time, motivation, or adequate employer support. Furthermore, many working professionals, especially mid-career or mature professionals, are resistant to upskilling and are afraid of having to learn new technologies and complicated terms like AI and IoT. They prefer job scopes with lesser responsibilities and have the misconception that their younger and more well-educated colleagues are more suited for these roles. In fact, a staggering more than half believe they would reach career stagnation at 48!

While the Government plays a pertinent role in providing resources and implementing policies, businesses should work hand-in-hand with the Government, by mapping out comprehensive plans to overhaul employees’ skills and capabilities, and redesigning job roles to increase labour productivity and efficiency.

Signing employees up and funding them for upskilling and training courses is a form of investment for the company, and by providing flexibility and allocating time for them to upskill, businesses can benefit from greater productivity and employee satisfaction in the long run. In an era where employees have as much negotiation power on job satisfaction and needs, businesses have to take into account how they can provide a better working environment for their employees as well.

That said, individuals should also take charge of their own growth and development, by identifying how upskilling can benefit both their personal and professional journeys. For those who simply do not have the time, short but impactful courses related to Data Analytics, AI, or other relevant tech skills on ed-tech platforms can be extremely useful.

A seamless and fully automated world seems to be what’s in store for the future. Saudi Arabia is already in the process of constructing its smart city and other countries are following suit in other developments. Governments and businesses will have to change and adapt to the future and the importance of automation and data analytics will only grow.

Ultimately, upskilling is not a one-man show. It boils down to a collaborative effort between the Government – in laying down frameworks for businesses and individuals; employers – in acting on Government policies and encouraging employees; and working professionals – in taking charge of their own development and maintaining a positive and open mindset towards lifelong learning.