Businesses should stop complianing about tech talent. Source: Shutterstock

Businesses should stop complianing about tech talent. Source: Shutterstock

Kelly Services Chief says APAC has all the tech talent it needs

WHILE businesses across the APAC consistently complain about the talent crunch in the technology space, APAC talent professional and Kelly Services Malaysia Country Head Brian Sim believes that’s not the case.

“Countries like China, India and Japan have been growing exponentially as technological hubs in the past few decades. In doing so, they have created a large tech talent pool across most specialisations to meet the demand from businesses that are deploying new technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data analytics.”

According to Sim, the issue is not whether the region has the tech talent here it needs. Instead, the question is whether or not that talent chooses to work in the region.

“Highly skilled workers tend to prefer working in countries with strong currencies and the right tech infrastructure for them to grow professionally,” Sim tells Tech Wire Asia in an exclusive interview.

Businesses in countries such as Malaysia (which is still considered a developing country according to Sim) need to think about how they can attract this type of tech talent to work for them.

Employees ultimately responsible for their employability

In the short term, the real questions is: How can businesses upskill their workforce to meet the challenges of digitization before talent heading to more developed countries returns?

According to Sim, governments, companies, as well as employees are all responsible when it comes to preparing for future jobs.

“Governments in developing countries have the advantage of looking towards more developed countries to predict the level of disruption caused by technologies, identify the new jobs that are generated, and the skills that will be required.

“In doing so, the government can set the pace through policies and campaigns designed to help prepare the country’s workforce for tomorrow’s jobs whilst avoiding the mistakes made by other countries.”

Companies, on the other hand, could create a forward-looking plan to help them identify new job opportunities and to decide whether they could train existing employees to fill those roles and minimise the cost of recruiting someone new.

Ultimately, however, in Sim’s opinion, individuals themselves have the ultimate responsibility to keep up to date with what is in demand in their industry.

“While businesses and governments can provide programmes to train workers in a particular field, this may not apply to everyone. Every individual has different areas of expertise, and it is important that they identify which areas need upskilling and take the initiative to better themselves too.”

That’s the hard truth, and Sim isn’t afraid to say it out loud in an era where companies and regulators are afraid of existing staff refusing to smoothly make the transition to technology-driven ecosystems.

Regulators need to take another look at gig workers

“Employers should be aware of the changes in working habits that is taking place in most modern workplaces. With technology providing more flexibility in the way professionals operate, there is a noticeable trend of employees demanding flexible working hours and even remote working arrangements.”

Brian advises companies to avoid stigmatising this approach to work and instead look at the benefits it can bring and accordingly develop a work culture that can incorporate this style of work into its business operations.

In fact, a large number of companies are also exploring the gig economy — hiring talent based on requirements for project — making operations more lean, cost effective, and agile.

Brian points out that companies like Grab, for instance, have seen an increasing numbers of freelancers join them recently as a result of the kind of technology they leverage as well as how their business operates.

“While Grab may provide good packages for its freelancers and reward them with the flexibility they desire, this increase in freelancers undoubtedly merits a closer look by regulators in deciding how to monitor and regulate such workers.

“This is imperative as employment laws in most countries are quite dated and should be updated to reflect current employment trends to avoid workers being taken advantage of by their employers.”

Blue-collar workers can definitely re-skill themselves

While professionals in the learning management field often say that predicting and training for tomorrow’s jobs is quite a challenging task, Kelly Services Chief Sim has some advice:

“I believe it is important for employers to know the market trends, both locally and globally.”

In manufacturing for instance, a good employer should recognise what the automation trends are so that a plan can be developed to determine which jobs are deemed redundant, what new jobs are formed, what skills do these jobs require, and most importantly, whether their existing workforce is capable of taking on these new roles.

By knowing what the outcome of digitization is, employers can determine whether upskilling is required for their blue-collar workers.

“There is no doubt that blue-collar workers can re-skill themselves. The challenge is identifying what skills they need to evolve from being unskilled to skilled workers, as this would vary depending on each individual and the industry they work in.”

“It is therefore important that this group of workers identify this early on and start developing skills that they can use to gain an advantage in the future.”

In Malaysia, Sim highlights, the government (through MDEC and other agencies) has established various programmes to help equip people with skills such as entrepreneurship, technical, vocational and even high-level digital skills.

The training is often provided for a subsidized fee, taking into account the state of the economy as well as the target audience for the programme.

“Programmes like this are helpful in converting these blue-collar workers from unskilled to skilled, thereby providing them with an opportunity for employment in the future. But once again, the onus is on the workers themselves, to take the initiative and look for ways in which they can better themselves,” concludes Sim.