People pass by along the river quay at the financial business district in Singapore on April 20, 2021. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)

Satisfied employees can reduce IT skills shortage gap in APAC

The demand for talent skilled in IT continues to increase around the world. Be it data scientists, data analysts, cybersecurity professionals, or even app developers, the reality is that there is a big skills shortage problem with it comes to tech-related jobs.

Europe and US organizations are slowly adjusting to the skills shortage gap by reskilling their employees or bringing in employees from APAC with lucrative offers. Unfortunately, it’s a different scenario in the Asia Pacific — there is still a huge skills shortage in tech-related roles in the region.

Skills shortage in APAC a huge issue

A survey from EDB during Postgres Vision 2021 showed that IT professionals would consider other roles as stronger career path options, including better mentorship and greater opportunity to work with newer technologies. The survey was conducted on more than 1000 application developers and IT and business management professionals, with 47% of respondents from Asia.

They included employees from organizations greater than 100 workers with open source technology users, specifically those holding application development, information technology, and operations titles making the list. This isn’t surprising as it indicates why more APAC employees are now preferring to work in Europe or the US.

Interestingly, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) report released earlier this year stated that between 666 million and 819 million workers in the Asia Pacific will use digital skills by 2025, up from just 149 million today, with the average employee requiring seven new digital skills to meet the growing demands in the industry.

This is why skills shortage is becoming a critical problem in APAC. Almost every organization today has an IT department — even small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as they increasingly digitize their businesses.

While larger organizations can afford to pay for foreign talent to fill in the IT gap, SMEs may not have the same luxury. This has also led to an increased demand for outsourced IT services such as business analytics, cloud services, and even cybersecurity.

However, the reality is that using third-party service providers or foreign talent may not be a long-term solution to the skills shortage. A report by Gartner earlier this year showed HR leaders are finding it increasingly harder to hire employees with the most in-demand skills. Gartner’s data showed that skills required by a single continue to increase by 10% yearly since 2017.

Developing the workforce 

Can businesses continue to afford the outsource their IT services? Or should they be looking for ways to develop more talent to address the skills shortage?

Interestingly, tech providers are realizing the potential that can arise from the shortage of talents. While they continue to develop more AI applications and models to ease the working process for businesses, organizations still need to address the skills shortage for the long term. Also, using modern applications and technology will only require more skilled employees to deal with them.

Last year, Singapore experienced a high skills shortage in tech jobs not only from the Covid-19 pandemic but also because the government tightened hiring policies for skilled foreign workers.

To deal with this, organizations and tech providers are now working with local universities and education institutions to address the issue. Earlier this year, Dell Technologies launched a tech skills accelerator in Singapore to empower up to 3,000 fresh graduates, mid-career professionals, and students. The program aims to develop knowledge and skills in cloud computing, data protection and management, data science, and big data analytics over the next two years.

Go Digital ASEAN is another collaboration between ASEAN and Google to develop skilled talents in ASEAN. The project aims to equip micro and SMEs across its member states with digital critical skills and knowledge to help bridge the digital gap.

By 2025, AWS hopes to help 29 million people grow their technical skills by providing free cloud computing skills training in more than 200 countries and territories. Microsoft is also looking to offer several digital reskilling and upskilling programs across APAC, for both students and the workforce, in Indonesia, Malaysia Singapore, and Thailand.

How employers can keep up

While these big players continue to work with local learning institutions in the region, it is also important for organizations to keep their employees happy. Otherwise, these efforts would not be as effective as newly skilled professionals would look to move beyond APAC for more lucrative opportunities.

As the EDB survey indicates, 53% of employees viewed their employer’s approach to new technology training more favorably while nearly half had a more favorable perception of compliance training.

“Technical professionals are sending a clear message to management on what keeps them engaged. As employers and leaders, we need to actively support their development. Whether it’s offering more mentorship, training in the best technologies, or promoting overall well-being, we must invest in what inspires our teammates and helps them grow,” said EDB President and CEO, Ed Boyajian.

The demand for skilled workers in tech will only increase as the region increasingly digitalizes. APAC organizations need to understand the importance of not only solving their skills shortage but also keeping their current skilled workers satisfied.