Digital skill gap remain a problem for many industries. Source: Shutterstock.

Digital skills gap remain a problem for many industries. Source: Shutterstock.

In 2020, Southeast Asia must bridge the technology skills gap

BUSINESSES today are in the thick of the 4th industrial revolution, where technology is the key differentiator in competitive, saturated industries, and possessing the right skills is critical to growth.

Regardless of geographical location, tech companies find themselves in the same predicament: the technology skills gap is on the rise, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Countries in Southeast Asia are bound to feel the impact of a skilled labor shortage over the next two decades.

According to Gartner Senior Director and Analyst Adrian Lee, finding the right talent is ranked as the second biggest challenge when it comes to disruptions in Southeast Asian enterprises.

Thus, enterprises cannot afford to drag their feet and must take action to minimize this deficit.

The skill challenges among Southeast Asian countries are diverse. However, the common issue they all face is their inability to adapt to future disruptive technologies.

According to IDC APAC VP Simon Piff, the broad uptake of new technologies presents a host of challenges as there are insufficient skills within the market today.

“Technologies such as artificial intelligence, analytics, blockchain are relatively new areas that are in demand by a range of businesses, for which the existing skill base does not exist at scale.”

Addressing this problem must first begin with strengthening the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education system in the region.

Often, industries cannot reach their full growth potential as workers lack the basic STEM skills required, and this is reflected in high youth unemployment rates.

Also, a brain drain reduces the supply of skilled workers, making the need for a good STEM system even more urgent.

Businesses too must play their part in bridging this gap, however. Firstly, it must be acknowledged that skilled graduates are often underpaid. This is reflected in the flow of talent overseas, where, their skill set is better rewarded financially.

Thus, businesses should offer better benefits and competitive salaries to retain talent.

There must also be reskilling and upskilling programs in place.

Not only must employees be armed with the appropriate knowledge, but they must also be able to see the bigger picture behind transformations being embraced by their organization. This would increase the supply of skilled employees without having to recruit additional talent.

Furthermore, it is no longer relevant to have rigid job descriptions and onerous demands in the hiring process.

“We are seeing more often that a person’s ‘job’ is, in fact, a series of roles, some of which are repeated, some of which are not, and so moving to a more open approach to hiring that focuses on the outcome, more than the process, may indeed be a more efficient approach’’, said IDC’s Piff.

It would take some time before Southeast Asia can reach a point where the skills gap is minimized to a manageable level. However, if all parties take action to address this now, that day will come, and will come soon.