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Malaysia and Singapore face IT talent shortage

Organisations in Malaysia and Singapore face tough competition to attract the right skills to drive their IT strategies

Malaysia and Singapore face a shortage of technology talent as they attempt to bring local IT up to date in the digital world, with keen competition making it harder to attract the right skills.

Despite a slow economy, larger organisations in Malaysia are moving to take their technology in-house to increase their capabilities and develop intellectual property.

“The need for businesses to implement technology has gone past being an advantage – it is now an absolute must-have to remain competitive in the market,” said Ryan Carroll, country manager for recruitment agency Randstad Malaysia.

But organisations in Malaysia are also competing with tech service providers for talent, according to Ranstad.

“Top management now need to have strategies for training and development in IT,” said Carroll. “Currently, workforce skillset development is not aligned with technological advances, and if this is not addressed, it will lead to a major talent gap.”

As demand for tech talent increases, private companies and government agencies are making big investments in the tech sector to ensure sustainable growth in the future. For example, Malaysia’s tech hub, Cyberjaya, is receiving RM11bn (£2.1bn) in investments through the implementation of the upcoming Cyber City Centre, while RM1.5bn has been allocated to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

Mike Farrance, associate director for Randstad Technologies in Malaysia, said large investments were being pumped into all areas of Malaysia’s technology sector for good reason. “Not only are these major projects going to develop the industry, it will be a primary driver in developing the tech talent pipeline,” he said.

Singapore earning potential

Randstad’s ranking of the most popular tech jobs in Singapore shows cyber security and technology risk professionals being in highest demand, with the potential to earn S$120,000 (£69,000) to S$240,000 a year.

Project management and business analysts are ranked next highest. Their functional knowledge and in-depth technical know-how are in demand as organisations seek to become more lean and cost-effective.

Randstad ranked application developers as third most in demand, due to Singapore being an attractive hub for companies setting up centres of excellence. Demand for experienced developers exceeds supply in the country due to a lack of experienced developers and an influx of startups.

Read more about IT skills in Asean region

Other skills in demand in Singapore are DevOps, embedded developers, mobile developers, data scientists and analysts, cloud specialists and engineers, user interface (UI/UX) designers, and heads of engineering.

“Tech jobs coming into Randstad Technologies have increased by close to 50% in Singapore in the past two years,” said Daljit Sall, director at Randstad Technologies Singapore. “The country continues to face a gap for IT talent as businesses strive to digitise their operations and processes.

“Organisations in Singapore are racing to digitally innovate, which has resulted in a growing talent shortage. In April this year, Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information announced its aim to tackle the talent shortage with an investment of S$120m to train information and communication technology professionals.”

Developers wanted

Sammie Sam, director of financial services, legal and IT at Robert Walters in Malaysia, agreed that many vital technology positions are in strong demand in Malaysia and Singapore.

“Software developers, user interface designers, cloud experts and IT project managers are deemed to see the largest demand in both markets because of the emergence of a lot of startups and small companies,” said Sam. “Everyone wants to get digitalised to reduce paperwork and move from traditional retail to e-commerce.”

Nandita Nandakumar, IT manager at Robert Walters Singapore, said software developers using the latest technologies were most in demand. “JavaScript frameworks such as React.js, Node.js and Angular.js seem to be the hype with digital companies and startups, while other companies dealing with large volumes of transactions in the e-commerce and travel space seem to be moving into using Scala,” he said.

Stay competitive

Nandakumar added that given the strong demand for IT professionals, hiring companies would need to stay competitive by providing great working environments and clear career growth plans in order to attract the best talent in Singapore. For example, multinational corporations are encouraging innovation labs within their organisations to come up with ideas in a safe, startup-like environment.

“On the flipside, IT professionals in the enterprise application space are seeing operations being moved out of Singapore to lower-cost locations like India and China,” said Nandakumar. “We see the stronger of these professionals moving into a more functional, business-facing role to avoid being replaced by lower-cost resources in developing countries.

“Candidates with experience in penetration testing, vulnerability assessment and cyber security incident management are highly sought-after. Also, many principal suppliers in more mature markets are expanding rapidly and setting up headquarters in Singapore to meet increasing demand for cyber security protection technologies.”

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