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Skills, not just credentials, are valuable to companies

Businesses need to work with academia and government to produce tech-savvy workforce of tomorrow

As Singapore pushes ahead with its Smart Nation initiatives in digitisation, the question now lies in what exactly should students and professionals be honing their expertise in.

From retail to manufacturing, to finance and far beyond, every business is now built on a foundation of rapidly evolving technology.

Businesses cannot survive and thrive without the right talent, including designers and engineers who can translate exceptional digital experiences into flexible, responsive software; development teams who can rapidly cultivate and test new ideas; and machine learning experts who know how to structure data and use it to engineer disruptive solutions.

According to research commissioned by Oracle Academy, based on an analysis of more than two million unique job postings in Singapore, 70 per cent of the fastest growing skills and 26 per cent of the highest paying skills in these fields are related to computer science.

Yet, only 18 per cent of jobs require formal education in computer science. In other words, although firms are looking for workers with strong computer science skills, they are not necessarily looking at only those with computer science credentials.

With this in mind, businesses too have a key role to play in bridging the widening skills gap.

Besides training up its own people, the private sector should also focus on new types of engagement with governments and universities, in order to align the business needs of tomorrow with what is being taught to students today.

Companies are in a position to encourage students to explore the power of computer programming and to inform them about the career opportunities computer science can offer.

COMPETITIVE

Students will be more interested in learning core skills around programming and database design if they know they will be more competitive in the job market.

In Singapore, Oracle Academy is providing hands-on experience in banking and finance to students, alongside educational institutions such as the Singapore Management University.

The 2016 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey noted that IT skills shortages are felt most strongly in the Asia Pacific, with almost seven in 10 IT leaders saying insufficient talent stands in the way of meeting objectives.

The same survey identified data analytics as the most in- demand skill. There is also a need to help students learn auxiliary skills that will support them to become the tech-driven leaders of the future.

After all, the most successful digital businesses are not simply proficient in technology - they are agile, hyper-focused on customer experience and obsessed with letting data-led insight power their decisions.

Here again, businesses can help by setting up mentorship programmes that teach students about business plan development and user-experience design.

When enterprise, government and academia work together, they have the best chance of inspiring students to pursue technology-based careers and equipping them with the right skills.

By exploring creative and collaborative ways to meet growing demand for IT skills, we can arm the workforce of tomorrow with the skills they will need to drive the economy of the future.

The writer is senior vice- president of Oracle (Asia Pacific).

BUSINESS & FINANCE