Singapore Plans To Avert IT Skills Shortage

SINGAPORE (03/07/2000) - The Singapore government yesterday announced a masterplan to ensure that the country has sufficient skilled workers to cope with an expected surge in demand for IT manpower caused by the rapid growth of electronic business worldwide.

In the report, the government predicts the proportion of workers in information and communications technology (ICT) will double from 5 percent of the workforce today to 10 percent in ten years time.

IT skills are a strategic resource for the tiny island state, which is relying on an advanced ICT industry to enable it to compete globally in the knowledge economy of the 21st century.

The three main strategies under the masterplan are: to enhance the environment to nurture a Net-savvy workforce; attract and retain international ICT talent; and to establish Singapore as the electronic learning hub for the region. The strategies will be developed by the Info-communications Development Authority (IDA), a body formed last year from the merger of the National Computer Board and the Telecommunications Authority of Singapore.

According to government figures, there are currently 93,000 ICT workers out of Singapore's 3 million population. Demand is expected to grow at 10 percent to 12 percent per annum, leading to a projected need for 250,000 ICT workers by 2010.

By that time, the government expects 75 percent of the country's total workforce will be capable of using the Internet, up from 25 percent today. To help achieve this, the school curriculum will soon be 30 percent computer-based, according to the government.

The greatest growth in demand at present is for people skilled in e-commerce development, with an annual growth rate of 47 percent, followed by Internet development staff with a 24 percent growth rate.

The government has also set in motion plans to attract foreign talent to work in the IT industry in Singapore, while realizing that it faces strong competition from locations such as the U.S. and Australia, which have liberalized immigration policies to attract skilled IT staff.

In its conclusion to the report, the IDA said, "Singapore needs to establish a world-class ICT education to ensure a quality supply of indigenous ICT manpower as well as embark on an aggressive ICT talent recruitment exercise to attract and retain foreign talents and students."

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