Corporates jumping on upskilling bandwagon to leapfrog talent crunch

More companies looking beyond their own employees when offering training programmes; some courses open to mid-career professionals too


AN increasing number of corporates are beginning to offer training programmes that look beyond what is required for their own pool of existing employees.

While many programmes target students and recent graduates, some firms told The Business Times that their courses are open to mid-career professionals as well.

It is primarily the onus of educational institutions to initiate such courses, but what is different now is that corporations are increasingly taking initiative in this area.

These include the likes of SAP, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Hewlett Packard (HP), IBM, Cisco Systems, Accenture, Deloitte, and Eu Yan Sang.

Firms that BT spoke to said that the industry-wide shortage of skilled manpower is something they are keen to alleviate.

After all, industry-wide skills shortages will place corporate profits under pressure as wages for increasingly scarce highly-skilled employees are pushed up, a study by consulting firm Korn Ferry released in June this year said.

Separate studies and surveys conducted by other organisations reaffirm this sentiment.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said in a recent statement that enterprises project the demand for professionals in ICT-related fields to grow by 42,300 between 2017 and 2019.

And a study done in January by consulting firm Robert Half suggests that over 92 per cent of chief information officers in Singapore say it is more challenging to find qualified IT professionals compared to five years ago.

So there is every incentive for individual firms to help upskill the labour market as a whole, instead of only focusing internally.

Individual course arrangements vary, but companies often opt to collaborate with educational institutions or government organisations to roll out such programmes. Some key partners include educational institutions such as polytechnics, universities and private training centres, or government organisations like SkillsFuture Singapore, IMDA, NTUC LearningHub and Community Development Councils.

Most courses impart ICT and technology-related skills, like data analytics and programming, which are needed to equip the workforce for the technologically augmented jobs of the future.

Enterprise software company SAP, for example, signed a memorandum of understanding with the five polytechnics in July to launch the SAP Skills University programme to offer training in a wide range of ICT-related skills.

Similarly, through IMDA's TechSkills Accelerator initiative, technology giant IBM offers courses in both technology and business skills.

SAP and IBM have programmes catered to both fresh university graduates about to enter the job market, and professional degree-holders looking to switch industries early in their careers.

AWS Educate, the Amazon subsidiary's education platform, provides NTUC LearningHub with resources and tools to teach digital skills in cloud computing and the Internet of Things.

Singaporeans can access AWS's resources through NTUC's SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace courses, said Vincent Quah, AWS regional head of education for Asia Pacific and Japan. This is open to anyone, but is especially targeted at professionals.

The Cisco Networking Academy works with local higher educational institutions to train Singaporeans in digital and business skills, said Annella Heytens, Cisco's vice-president of human resources for Asia Pacific, Japan, and Greater China.

Cisco has other courses available through vendors like the NTUC LearningHub and Republic Polytechnic.

Accenture's senior managing director of Asean and country managing director for Singapore Teo Lay Lim said it works with polytechnics to offer training to students - meaning both polytechnic and university students - in fields like big data, cloud computing, and cybersecurity.

HP Singapore's managing director Lionel Chng said the company collaborates with educational institutions such as ITE and Nanyang Polytechnic in a number of areas including 3D printing, cybersecurity, integration, and digitisation.

While most corporates emphasise ICT-related skills, some told BT they offer programmes in other areas as well. Deloitte, Accenture, and Eu Yan Sang said they offer training in business skills.

Deloitte, for instance, launched a Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) targeted at professionals wishing to make a mid-career switch into Deloitte's consulting practice.

The PCP was developed in collaboration with Workforce Singapore (WSG) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), and the company said it was the first organisation to establish a PCP for consulting job positions.

Eu Yan Sang's TCM Academy has TCM-related courses which are open to healthcare professionals, physicians and doctors beyond the company's own employees. The Academy also holds TCM talks and workshops for corporates and schools, said group CEO Aaron Boey.

When asked about the importance of such upskilling initiatives, corporates emphasised the need for workers to remain up-to-date on the latest technological trends.

Accenture's Ms Teo said: "Upskilling and retraining must be continual. Think of how much has changed so rapidly in such a short time.

"It was only about twenty years ago when school teachers told students they couldn't use calculators for mathematics problems because they wouldn't have a calculator to hand in the real world."

Cisco's Ms Heytens said: "As new skillsets required for jobs shift, skilling and reskilling of the workforce plays such a big role and needle-moving success will only be achieved through partnership across government, educational institutions, and the private sector.

"All these parties need to come together to collaborate and understand what is required for us to move in the digital economy and ensure that the workforce is fully equipped with the right knowledge and skill."