Singapore still investing big in tech talent despite layoffs

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Demand for individuals with specialized tech talent isn’t limited to the tech sector, says Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority.

Jimmyfam | E+ | Getty Images

Singapore hasn’t been spared the layoffs that have hit the global tech industry since 2022.

Online marketplace Carousell cut 10% of its total headcount last December, and Shopee told The Straits Times it started a third round of layoffs last November.

But despite the downsizing, Singapore is still investing heavily in tech skills. Efforts at hiring and cultivating tech talent — in both the country’s tech and non-tech sectors — continue to be robust.

Singapore banks OCBC, DBS and UOB have each developed programs that train technology staff and prepare students to enter the tech industry. OCBC, for its part, announced in 2022 plans to hire 1,500 tech employees over the next three years.

And STLogistics announced last year it would invest 1.7 million Singapore dollars ($1.2 million) to encourage employees to pick up digital skills like software robotics. Singaporean telecommunications company M1 launched a program to equip undergraduate students with skills like cloud infrastructure support, it said on its website.

Demand for those skills isn’t going away anytime soon — in the tech sector and beyond.

Strong demand for tech jobs

Tech jobs have become increasingly popular in recent years.

In 2022, nearly seven in 10 of all vacancies in information and communications were new positions, which a report by the Ministry of Manpower showed was the highest level across all sectors for the third consecutive year.

Across job vacancies, technology talent like software developers and applications managers continued to be highly sought after, the report added.

That level of demand is expected to remain as the economy digitalizes, said Terence Chia, cluster director at Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

“This has been a consequence of tech companies anchoring and growing their higher-value tech development and corporate functions here,” he said.

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On top of that, demand for individuals in “specialized tech areas” such as artificial intelligence and cybersecurity isn’t limited to the tech sector, Chia told CNBC. Such tech workers are needed across multiple industries such as finance, manufacturing, logistics and professional services, he said.

Tech ‘powers all the big banks’

In finance, technology is the engine that “powers all the big banks,” said Donald MacDonald, OCBC head of group data.

“We want everyone in the bank to … at least have foundational data literacy,” he said.

OCBC designed a program that equips employees with basic data skills and teaches them how data can be used in their jobs, he said.

According to MacDonald, the bank uses data to understand its customer profiles and personalize each customer’s experience.

Data also plays a part in reducing risk — OCBC scans every transaction to detect scams and uses algorithms to figure out “who to lend to and … how much to lend,” he said.

Another data analysis program trains employees in divisions like finance and risk management, MacDonald said. It has trained about 400 employees to use advanced data analysis skills like Python, which MacDonald said will help them “move beyond” using Excel and other simple tools.

“I see Singapore establishing [itself] as a kind of regional hub for A.I. and deep tech,” MacDonald said.

Specialized tech skills

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