Despite having large working-age populations, many countries in Asia Pacific will struggle to find talent with the necessary skills to thrive in tomorrow’s workplace. An estimated 88 percent of APAC recruiters say skills shortages are a major challenge, with another 86 percent reporting a dearth of qualified candidates in technology industry. Indeed, organizations across the region have reported struggles in finding people with skills in digital, fintech and cybersecurity – precisely the skills which lie at the heart of business, today and tomorrow.
Bridging the skills gap in Asia Pacific is therefore crucial to the future of the region’s economy. 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.
Businesses have a key role to play in bridging APAC’s 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’s being taught to students today. It’s a win-win scenario for all – students will benefit by acquiring marketable skills, while businesses will be able to replenish the dwindling skills pipeline.
For example, a tech business might support students on their pathway to future IT careers by creating programs that promote and strengthen computer science education. Private sector companies are in a unique position to encourage students to explore the power of computer programming, and inform them about the future career opportunities computer science can offer. Students will be more interested in learning core skills around programming and database design if they know their efforts will be rewarded with a unique competitiveness on the job market.
Oracle is putting these principles into practice through Oracle Academy, which leverages the company’s tech expertise to further educational resources for students. Oracle Academy and the Ministry of Education Sri Lanka, have signed an agreement to integrate Oracle Academy’s programs into 200 institutes island-wide, supporting over 10,000 students on the pathway to future IT careers. In Indonesia, Oracle Academy is collaborating with the Directorate of Technical and Vocational Education to equip 3,000 teachers with high-quality computing knowledge and skills, which they can then share across more than 900 secondary vocational schools. Oracle Academy is also continuing to innovate new programs, curriculums and workshops around emerging technologies like AI.
Initiatives like Oracle Academy are key to helping Asia reach its sky-high growth aspirations. Skilled technology candidates are in high demand worldwide and even more so in APAC, where places like Singapore and Hong Kong have already established themselves as innovation and startup hubs, with emerging competitors such as Vietnam and Indonesia following close behind. The 2016 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey noted that IT skills shortages are felt most strongly in APAC, 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 in APAC as selected by 44 percent of respondents – 5 percent higher than the global average.
Besides pure technology skills, 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 simple proficient in technology – they are agile and responsive, hyper-focused on the customer experience, and obsessed with letting data-led insight power the company’s decisions. Here again, businesses can support the next generation of talent by setting up mentorship programs that teach students about business plan development and user-experience design; and inspire them to always ask, “What can technology do to make life easier for our customers?”
The quick-evolving nature of technology makes it all the more imperative to awaken students’ interest in growing their digital skills as soon as possible. Already, AI and other emerging technologies around machine learning, distributed ledger, virtual reality and more are ready to play a key role in how we live and do business. The private sector must continually innovate new programs, curriculum and workshops that engage diverse students around the globe and equip them with in-depth knowledge and hands-on skills.
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 machine learning, AI and more, we can arm the workforce of tomorrow with the skills they will need to drive the economy of the future.
*Francois Lancon is the Senior Vice President of Oracle APAC.