Over the last couple of years, almost all industries went through a turbulent roller coaster ride as they navigated the pandemic, which prompted government-sanctioned lockdowns across country borders.
During this time, companies were forced to adapt and embrace digitalisation, even industries that typically do not require the use of technology. According to Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), non-traditional information and communications technology (ICT) industries were seen to be on a hiring mode for digital talents throughout 2021. In 4Q, Staffing and Recruiting emerged among the top 10 industries on this list.
Throughout 2021, many non-ICT industries such as tobacco, renewables, and environment and biotechnology had been hiring digital talents. In 4Q, commercial real estate emerged as another non-ICT industry with the highest digital talent growth year-on-year, showing that these sectors are embarking in accelerating digitalisation.
Based on MDEC's Digital Talent Snapshot report, there were 261,077 digital talents available in Malaysia in 4Q last year, and 55.2% of them were located in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.
In the last three quarters of 2021, Penang, Johor and Melaka were identified as states with potential hiring of digital talents because of their relatively higher supply against demand. In 4Q, Ipoh emerged in this category as well.
All of this data points to one thing - there are certainly more than enough vacancies in the market for digital talent today, as they are in high demand across all industries. Gopi Ganesalingam, head of ecosystem development at MDEC, says that in fact, data from a LinkedIn survey shows that the non-traditional ICT sectors in Malaysia were hiring more digital talents in the past year, compared with ICT companies.
"These sectors include banking, insurance, human resource and outsourcing. The challenge is really whether our digital talents are competent enough for the job market, and that is why we have seen many government-led initiatives on retraining and upskilling being introduced," says Gopi.
Another misconception in the industry is that tech talent is hard to come by, but Gopi says that, looking at the statistics, Malaysia is not short of digital talent. Based on data from Premier Digital Tech University (PDTI), in 2021, there were 7,699 digital tech graduates in the market, 95% of whom were employed.
"Digital tech is a fast-moving industry and there is a lot of advancement. There are instances in which, however, the skills that graduates have might not be an exact match with what is required by the industry," he says.
"Thus, MDEC is emphasising the 'upskilling' and 'reskilling' initiatives. One example of an MDEC-driven upskilling programme is the Digital Skills Training Directory. It is an initiative to guide Malaysians in their digital upskilling journey, particularly in the areas of fintech, data science, cybersecurity, software development, game development, animation and digital global business services."
MDEC's directory is a catalogue of courses and online training providers that have been reviewed and endorsed by a panel of digital industry experts to guide Malaysians in selecting courses that meet career needs for digital economy jobs. Through this directory, MDEC aims to promote life-long learning among Malaysians, in addition to developing local talent through matching them with industry-validated skill development programmes to accelerate digital tech careers.
"For 2021 alone, 1,569 participants had benefited from the training under this directory while the most popular focus areas of training were software development, cybersecurity and data science," says Gopi.
"For this year, we have introduced new initiatives to promote upskilling and reskilling of digital technologies such as 'Digital Up', where we provide RM1,000 training subsidies for digital tech courses for existing employees, including gig workers and the 'Let's Learn Digital' programme to encourage Malaysians to upskill and reskill their digital tech skills via collaboration with industry partners and training providers."
Taking the current employment landscape and demand for tech talent into consideration, MDEC set up the MyDigitalWorkforce Work in Tech (MYWiT) initiative, which incentivises employers via salary and training subsidies to hire unemployed Malaysians for digital tech and services jobs - thus enabling businesses to thrive digitally beyond 2021.
The aim is to boost the digital business services sector as well as develop quality tech talents in Malaysia. This initiative is an extension of the #MyDigitalWorkforce Movement, which MDEC launched last year to help reskill and upskill Malaysians for digital economy jobs.
The objective of the initiative is to meet the strong demand for digital business services jobs, and higher-value digital tech jobs through salary and training incentives for companies to hire digital talent.
"The government is cognisant of the challenges brought about by the pandemic and MYWiT is a testament of the continued effort to not only sustain the tech industry, but also serves as a boost to increase our capabilities and capacities in order to help the digital business industry survive and thrive," says Gopi.
In a landscape transformed by the pandemic, embracing digitalisation and Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies are vital for businesses and the Malaysian workforce. Through this initiative, Gopi says, MDEC will pursue its objective in ensuring that innovation and advancement are taking place in the workplace and businesses.
The initiative incentivises companies that are hiring fresh graduates or unemployed Malaysians for digital business services or digital tech roles. The initiative offers incentives of between RM9,800 and RM23,600 per employee.
For each employee, this incentive will be divided into two parts - a salary incentive, which will cover 40% of the employee's monthly wage for six months (minimum salary of RM2,000); and training incentive of up to RM8,000.
The eligible training courses include those listed on MDEC's Digital Skills Training Directory, which has more than 300 courses listed, all of which have been reviewed and endorsed by digital tech industry practitioners. These courses are also consistent with the national Digital Tech Industry Skills Frameworks. Companies can also opt for in-house training with a minimum of 40 hours.
"More than 300 companies are expected to gain from this programme, with an estimated 6,000 job opportunities created," says Gopi.
"Looking at the trends, we believe individuals with limited digital skills are likely to be more affected as a result of the rise in automation and technology adoption."
The World Economic Forum estimates that 75 million jobs worldwide will be replaced by 2022. LinkedIn estimates in its report, however, that 150 million new jobs will be created by 2025 that are related to new technologies and software development.
Gopi says MDEC has made it one of its key objectives to build a society that is not only literate in digital, but also agile, competent and contributing to the digital economy.
"MYWiT is structured to help expedite the reskilling and upskilling of the workforce as well as unemployed Malaysians in the technology and digital services, in the form of incentives. Employers can use these savings in other programmes, such as launching more 'upskilling' and 'reskilling' programmes of their own, particularly those that are focused on developing digital capabilities," says Gopi.
"Programmes such as MYWiT will help our local digital talent to be resilient in the ever-changing job market. At the same time, it will help digital and technology-related companies compete in the global market, especially when the world is moving towards an endemic era."
One of the partners of the MYWiT initiative is Fave, which believes the programme's goals are in line with those of Fave Tech Hub, which is to groom top-class engineering talents and drive digital solutions technologies in Southeast Asia.
Yeoh Chen Chow, co-founder of Fave, shares that it is essential to invest in growing talent that will eventually become the backbone of the booming fintech ecosystem.
"Tech players should ensure that opportunities such as Fave Tech Hub and the MYWiT programme are available in the market for the development of human capital," says Yeoh.
Fresh graduates and career shifters are facing difficulties in kick starting their career in the tech industry, he adds, owing to the lack of hands-on industry experience and exposure to real-world problems. In other words, there is an urgent need for industry training and internship programmes to upskill these groups of passionate talent and provide them with opportunities to gain industry experience.
"At Fave, we believe building the tech ecosystem is essential to ensuring seamless integration into a prospering digital future. Thus, we are offering various training and internship opportunities for passionate and motivated fresh graduates and career shifters who are keen to venture into the fintech industry.
"We are investing in partnering with local universities to conduct group mentoring sessions, adjunct lectures, workshops and career guidance sessions. Our goal is to shape students' learning paths to ensure that they are ready for a real-world environment, and to inspire the next generation of engineers," he says.
Yeoh says Fave employees started as fresh graduates and were given a chance to grow in their careers. "A 'chance' is what led them to our current level, and this is why we believe in hiring for attitude over skill.
"A positive attitude is much harder to instil. Our culture values people and we practise a growth mindset in our company. It is also easier and more effective to train a passionate and self-motivated individual who shares the same values with the company regardless of the knowledge/skill level.
"Over the last five years, we have enabled more than 2,000 students and graduates to gain valuable hands-on work experience through Fave's internship programme across the region. We retained many of them in full-time positions after their internship or graduations. For example, two of our former interns are now a senior product manager and a staff engineer, who escalated through a fast track from their internship in about five years."
In the final quarter of this year, the company will receive its third intake for the Fave Tech Hub programme as part of its continuous effort to grow engineering talent in Southeast Asia.
Following the great resignation and the need for work-life balance, there has been a shift to favour the gig economy. Gopi says the current and growing trend of freelancers and gig workers speaks volume about the thriving labour market, which relies on remote working arrangements outside a fixed office space.
When hiring, companies are also emphasising and leaning towards skills and attitude compared to qualifications and experience. There also seems to be a growing trend in which global companies such as Google, Apple, Tesla and IBM no longer require that new recruits possess a college degree to land a job there, according to Glassdoor, a company review website.
Having access to a global pool of talents is certainly a game-changer and allows companies with an additional platform to hire the right candidates for their businesses.
"MDEC has been continuously supporting Malaysian digital freelancers and helping them to become competitive on a global platform, and we are implementing this through our Global Online Workforce programme," he says.
"We want our digital freelancers to be trained and complement the current demand and economic landscape. We want to use and unlatch the idle asset in our economy and seize the opportunity to improve the household income, and that can be done through enhancing the skills and improving the employability of gig workers."
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