S'pore to pump US$70M into ICT manpower

The funds will be used over five years to drive infocomm competencies among professionals and the general workforce, as well as attract young talent to the industry.

SINGAPORE--The government, with the help of infocomm technology industry players, will pump S$120 million (US$70.4 million) into a new program to boost infocomm competencies in the country.

The Infocomm Manpower Development Roadmap, to be rolled out over the next five years, will adopt a three-pronged approach targeting infocomm professionals, the general workforce and students.

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) will match the industry's investment dollar-for-dollar, contributing about S$60 million (US$35.2 million), according to its CEO Chan Yeng Kit.

Announcing the initiative on Thursday, Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts, and Health, said that the initiative will help the island-state compete more effectively in the global market, in the face of increasing competitive pressures.

"Countries like China and India are also establishing a name for themselves as attractive sources of low-cost, but well-trained, infocomm manpower," he said. "We have to differentiate ourselves and define the new playing field."

To equip professionals in the industry to better compete on the global front, a new framework announced earlier this year will soon be ready to define certification and competency requirements of infocomm professionals. The National Infocomm Competency Framework is expected to be announced during the first quarter of 2006, according to Chan.

In addition, the IDA is working on a new IP (Intellectual Property) Creation Capability Program. Khoong Hock Yun, assistant chief executive of IDA's infrastructure and manpower development group, explained that the program will support local infocomm professionals in the area of IP creation and commercialization opportunities.

The roadmap also includes efforts to help improve the infocomm skills of the general workforce. A new Infocomm Skills@Work Program is being developed to provide certification to those outside of the industry or whose job scope is not related to infocomm technologies, said Khoong. The Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme (CITREP), established in 1999, will also be expanded to include business skills and skills in vertical domains such as logistics, he added.

Pointing out that the future pool of infocomm professionals are currently still schooling, Khoong said that attracting young talent to the industry should begin in schools. To reach out to students, infocomm clubs will be introduced to schools at the primary, secondary and junior college levels starting next year.

Students will undergo a structured learning program comprising project work, competitions, and industrial attachments, in areas such as digital media, mobile technologies, and security and networking. Industry partners involved in these programs include Apple, Cisco Systems, Macromedia, Novell and SingTel.

The IDA will also, for the first time, offer scholarships for study in overseas universities under its National Infocomm Scholarships, said Khoong. Ten such scholarships will be awarded during a five-year period beginning next year. The new scholarships will provide opportunities for overseas work stints with multinational corporate partners participating in the scholarship program.

Besides addressing manpower issues, the government has also appointed a high-level taskforce to look into the infrastructure needs and development of local enterprises, as part of a masterplan known as Intelligent Nation 2015, or iN2015.

Dr Balaji noted that the iN2015 Steering Committee is looking into making Singapore's infocomm infrastructure more efficient and secure. It is also exploring ways to help local companies break into relatively untapped markets such as Russia and the Middle East, he added.