SGInnovate study: Talent retention in Singapore’s science and technology industry remains a challenge

SGInnovate study: Talent retention in Singapore’s science and technology industry remains a challenge

According to the recent local survey results released on Tuesday (4 Feb), the largest talent-related obstacle facing Singapore is talent retention in the country’s science & technology industry.

The survey, which was the first one by SGInnovate, the government-owned venture company, highlights the results that more than 40 per cent of the 146 research & development (R&D) and technical professionals concede that talent retention is a challenge.

Aside from talent retention, other challenges include the country’s pipeline of entry-level talent (15.5 per cent), the ability to attract global talent (17.4 per cent) and the quality of existing local talent pool (23.2 per cent).

Based on the accompanying insights report alongside the survey results, it is particularly difficult for start-ups and small firms to retain talents due to their lack of funds and reputation. Therefore, these companies instead provide their workers with complex technical challenges that will yield a higher sense of accomplishment for them, the report stated.

In the report, Oliver Tan, the chief executive of Singapore machine learning start-up Visenze states that the company’s software engineers enjoyed working on and solving visual search problems presented by the clients because their resumes can be embellished with those completed projects.

“This way, they get to increase their value if they want to move to another company. But in the process, they stay longer with Visenze doing important and relevant work,” Mr Tan remarked.

Even in the midst of mounting concerns over talent retention, 88 per cent of the survey respondents do believe that the country will retain its competitiveness as a global product development and science and technology R&D hub for the next 10 years.

The main reasons according to respondents as to why Singapore will continue to be competitive is due to the government’s “strong support and clear direction”.

The report also notes that 25.5 per cent of respondents believe that the government should continue to spearhead the development of the talent pool. On the other hand, about 22.4 per cent of respondents believe that this is the role of the national science and technology agencies.

At a panel discussion, industry experts reached an agreement to release a report regarding the necessity of worker upskilling in times of job displacement caused by technology.

According to Poon King Wang, the director of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at Singapore University of Technology and Design, to ease the upskilling process, a job could be defined not by the skills, but the tasks instead: “People can adapt better when they can draw on something they’re familiar with.”

For instance, upskilling a 4G  engineer to a 5G engineer can be done by identifying the similar tasks between the two technologies and taking advantage of those similarities. The focus can then be shifted to training for the differences between the two technologies, Mr Poon concluded.

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