Malaysia growth in digital technology generates huge demand for talent

Opportunity to be a regional digital hub leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Despite job market uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hays, a in specialist recruitment, reported that businesses in Malaysia expect business activity to increase by 54 per cent this year in their 2021 Hays Asia Salary Guide.

Forming the foundation of this belief are steps the country has taken to build momentum towards a developed digital economy, such as an increased focus on strengthening and upgrading basic telecommunication networks as well as an allocation of RM9.4bil in Budget 2021 which encompasses the education, employment, and digital transformation sectors.

Separately, the national digital infrastructure plan Jalinan Digital Negara (Jendela) has also allocated funds to improve the connectivity of schools across the country in support of the transition to online learning, as well as providing a better broadband experience and preparing the country for 5G technology.

At the same time, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) has plans to provide reskilling and upskilling programmes to ease the transition of the existing workforce into the ICT industry. The MDEC has also set up various schemes like the SME Digitalisation Grant Scheme and Smart Automation Grant to support businesses in their automation and digitisation adoption efforts.

These measures not only support the improvement of digital connectivity but also creates a more inclusive digital society, spurring business activity that could increase Malaysia’s opportunity to be a regional digital hub leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

According to a 2021 McKinsey Global Survey, most respondents say that skill building – more than hiring, contracting or redeploying employees – is the best way to close the skills gap across industries. These companies have also doubled down on their efforts to reskill or upskill their employees since the pandemic began.

Reskilling and upskilling employees is also vital for companies embracing digitalisation. The Future of Jobs Report 2020 by the World Economic Forum indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated the digitalisation of work processes, which increases the necessity of upskilling and reskilling employees in digital skills.

The report additionally forecasted that 50 percent of all employees will need reskilling by 2025. The skills in demand would be Data Analysts, Scientists, Internet of Things (IoT) Specialists, Digital Transformation Specialists, and Cybersecurity Specialists.

Exponential growth in digital technology generates huge demand for talent

There will be significant focus on Malaysia’s emerging technology space in 2021, with a pronounced emphasis on design areas. With companies implementing new tech products and building platforms for consumers to access products on, user experience and user interface are becoming critical for these businesses, as is the demand for candidates in relevant product manager and digital transformation roles.

In addition, companies are increasingly moving systems into the cloud, spurred by the normalisation of remote working. Previously, the use of private cloud systems had been restricted by stringent government regulations. With these constraints lifted recently, there will be a substantial uptrend in all related sectors and an increased demand for candidates with cloud security and DevSecOps skills.

The transition from traditional development to microservices is especially notable in the FI and e-commerce industries, creating a surge in demand for IT support engineers who are skilled in Active Directory, end-user technology, network, and security. These developments have further increased the attention on internal compliance of technology and digital solutions, sparking new job opportunities for professionals with diverse areas of expertise.

However, there is currently a tremendous gap between the demand and supply for talent in specialist areas given the inability of companies to train relevant professionals for these important roles in a short period of time. Tom Osborne, Managing Director of Hays Malaysia said, “The last twelve months saw a blurring of the lines between the digital and information technologies in Malaysia, and 2021 is expected to continue this trend. This has been brought about by companies moving enterprise systems towards emerging techs and investing heavily in digitalisation capabilities.”

“Furthermore, as companies increasingly incorporate data functions into business decisions and grow these increasingly important chapters of operations, talent who can analyse or crunch data will continue to be required over the coming year.”

“All of this fluctuation will lead to substantial salary turbulence, leading companies to seek out creative salary packages with an emphasis on remunerating highly certified talent with technical allowances. This technique not only circumnavigates wage restrictions but can also be highly advantageous for onboarded employees in the right position. Roles that will be best rewarded can be found in the market-retrenched technical areas of coding and algorithm within e-commerce and in the digital webspace, as well as in the more niche areas of emerging technologies,” adds Osborne.

As the digital transformation of companies across sectors continues, many observers note that the boundaries between “traditional” companies and internet companies have blurred. Currently, for traditional enterprises, a range of new positions have been created with digitalisation in mind, such as R&D engineers in cloud computing and big data. As for internet companies, diverse opportunities abound due to industries re-working their format to be largely online-based, such as online education or online gaming.

Hays predicts that the digital technology sector will grow exponentially in the future, driven by newly digitalised industries including digital healthcare, e-commerce, artificial intelligence, and gaming, among others. There is a strong demand for comprehensive talent that specialises in tech, especially in the areas of cyber security, artificial intelligence, deep learning, machine learning and imaging algorithms. According to the 2021 Hays Asia Salary Guide, positions like image algorithm engineers, data scientists and talents in AI could experience a 25 per cent salary increase in 2021.

“There has never been more urgent need for companies to reskill and upskill their employees. This doesn’t just concern large companies – a 2019 SME report from Huawei Malaysia revealed that 48 per cent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) recognise they lack digital skills,” said Dr Sumitra Nair, Vice President and Head of Digital Skills and Jobs, MDEC, Malaysia’s lead agency in digital transformation.

“While there are increasingly large numbers of training and reskilling resources that companies can tap into, finding the right course or online training provider can prove challenging. The Digital Skills Training Directory, launched by MDEC, helps companies to more easily discover training courses that meet their reskilling and upskilling needs,” Dr Sumitra continued.

New trends in high-tech sectors empower new talent development strategies

At a time of rapid expansion, some companies may begin to observe extended working hours or difficulty in maintaining a healthy corporate culture, which could pose challenges in hiring and retention despite competitive salaries. Currently, job seekers prioritise work-life balance, alongside suitable corporate culture and career development paths. Employers should pay more attention to cultivating a balanced corporate culture, creating an atmosphere that encourages personal and professional development, and building a long-term talent strategy.

More professionals are also choosing to move from traditional industries to the technology sector. In the past two years, traditional industries have been hit heavily by uncontrollable factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic while high-tech sectors, including internet, life sciences and fintech, have grown steadily, developing a stronger appetite for specialised talent. Another trend Hays has observed is the large number of retail sector executives who are job-hopping to pharmaceutical companies, as they see more potential for innovation in the sector.

Recruitment requirements should adapt to the changing technology industry. Tom indicates that candidates for management positions may need to cope with stronger competition as employers begin to require managers with a solid technical background in addition to experience in project management and leadership, especially for mid to senior level positions.

Tom suggests that job seekers build clear self-awareness, plan ahead for career development, get a better grasp on the changing trends in the industry, and pay more attention to corporate culture on top of salaries and packages. In addition, hard skills like solid technical skillsets will often be the decisive factor in tech job interviews. Well-refined soft skills like communication and management will be helpful to only those applicants who can demonstrate a propensity for a broad vision and an innovative mindset.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital adoption in Malaysia’s workplaces and stirred change with regards to flexibility, upskilling and employee wellbeing, there may be room for improvement in these areas still, finds the new ‘Uncovering the DNA of the Future Workplace’ report by recruiting experts Hays.

Osborne comments, “The majority of respondents in Malaysia have taken a digital-forward mindset and envisioned a workplace of the future to have digitalised processes. With a large majority also saying that an organisation’s digital journey was important to them regardless of their role, technology will be a major and continual area of focus for organisations to not only develop their capabilities but to keep staff motivated and engaged. Considering the speed at which employers are implementing changes, an organisation of the future would be expected to have faster processes and implementation to keep up with employee needs, including remote working.”

MDEC takes steps to secure more digital talent

Launched in 24 August 2020, the Digital Skills Training Directory serves as a one-stop guide to digital reskilling and upskilling. It is a catalogue of courses and online training providers that have been specifically reviewed and endorsed by MDEC’s Talent Expert Network (TEN) to guide talents in selecting courses that meet their career needs for jobs in the digital economy. TEN consists of a group of industry representatives who are subject matter experts in various digital technology domains.

For 2021, the Digital Skills Training Directory is categorised into three types of courses: Work and Learn, Career Upgrade, and Learning on Demand. The latter is the latest addition to the Digital Skills Talent Directory, coming with a list of 9 massive open online courses (MOOCs) platform partners. They are Centre for Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CFTE), OpenLearning Global (M) Sdn. Bhd, LinkedIn Learning, EC-Council  CodeRed, Leaderonomics Digital Sdn Bhd, 360DigiTMG (AiSPRY), Akademi GA Sdn Bhd, SAS Institute Sdn Bhd and LTT Global Communications Sdn Bhd.

Now updated and enhanced, the Digital Skills Training Directory has recently been expanded to offer 250 courses, covering the following focus areas:

  • Data science (56 courses)
  • Cybersecurity (44 courses)
  • Animation (19 courses)
  • Game Development (5 courses)
  • Software Development (56 courses)



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