Singapore’s Smart Nation innovations are drawing talent to the public sector

The government has in recent years forged ahead with its intention of establishing it as a Smart Nation

The global pandemic has disrupted businesses and economies worldwide, but for Singapore’s public sector it has provided an opportunity in which to augment its innovative tech targets.

Despite contractions in the private sector, in the year to come the government is set to create 15,000 jobs in areas such as early childhood education, healthcare, and long-term care.

However, perhaps the most prominent facet of public sector expenditure and expansion is the continuation of the Smart Nation initiative, said Lakshmi Murlidharan business director at Hays Singapore.

“Though well-coordinated, strategic long-term planning, development and larger-scale investment, the Singapore government has in recent years forged ahead with its intention of establishing Singapore as a Smart Nation that is the envy of the world,” she said.

Murlidharan noted the success of the Smart Nation initiative can be seen in the IMD World Digital Competitiveness rankings that put Singapore as the second most digitally competitive nation in the world. Despite the pandemic, the scheme continues apace, utilising technology to not only improve the lives of Singaporeans, but also creating numerous hiring opportunities.

An issue the public sector must contend is that these recruitment demands come in the areas of AI, data science, cloud and DevOps, all of which are niche and emerging technologies and are thus globally candidate short.

“We are seeing demand for talent in numerous areas, including hands-on mid-level tech engineers, senior cyber security professionals and digital technology professionals,” said Murlidharan. “But as well as these tech-based hard skills, public sector employers are prioritising resilient candidates who are willing to not only develop new skillsets but also display ingenuity.”

As the urgency for candidates who possess such niche talents is so high, the public sector faces intense competition from domestic tech giants, MNCs and start-ups looking to capture the best individuals to build their platforms. In a country where private companies have historically been perceived as advantageous over the public sector, this could be the sternest challenge.

“Having observed how the investment into civic initiatives is being implemented, we believe it is a challenge that Singapore’s public sector is up to,” said Murlidharan. “In recent years we have witnessed notable improvements to salaries and benefits that include healthcare, generous vacation allowance, maternal and paternal leave, flexible working hours, development programmes and training allowances, all of which are intended to not only attract, but retain ambitious talent.”

Of course, the financial constraints that have affected the private sector have also impacted upon the public sector. As such, organisations have turned to the contracting market in order to augment headcounts, build a more integrated workforce and meet business goals whilst still managing recruitment budgets and mitigating against unexpected losses.

Historically, candidates in Singapore have been reluctant to take contracting roles as full-time positions have held more prestige, but this outlook is changing, and many more jobseekers are expected to take up temporary positions in the year ahead.

“With higher rates of pay and greater flexibility, there are many reasons for candidates to take up public sector contracting positions,” added Murlidharan. “Perhaps the most compelling in this fast-moving world is the opportunity to work in differing industries and accumulate diverse skillsets that will be markedly advantageous when, or if, you decide to accept a permanent role.

Taking up a contracting position within the public sector could, for an ambitious professional, be the first step to acquiring the skills necessary to become part of the public sector boom that is expected in 2021 and for many years to come, she noted.

An overview of what other trends have been observed in Singapore’s engineering sector can be viewed below:

In order to attract candidates, public sector organisations are offering numerous benefits such as onboarding experience, competitive work-life balance and transparent career advancement opportunities.

The government is looking to ensure that a fair and adequate domestic-overseas workforce balance is implemented, not only in terms of quantity, but also quality.

However, the application for employment passes for overseas recruitment has been slowed due to pandemic restrictions. This is proving a hinderance to foreign candidates, and thus public sector organisations are focussing more on domestic hires.

The lifecycle of recruitment has been elongated by social distancing practices, moving online for initial stages, and as such companies are recommended to instigate procedures earlier than they ordinarily would to ensure that they can onboard the necessary talent before needs become critical.









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