Talent shortage curbing potential for growth of local digital media

January 29, 20142:22 pm575 views
Talent shortage curbing potential for growth of local digital media
Talent shortage curbing potential for growth of local digital media

SINGAPORE — For the past two years, Mr Eric Wong of mobile applications start-up BST Mobile has been finding it an uphill struggle to recruit technical staff proficient in multimedia and programming.

Like other people involved in start-ups in the digital media industry that TODAY spoke to, Mr Wong said the small pool of local talent and an increasingly tight foreign labour market had curbed his company’s expansion plans.

“Even with the small pool of graduates, I do try to hire locals. But even polytechnic graduates don’t wish to be coders, programmers or artists. They want to be managers immediately. Also, the level of technical expertise here doesn’t seem to be high,” said Mr Wong.

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted at the opening of the new Lucasfilm facility in Singapore that the interactive and digital media industry here had grown significantly in the past few years. He expects it to continue on that trajectory, provided Singapore develops the necessary talent to fill the jobs the industry needs.

However, checks with polytechnics here found that they have no specific plans to expand the capacity or number of suitable courses on offer.

Nanyang Polytechnic, whose School of Interactive and Digital Media has launched new courses in recent years, said it had “reached a steady state for the intakes for our courses”.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic, which offers 48 diploma programmes in various digital media areas, said it would adjust its intake figures based on industry requirements and market demands.

“For digital media education, we generally keep the intake small, as such courses require specialised resources as well as close mentorship,” said a spokesman.

Republic Polytechnic’s (RP) strategy is different: It said it reviews the “breadth and depth” of its courses to meet the industry’s relevant manpower needs. It also looks to match its students to new career opportunities and in its internship placement programme, which has a “100 per cent take-up rate”.

“This attests to the insatiable demand for manpower in this burgeoning industry,” said Ms Sharen Liu, Director of RP’s School of Technology for the Arts.

But while the local polytechnics feel they are delivering the manpower the industry needs, a recent Deloitte interactive digital media report, commissioned by the Media Development Authority, found key shortcomings, including a talent shortage.

“This shortage has resulted in a poaching culture in the industry, further fuelled by its small size. The increasingly stringent foreign labour laws have exacerbated this situation,” said the Deloitte report.

Students and graduates, it noted, also tend to be more motivated by job security and are often attracted to more well-established careers.

Mr Aurelius Yeo, a teacher at the School of Science and Technology, said aspiring employees often have unrealistic expectations: “Everyone is complaining that they can’t find local programmers and multimedia artists. But even when they do find one who is interested, he asks for too high a salary.”

These constraints mean that some local start-ups have little choice but to turn to foreign labour.

Mr Wong of BST Mobile, for instance, has had to resort to hiring workers in Myanmar and Bangladesh, who can easily work and communicate remotely with the team here. This helps him to bypass foreign labour restrictions, he said.

And games development company Touch Dimensions has been hiring people with no digital media background and then training them on the job. At the same time, it is utilising technology tools to help it to create titles that enable it to survive with a leaner team.

Director Jeffrey Jiang said such an approach may be the key to flourishing when manpower constraints look set to continue: “We cannot expect Singapore to have the same mass of talent as other countries, but we do have access to government grants, good technology and infrastructure.”

 

source: todayonline.com

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