TALENT HUNT: The need for Information Technology workers is acute and experts say the sector offers good career prospects for Malaysian youth
MOHD Syamil Afiq Mohd Fadzil has been playing computer games since primary school.
So, choosing a career related to Information Technology (IT) was a natural progression for him.
“I enjoyed being around the computer and playing with it, which is why I wanted to find work that is connected to computing,” says the 24-year-old, who graduated this year with a Diploma in Information Technology from Kuala Lumpur Infrastructure University College.
Judging by recent statistics, Malaysia certainly needs more young people like Mohd Syamil Afiq to fill vacancies in Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
The MSC Malaysia Talent Supply Demand Study 2010-2013 — Final Report reveals that the number of IT graduates has declined by 0.6 per cent and will not be enough to meet industry’s demand next year.
The problem stems from a mismatch between the number of available IT graduates and what industry really needs, says Rototype International chief executive officer
If this persists, vendors will not hesitate to “scale down (their) business or move to where the talents are”.
Tan, who is also an adviser to the National ICT Association of Malaysia (Pikom), said this at the recent launch of the Industry Advisory Board (IAB) of HELP University’s Department of Information Technology.
IAB members comprise senior industrialists, IT professionals and academics.
Chaired by Tan, the board was established to strengthen ties with industry and ensure that IT programmes offered at the university arm students with relevant skills.
HELP University vice chancellor and president Datuk Paul Chan Tuck Hoong says the launch “would facilitate linkages between the institution and industry to provide internships for undergraduates and graduates, and expose students to entrepreneurial projects”.
The ICT industry is one of the fastest growing segments of Malaysia’s economy.
According to Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), the sector is likely to grow at an average annual rate of 10 per cent, creating some 160,000 ICT jobs by 2015.
As Muhammad Imran Kunalan Abdullah, MDeC general manager (Head of Talent), puts it: “Having enough employable IT graduates is crucial for industry, so the notion (that it is hard for IT graduates to get jobs) is untrue.”
Yet he cautions that the high demand for IT graduates does not mean that every student with the qualification will find jobs.
“We need to find out if they are of quality or not,” says Muhammad Imran.
To be employed, IT graduates must be adept in 10 skill clusters, among which are software development, database and networking and security.
“Each has different sub-skill sets. It is a fast-moving industry where what is required now can become obsolete after a few years,” he adds.
The lack of interest in IT among secondary schoolchildren is a worrying trend.
The MSC Malaysia report showed a decline of 11 per cent in the number of students pursuing the subject at tertiary level.
This is not surprising as out of 100 teens who attended MDeC’s ICT boot camp, only five showed interest in such careers.
Satish Ganesh, for one, seems unfazed by the fact that he stands to earn a starting salary of more than RM2,000 a month as an IT
His short stint in IT during the long school holidays three years ago did not develop into a passion for the field.
“It was a part-time job troubleshooting minor computer problems at a transport company,” says the fifth-former.
“Getting the job was a coincidence because my friend alerted me to the vacancy and I wanted to fill my time during the break,” adds Satish, who spends an average of four hours a day online checking his emails and Facebook account as well as reading about wildlife.
He did consider an IT-related career for a while but lost interest in the idea when he joined the Junior Cadet uniformed body in school.
“I love the discipline and order of the uniformed body and I’m aiming for a career in that direction,”
Muhammad Imran is not surprised by Satish’s change of heart.
“Everyone is an expert at using technology at that age. It is already a part and parcel of their life, so they don’t see the difference between being a user and a producer,” he says.
IAB co-chairman Ganesh Kumar Bangah says that the board can concentrate on “getting students to dream of building a future company like Apple or Google in Malaysia”.
“Social content e-commerce is not well recognised compared to pure software development (in Malaysia) but it is growing fast and students can tap into this,” he adds.
He cites the example of social games services developer Zynga, which produces Facebook game applications such as FarmVille and has 240 million users on the social networking site.
The company is now worth about US$15 billion (RM45 billion).
Ganesh is confident that those who take advantage of the social content market will enjoy good pay.
“(Social content e-commerce) is consumer-driven, so a company (involved in this) can grow exponentially,” says Ganesh.
IT course providers must ensure their curriculum is up to date, if more Malaysians were to become social content producers, says Tan.
“By collaborating with the board, HELP University will be able to keep its teaching staff and students up to speed on the developments within the IT industry.
“IT is still one of the most financially rewarding careers and its graduates are still very much in demand, provided they have the right skill set,” he adds.