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Lack of qualified staff may hit upgrade plans

Published on Friday, 14 Jan 2011

Employers planning to invest in new systems and technology upgrades this year may find themselves in a minicrisis. Money may be available for information and communications technology (ICT) projects put on ice due to the recession, but the problem now looming is a shortage of suitably qualified staff to undertake the work.

A survey of more than 400 companies in industries ranging in size from small and medium enterprises to multinationals, found that 61 per cent of respondents intended to hire IT professionals this year. However, more than half of replies also said that, in the local market, good candidates were in short supply.

The study, conducted by the ICT Career Centre - an online and offline "community" for those in the sector - with the support of Classified Post and the Hong Kong Computer Society, sees this as a plus for job-seekers, but not such good news for employers. Feedback shows an increase in demand for project managers, and for software engineers and professionals with experience in systems operations and framework development.

"We would expect ICT salaries to go up in 2011, specifically for those with skills in IT architecture, which tops the list of positions which are difficult to fill," says Dennis Yeung, director of industry development for the Hong Kong Computer Society. "We understand that tertiary-level institutions are continuously enhancing course content to match industry needs, but we also encourage companies to provide a broader career path and more diversified training for their IT staff."

Normal employer practice, Yeung notes, is to give IT-specific skills through on-the-job exposure. When appropriate, staff will also attend courses laid on by IT vendors. Often missing, though, is any real effort to broaden horizons with, for example, additional training in sales, marketing and soft skills or participation in seminars and international conferences.

"A high level of ICT is a must for all companies if they want to operate efficiently and effectively," Yeung says.

He adds that professionals must accept responsibility for improving their own management credentials and should realise that, even if a reported 42 per cent of organisations will have contract or temporary IT jobs on offer, this may not be the way to better long-term career prospects. Another survey, by the Hong Kong Software Industry Association and the Hong Kong Productivity Council, also predicted a coming shortage of software engineers in the local labour market.

It made the point that this could have a wide-reaching impact across industries and push up the value of specialist skills. John Cremer

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