IT professionals still hard to find in Hong Kong
Hong Kong may be one of the most wired and tech-savvy cities on the planet, but when it comes to enticing people to carve out a career as IT professionals, employers are struggling to attract suitable candidates.
The latest IT manpower survey by the Committee on Information Technology Training and Development of the Vocational Training Council (VTC) reveals that last year, nearly 40 per cent of employers had difficulty in attracting suitable candidates with the relevant IT experience, and almost 24 per cent had difficulty in attracting suitable candidates with the relevant expertise and skills. This compares to 26 per cent and nearly 16 per cent during their recruitment exercises in 2010. Growth in IT positions has increased 6.5 per cent over the past two years, with IT job positions topping 80,000. Of these, nearly 2,000 posts were vacant.
Kar Yan-tam, chair professor of information systems, business statistics and operations management at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, believes there could be several reasons why young people are reluctant to join the IT industry. “Unlike the medical and legal professions, the IT career path is not very clear,” says Tam.
“There is also a lack of professional and social recognition for the profession,” adds Tam, convenor of the working party on the VTC manpower survey. “We need parents to recognise there are excellent career opportunities in IT for their children, and they don’t necessarily have to channel them to be doctors, lawyers or accountants.”
Tam believes salary packages, which vary between industries and companies of different sizes, may be another reason why young people are reluctant to join the IT sector. The survey says small-to-medium-sized IT firms offer HK$12,000-HK$14,000 in starting salaries, while bigger IT brands offer HK$17,000-HK$18,000. Internet-based banks generally offer starting IT salaries of about HK$35,000.
Airline companies recorded the highest hiring growth of 66.8 per cent, amid rising passenger and cargo volumes. Construction and medical and other health care services recorded a rise of 38.1 per cent and 34.9 per cent, respectively, over 2010. Tam says the banking and the financial services sectors are also seeing rising demand for IT professionals.
As the Tseung Kwan O cluster of data companies expands and develops and more companies move to cloud computing, Tam expects the demand for IT professionals to continue rising. Other new job hotspots include games development, mobile and social media applications. Among internet-based banks, there is demand for technical or quantitative jobs, especially programming.
To attract more young people to the IT profession, Tam says he would like incentives put in place to attract major research and design and hi-tech firms to Hong Kong. “We need to see companies that inspire young people and provide them with role models,” says Tam.
Michael Leung, president of the Hong Kong Computer Society, is another industry professional who believes more needs to be done to raise the profile of the IT industry. “It is a complex topic, but not until we see higher recognition for the profession in the community, will we see top talent being drawn to the industry,” says Leung, who adds the government has a role to play in lifting the industry’s profile.
Meanwhile, as cloud computing enables Hong Kong companies to buy, lease, sell or distribute over the internet, Leung expects new job opportunities to unfold. “Cloud computing opens up new possibilities for companies that was previously too costly, labour intensive and time-consuming,” says Leung, who believes career prospects will be created in cloud demand servicing and development and innovation within companies.
To give them the best possible career prospects, Leung advices aspiring IT professionals to equip themselves with business knowledge and interpersonal skills. “Companies know when they hire fresh graduates they will need to provide a lot of training, therefore, to make themselves more attractive to employers, graduates can benefit by boosting their business acumen,” he adds.
At cloud marketing, networking and virtualisation technologies firm Citrix, Asia-Pacific and Japan human resources group director Michael Stickler says the company seeks staff keen to extend their skills in the dynamic and fast-changing markets it operates in. “We are definitely looking for specific skills across our product lines, such as networking, telecom, virtualisation, software-as-a-service. We also seek staff who are flexible and can acquire new skills,” he says.
A classic career path at Citrix would be starting in core IT support and then moving into customer support and over time, move into either sales engineering or consulting. Another career path example is starting in IT support and then moving across into IT infrastructure, which defines and provides the architecture of Citrix internal systems, and manage various aspects of the business such as end-user and networking.
Stickler says that as Citrix HR team and managers prepare for an interview by reading through a candidate’s résumé, jobseekers should research what the company is doing. What are the main lines of business are and where the business is headed in the future. “A lot of this information is public information and can easily be found,” says Stickler.