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Talent fuse blows

Published on Friday, 19 Apr 2013
Bradley Miller
Photo: Gary Mak

There are too few tech, engineering and IT pros to meet current market demand

The battle to attract experienced technology and engineering professionals looks set to intensify as a growing number of jobs in the two sectors are expected to emerge, in turn exacerbating the challenges already faced by businesses in Asia in attracting and retaining talent.

According to Bradley Miller, the Northeast Asia managing director of recruitment firm Spring Professional – a specialist IT and engineering arm of the Adecco Group – about 4.4 million new jobs in the “big data” space are expected to be created globally by 2015, including more than one million jobs in Asia.

“There are simply too few experienced engineers and IT professionals for the demands of the market, which presents a tremendous recruitment challenge for both multinational and regional companies,” Miller says.

Demand is most keen for mid- and senior-ranking engineers in a number of sectors including commercial, retail, property, infrastructure, renewable energy, and oil and gas transportation.

In the fast-growing big-data environment, Miller says a key driver in the rising demand for technology professionals is the way companies are utilising social media platforms to engage with clients and implement growth strategies.

Many companies, especially those with large customer bases and those engaged in retail activities, are also looking for new ways to use cloud computing.

Additionally, Miller says, more pressure is being put on an already insufficient talent pool by an increasing number of US and European companies setting up shop in Asia as a result of sluggish business in their home markets. With Hong Kong the main business conduit to the mainland, it is often a favoured platform for companies to launch and administer operations.

Large mainland firms and regional enterprises are also competing for the same engineering and technology talent. “In the recruitment race, international firms are facing massive competition from regional employers,” Miller says.

Employers are generally very specific about the skills for which they are looking. Top of the list, Miller says, is the ability to use technical knowledge to drive commercial objectives.

Proficiency in English, Cantonese and Putonghua is also important, as well as the ability to harness the potential offered by social media and cloud computing.

“Employers are looking for high-quality talent with both the specialisation skills and the user-experience know-how to commercialise different aspects of technologies,” Miller says.

With experienced engineering and technology talent in short supply, Miller says it is vital that employers make the right recruitment decisions.

“Employers need to be certain they are not simply filling positions, but hiring the best people to achieve their goals,” he says. To retain the people they hire, he advises employers to be transparent about the job offering and performance objectives.

“If there are limited career-advancement opportunities, or little planning and support for strategies that might be mentioned during the interview stage, it is important to say so,” Miller says.

As pressure on the talent market increases, Miller believes companies that focus on the employee value proposition will be able to attract and retain employees with critical skills, while also engaging the broader workforce.

“If companies want to be successful, they need to plan ahead, which also includes the way they go about building and maintaining a strong workforce,” he says.

“Engineering and technology job candidates, on the other hand, need to look beyond their industry skills if they want to increase their attractiveness to employers.

“Technology and engineering skills can be learned at university, on the job and through professional development courses. The commercialisation of these skills, however, is not so easy to pick up,” Miller says.

He adds that employees aiming to move up to mid-level and senior positions need to look for ways to use their knowledge and experience to add additional value to a company. For example, this could be through widening communication channels or cross-company employee- and customer-engagement initiatives.

Spring Professional recently established recruitment offices in strategic locations across Asia to provide talent solutions for clients in the engineering and technology sectors. The launch coincides with the spike in demand from organisations seeking to recruit experienced talent in IT and engineering.

The IT Factor: Miller's mantra

Think commercial "IT and engineering professionals aiming to move up to the next level need to look for ways to combine commercial aspects with their specific skill sets."

Engineered careers "Industry sectors across Asia with a hot demand for mid- and senior-level engineering professionals include commercial, retail, residential and industrial building projects, infrastructure projects, renewable energy, natural resources including oil and gas, and transportation."

IT opportunities IT opportunities "Industry sectors with a hot demand for mid- and senior-level IT professionals include cloud computing, social media, retail, and banking and finance."

Trinity of tongues "The trinity of English, Cantonese and Putonghua language proficiency ranks high on employers' list of expectations when recruiting mid- and senior-level IT and engineering individuals."

Valued employees "Employers need to look carefully at the employee value proposition they offer to job candidates, which includes career development and management support, to attract and retain critical-skill employees."


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