Engineering in Singapore

Programming as a career in Singapore

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) had announced recently a partnership with General Assembly (GA) to launch the first Career Accelerator in Singapore. Two entry-level programming courses, a 10-week User Experience Design Immersive and a 12-week Web Development Immersive, will be launched in Singapore in November 2015.

These two programs aims to target mid-career non-ICT professionals interested in a tech career, current IT professionals who are keen to upgrade their skills and even fresh graduates/entrepreneurs building a tech start-up.

As I sat there at the media launch event, a question begets me, “Do these programs have a positive benefit specifically to Singapore and its startup community?


High demand for engineering talent

At Angels Gate Advisory, a community incubator, we have advised over 450 startups since 2012. From the entrepreneurs’ feedback, it is without a doubt that there is a lack of quality engineering talent. As Singapore grows its technology ecosystem, the pace of local quality engineering talent has not kept up, and we see entrepreneurs seeking overseas tech talents and foreign software houses to build their products.

Max Loosen, Co-founder and Country Manager, Sendhelper, agrees. “As a start-up co-founder with non-tech background, it is absolutely critical to find the right tech talent in Singapore, and the demand for tech talent seems only to continue to grow. Local talent is absolutely vital to my business, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.”

And while it is worth to note that while startups are seeking talents, so do the banks and large tech companies. It is reported that more than 6,000 programming roles will grow in the next 2 years, more than 40% of the expected demand in tech manpower. So do expect the competition for tech talent to intensify further.

Considerations on the course

So will these entry-level courses bite and Singaporeans coming to take up the course? Max (not his real name), a mid-career Singaporean IT professional in his 30s, has been recently considering programming courses to upgrade himself. He is currently a freelance Google-certified SEO marketer but decided to move to tech programming which have seen more prospects in getting a stable job.

“For my choice of program, my top consideration is the quality and recognition of the education institute that is conducting the course. Placement to a good company is also a priority for those who are seeking a job immediately after the course, like myself,” he says. He was surprised to find the 3-month course fees to be S$10,000, but after an explanation that there will be government skills-training subsidies for Singapore citizens, he was less apprehensive. “Perhaps the site should indicate how much subsidies Singaporeans will get in order to entice them to join.”

Other than General Assembly, he is also currently considering an 18-month Masters of Technology course at a local university which after government subsidy costs S$15,000. But he admitted that having an intensive 3-month course like General Assembly would be a better consideration if he wanted to start working as soon as possible.

I also spoke to a Singaporean founder who has a good number of programmers in his team, but is still short of engineers. An advocate of the Singapore ecosystem, he commented that these entry-level courses will be very useful to find more programmers to add to his team. “I like the idea of working together with General Assembly to find potential talented programmers in their courses. As long as the person is keen and passionate about programming, my team will be happy to train them on the job and further add to their skills. I would also be excited to offer a growing career path for them.”


Ending thoughts

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will Singapore’s tech ecosystem. It will take time for us to gather feedback and tweak the programs to suit the industry’s needs. As a pro-Singapore startup evangelist, I am grateful for the small steps that IDA and GA have done to launch these courses. But as I spoke to the various industry representatives at the media event, I found that this initiative will likely benefit large MNCs like the banks and big tech firms who are willing to sponsor their staff who are keen on a mid-career switch and could afford to spare them for training. Startups would more likely benefit from hiring the graduates of these courses, if they can convince their company is a great career path of choice.

In any case, the ultimate winners will be for Singaporeans who choose programming as a career, where there is no doubt a great amount of employment opportunities awaiting from prospective employers.

General Assembly is conducting programming courses right here in Singapore. Find out more. If you are keen on hiring GA’s graduates, contact them here. In my next article, we will get insights from Singapore engineers living in the US and their opinion on how to create a conducive environment for tech engineers in Singapore. Watch out for it.

Photos sources from IDA Facebook Page.

This article is the fourth of the ‘Engineering Singapore’ Series, where I delve into the state of engineering and its community in Singapore.