Connection has long been an integral part of Singapore’s continuing story of success. For at least a millennium, its strategic location and natural port made it a hub for traders exchanging goods from East to West.
Today, Singapore’s primary area of connectivity growth is digital. Since 2018, 80 of the world’s top 100 tech companies have a presence in the city-state, with long-term giants including Google, IBM and Microsoft. Since the pandemic, newer players like Zoom, PayPal, Tencent, and Alibaba have established operations in what has been described as the "Silicon Valley of Asia" in KPMG's global ranking of leading tech innovation hubs outside San Francisco.
According to the consulting firm, the country “offers an advanced IT infrastructure, strong government support and IP protection laws, and a deep pool of talent”.
However, a 2023 survey by the human resources firm ManpowerGroup ranked Singapore as the sixth most talent-starved among 42 countries, with 84% of information technology companies reporting difficulty hiring.
The resulting ‘tech talent war’ has had companies competing for foreign talent to supplement their local workforce. However, with high turnover and high salary expectations, this has proven to be only a short-term solution.
Cultivating Singapore’s tech talent pool
COVID-19 border closures disrupted Singapore’s connectivity with global trading and business networks. Foreign professionals who had been integrated into Singapore society for years returned to their home countries.
Meanwhile, the tech industry continues to grow rapidly - it’s been predicted that by 2030 the IT sector will require another 60,000 tech professionals. Meeting the continually growing talent demand has become a serious challenge. However, there is a severe lack of local talent to fill these roles.
The city’s education system produces only 2,800 STEM university graduates each year, and tech companies looking to meet their local talent quota are finding themselves in tight competition.
Franki Vambanu is Sales Manager at FDM Singapore. His global experience includes 8 years in Financial Services in Luxembourg before moving to London to join FDM. He now works with 30+ clients across Singapore to deliver talent solutions in tech and business skills. Franki shares this observation from his 4 years’ local experience:
“I think COVID has highlighted the fact that there was a need to do more with what was available locally to fill the digital skills gap as opposed to heavily relying on foreign talent. Now there are quotas and companies are going to be scrutinised by what proportion of local talent they're hiring.
One of the reasons why, since COVID, our model here in Singapore has been so successful is because we've decided a few years ago to only recruit local talent and that's why a lot of our clients like to work with us. In 2023, 100% of our consultant staff is local.
Clients come to FDM because they find it a challenge to attract local talent, we support them by recruiting new local talent all year round to fill their talent pipeline.”Franki Vambanu, Sales Manager at FDM Singapore
FDM is a pioneering talent solutions partner with over 30 years’ experience specialising in the technology sector and connects businesses to the right talent. Thousands of graduates of all degree backgrounds globally start their IT and business careers with us every year.
We have established unique relationships with Singapore’s universities – sourcing, recruiting and training the city’s best graduate talent to prepare them to step into consultant positions within our clients’ teams.
Most importantly, we work in partnership with our clients, building and developing sustainable talent pipelines allowing growth at scale.
How is the Singaporean government supporting local talent?
To foster self-reliance and local capabilities, the government is developing the concept of the “Singaporean core” in the workforce, promoting and equipping Singaporeans with tech skills for future jobs through numerous initiatives.
The CareersFinder tool offers personalised jobs and skills recommendations, helping job seekers find new career opportunities and suitable training programmes.
Singapore’s SkillsFuture Credit is a $500 grant given to locals to invest in training, which has already led to 63% of Singapore's workforce now being considered digitally skilled workers!
Although excellent initiatives such as these are in place, Tan See Leng, the Manpower Minister of Singapore has urged businesses to take action to attract more local talent.
“We need to continue to strengthen the entire local workforce, and help to secure safer, progressive, more inclusive workplaces to ensure that all Singaporeans have fair and equitable work.”
The benefits of hiring local talent for your teams and your economy
The current model of rotating ‘high-fliers’ from around the world is not a sustainable option for businesses, or Singapore’s economy as a whole.
As companies are increasingly discovering, there are countless long-term advantages to hiring local talent for your teams, including:
- Understanding the local culture and customs
- Locals are less likely to relocate
- Gain hiring subsidies
- Improve economic conditions as a whole
- Boost employee retention
1. Understanding the local culture and customs
Singaporeans, being native to the country, are generally bilingual and have a better understanding of local knowledge and cultural nuances. Leveraging these attributes can help businesses build deeper connections with their target audience, clients, and partners, leading to accelerated economic growth.
“Singapore, as such a young country, decided to take the approach of ‘OK, we're going to open ourselves up to foreign investment, and make our country a place where businesses from around the world can come and thrive.’
But initially you've seen a lot of organisations where the management level is still going to be representing the cultural nationality of the company’s country of origin.
The idea is that, over time, these roles can be filled by hiring more local talent and putting them in places where they can grow, ensuring the top jobs, the decision-making power, can be of a Singapore flavour and influence.”Franki Vambanu – Sales Manager, FDM Singapore
2. Locals are less likely to relocate
Locals have established social and familial ties, which provide them with a sense of belonging and stability. This sense of rootedness and local pride fires Singaporeans’ motivation to stay committed to the industry where they believe they can develop their career and excel.
3. Gain hiring subsidies
Companies that hire Singaporean employees can benefit from various subsidies and grants provided by the government. For instance, the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) and SGUnited jobs initiatives were introduced to support businesses and create employment opportunities for locals. These programmes offer financial incentives and assistance to companies hiring and retaining local talent, making it more cost-effective for companies to hire Singaporeans.
4. Improve economic conditions as a whole
A skilled workforce with high retention contributes to better economic conditions in the country. Locals with well-paying jobs and increased spending power, stimulate the domestic market, inspire leadership, foster entrepreneurialism, and contribute to the overall advancement of Singapore’s workforce.
5. Boost employee retention
Access to training and development fosters an added sense of engagement among local employees, as they feel supported in their professional growth. It also improves retention rates as they are more likely to stay loyal to organisations that invest in their teams.
FDM is committed to the career development of our consultants. We provide upskilling opportunities tailored to clients’ needs, enhancing our consultants’ value to organisations. This is a key factor in our high retention rate, with more than 4 out of 5 consultants internalising globally.
How to attract and retain local talent
When it comes to attracting and retaining local talent, there are a few things you should consider, including:
- Providing skills development opportunities
- Improving your employer brand
- Hiring for potential, not for skills
- Build a sustainable talent pipeline
1. Providing skills development opportunities
While the government offers various training programmes, you can go beyond by providing additional skills development opportunities within your organisation. This could include in-house training, mentorship programmes, workshops, and access to online learning platforms.
“We support the government in what they're trying to create in Singapore. The idea of Singapore being a smart nation and giving everyone within the population the ability to work in the digital age. We are here to help Singapore grow, to elevate the local talent. No one's going to be left behind.”Franki Vambanu – Sales Manager, FDM Singapore
2. Promoting your employer brand
Employer brand plays a key role in attracting and hiring top talent, enhancing the candidate experience and differentiating you from competitors.
It’s crucial to define your Employee Value Proposition, the unique value and benefits that employees can gain from working with your organisation, such as competitive compensation, work-life balance, career progression opportunities, and benefits.
Identify and articulate these elements through the right channels, such as your website, social media platforms, job postings, and review sites to target and attract potential local candidates.
3. Hiring for potential, not for skills
Rather than focusing solely on specific skills when hiring, look for candidates who demonstrate the potential to grow and thrive within your organisation.
“The biggest team that we have at FDM is our recruitment team and they put the effort in to identify the passion for tech which a lot of traditional recruitment methods will not tap into. Our model allows access to a vastly expanded talent pool by assessing candidates on their attitude and aptitude rather than their academic background.
Our team is out there building relationships with universities, the career advisors and the principals. We are often on campus and invite university partners to come here to attend some of our recruitment sessions or just understand what it is that we do.”Franki Vambanu – Sales Manager, FDM Singapore
4. Build a sustainable talent pipeline
Building a sustainable talent pipeline is essential to organisational success, enabling you to hire top candidates and stay ahead of the competition. At FDM, we are firm believers that individuals from any background can thrive in the professional world so long as they have the right training and support.
Our consultant services offer a viable alternative to hiring foreign talent by providing businesses with a highly skilled and diverse pipeline of local talent to work as part of their internal teams.
“One thing that definitely resonates highly with our clients is they can come to us looking for certain skillsets and we can put something together and train our people based on their needs.
It's something that gives us an advantage because typical recruitment models mean that they try to source the person with expensive, niche experience clients are looking for on the market. While we can pretty much create that person from scratch and provide them at a very competitive rate.”Franki Vambanu – Sales Manager, FDM Singapore
FDM’s activities to source top graduate potential
Even as the Government applies concerted effort to build a strong Singapore core in IT, the domestic supply of STEM graduates is unlikely to meet the economy’s needs.
FDM has identified this challenge and designed its programmes to help alleviate the deficit by welcoming local graduates from any degree background.
Another area of opportunity lies in the student gender spilt. Over the last decade, male graduates with STEM degrees in Singapore have outnumbered females two to one. Through our university partnerships and initiatives like careers fairs and digital bootcamps, FDM is working to increase the number of local women entering the tech sector.
Following expert assessment, candidates are guided to the technology or business stream which best suits their strengths and transferrable skills. At the FDM Academy, they then receive around 3 months training in all the professional and tech skills required to step into specialist roles within client teams.
Local talent supports Singapore’s ranking as Asia’s #1 Technology Hub
One of the Four Asian Tigers, Singapore attracts all major global tech firms with its openness and innovation-friendly environment at the heart of Southeast Asia.
Government initiatives to support the development of local talents, such as the Singapore Global Executive Programme, in turn support local companies by investing in career development journeys for their local staff.
Businesses go where the talent is, and talent goes where the businesses are. With a thriving economy and commitment to nurturing and growing its home-grown talent, Singapore is one of the world’s best places to make those connections.
Get in touch to find out more about how FDM can connect you to 100% local talent.