Cultivating the future tech talent

It will allow the country to tap on the power of tech to enhance efficiencies, optimise productivity and improve lives


ONE thing that I have learned by working in a world-leading tech company is that with the advancements in technology, especially in recent times, simply being tech-literate today isn’t enough.

Which is why academic curriculums all over the world are incorporating skills like robotics and coding for children as young as the age of five.

To outpace or at least to keep pace with technological evolution today, we have to bring ourselves beyond tech literacy to being tech-savvy.

The pandemic-driven “new normal” has pushed organisations past the tipping point. This was made clear in a global survey conducted by McKinsey & Co, on how the ongoing health and economic crisis has expedited the adoption of digital technologies among businesses by several years.

Job Security Is Found in Being Digitally Savvy in A Digital World

The new normal has pushed forward the need for enhanced productivity, speed, innovation, convenience and efficiency— demanding a smarter, more intelligent present and future, which is made possible with the advent of advanced technologies and solutions such as automation, cloud computing, 5G and machine learning.

With this acceleration comes the urgency for skill sets to see these technologies applied. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs 2020 report published in October last year listed cloud computing, Big Data and e-commerce as the top technologies most likely to be adopted by companies.

The report also highlighted a significant rise in interest in encryption among employers, reflecting the new vulnerabilities of our “Digital Age”, and a notable increase in the number of firms expecting to adopt non-humanoid robots and machine intelligence, with both technologies slowly becoming a mainstay across industries.

Ready Or Not, The Workforce Must Be Equipped

A WEF report tells us that professions which are considered newer, skilled and emerging are expected to increase from about 8% to more than 13% over the next four years. Based on this data, WEF projected that close to 85 million jobs could be displaced for roles that divide human work from machine work, although a new set of 97 million job opportunities that require skills around machine interaction and algorithmic expertise could be created.

Still, in the same report, skills gaps in the local labour market as well as the inability to attract the right talent were highlighted as among the major barriers to the adoption of new technologies

Huawei Organises for The Future with Tech and Capable Talent

With talent development a key priority for our company whether internally or for our clients and stakeholders, Huawei has rolled out several initiatives which are geared for training and nurturing digital skills.

In essence, these are programmes that serve a common purpose — which is to encourage more Malaysians to pursue and build ICT skills to be a part of a digitally skilled talent pool for the future. One example is the “Seeds for the Future” programme. Initiated in 2008, the programme is Huawei’s flagship global corporate social responsibility initiative, designed to inspire local talents and encourage the sowing of digital ‘seeds’ in society — especially among the younger generation — to future-proof the society of tomorrow. The programme has benefited more than 5,000 students across the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, but we are not stopping there.

At the APAC Media Virtual Roundtable which Huawei Asia Pacific hosted recently, we made it clear that our main focus remains in addressing digital inclusion and sustainable development of this region.

Huawei Asia Pacific VP Jay Chen announced that Huawei’s plan to cultivate more than 40,000 ICT talents over the next five years through multiple programmes, including Seeds for the Future.

In realising the benefits of Seeds for the Future and how it has impacted the lives of participants in so many positive ways, Huawei in early-July this year announced its Seeds for the Future 2.0.

One of our biggest missions through this second instalment is our plan to invest US$150 million (RM628.8 million) in digital talent development over the next five years, which is expected to benefit an additional three million across the globe. Closer to home, Huawei’s long-term collaboration with Malaysia’s Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) dates back to 2014, when both parties joined hands to conduct the Seeds for the Future programme.

To date, we have assisted over 96 students from various universities in levelling up their digital skills. We are also actively partnering universities across Malaysia to provide relevant training covering 5G, cloud computing, Big Data, and other emerging and disruptive technologies through our Huawei ICT Academy.

We have collaborated with more than 30 universities across the country for the Huawei ICT Academy programme — which has been incorporated as part of the Huawei Asean Academy, to integrate regional resources, enable Malaysian digital talent, promote Malaysia’s Digital Economy and assist Malaysia in its digital transformation journey and ultimately, carry out its role and duties as the Asean Digital Hub.

To this end, we are proud and honoured to have trained and developed over 8,800 Malaysian talents through our Huawei Asean Academy. Our target for the next five years, however, is to have 50,000 ICT talents successfully graduate from our academy.

We also recently inked a Digital Leadership memorandum of understanding with Celcom Axiata Bhd to launch a set of talent development programmes aimed at building ICT talents to future-proof a digital future for Malaysia.

The digital leadership programme aims to nurture aspiring ICT professionals, equipping them with skills related to latest technological developments such as Big Data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, 5G technology and pervasive technologies that will further empower Celcom to be at the forefront of technology innovation.

Jump On the Bandwagon or Risk Losing Out

It is imperative that we understand that digital transformation is more than just about technology — it is about having both machines and humans coexisting to realise the possibilities for efficiency gains and better customer experience.

Having the financial capacity to invest in, purchase and utilise new technologies is a good start but one’s ability to adapt to an increasingly digitised world depends on the next generation of skills, bridging the gap between talent supply and demand, and future-proofing yours as well as your employees’ potential.

This is why it is important to have public-private collaborations to drive and encourage digital adoption, and to ensure present and future workforces are equipped with skills needed by the industries of today and tomorrow.

Hence, here are some thoughts on how organisations can better prepare and future proof themselves for the new digital world:

Putting people first: While technology is about doing or achieving more with less, we still need human hands and minds to maximise the full potential of new or emerging technologies. If we can leverage human adaptability to reskill and upskill our workforce, then we can simultaneously elevate both humans and technology.

Nurture soft skills: Just as humans and hard skills are important pieces of the digital transformation puzzle, soft skills such as communication, teamwork, collaboration, leadership, critical thinking and problem solving are must-haves in the digital era.

Top-down approach: As the saying goes — the only thing that is constant is change. However, change is much more likely to happen if we drive it from the top down.

For us at Huawei, our digital transformation journey began in 2016. We were faced with the urgency to make our supply chain more efficient and streamline various end-to-end processes. In addition to that, we also had to create digital employees to generate greater business value — a step we took in 2020.

To do this, we defined business roles, built and improved operations, as well as cognitive models along business processes and used new technologies to boost business efficiency and agility.

Tech + Talent: The Recipe for Success in A Digital World

While the pandemic has basically turned the world upside down, it has also provided many businesses the opportunity to explore new horizons in terms of methods of working, and spotlighted new areas in talent investments, resulting in enhanced opportunities and social prosperity. Talent strategies must be immediately structured towards succeeding with digital to avoid being left behind. Mastering new skills, upskilling and reskilling must be the new mantra for companies’ strategies towards their workforces.

In short, apart from utilising readily available technologies that we have at our disposal today, having and developing talent with digital skills is extremely important for us to tap on the power of technology to enhance efficiencies, optimise productivity, and on the overall, ultimately improve lives.

Rita Irina Abd Wahab is Huawei Malaysia Public Affairs and Communications VP.

The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.