The battle for talents: Changing the rules of the game


The rules in today’s workforce within an increasingly digital landscape have been rewritten. These include how we work and how we make decisions. Digitalisation often focuses on new products, solutions and service opportunities through the use of new technologies such as 5G, Cloud and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

But technology is just technology without the right people enabling it. In this new, fast changing digital era, a company will need to have the right digitally adept workforce to stay ahead of the curve. New business models will be created by the advent of ubiquitous connectivity and these will demand entirely new talents and skills.

As Vice Chancellor of the Huawei ASEAN Academy – a learning centre dedicated to equipping talents with digital skills – my vision is to be the bridge between these new needs and the supply of talent. The Asean Academy plans to churn out 50,000 digital talents in Malaysia from 2021 to 2025, averaging 10,000 talents a year and we are already on target towards achieving this, with 10,000 talents trained last year.

I am confident that if we constantly work on creating new approaches to cultivate digital talents and prepare Malaysia with some of the brightest minds in the industry, this will ensure that we are on the right course towards positioning Malaysia as the Asean Digital and Talent Hub.

Lack of digital tech talent – An ‘existential threat’

The acceleration of tech advancements and its influence over workplaces have led to the talent shortage crisis reaching its peak. If companies do not invest in talent transformation, they are destined to fail. The lack of job-ready digital talents has become an existential threat to businesses around the world.

As the speed of change all around us is constantly increasing, Malaysia needs to lean into the future, rather than try to hold on to the past. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven many countries to understand the critical nature and the importance of a digitally educated population as well as the rising importance of promoting digital engagement and developing ICT skills among its future workforces.

There will be an urgent need for organisations everywhere to reskill, upskill and cross- skill existing workforces, while carrying on the hiring of new digital talents at the same time.

The glaring disconnection between the insatiable demand for experienced talent and the lack of sufficiently equipped people to take on these roles impedes companies’ ability to innovate, grow and scale.

Bridging the talent shortage

Creating a stronger talent pipeline should be a top priority to support the nation’s digital transformation goals and create a secure digital ecosystem.

The 12th Malaysia Plan revealed in September last year sets out to boost the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution of the digital sector from 22.6% to 25.5% by 2025. However, its skilling up process lags behind the accelerated digital transformation pace caused by the pandemic.

A Global Skills Report by Coursera last year ranked Malaysia in the 46th spot in global skills – a lack of digital skills – way behind the two higher-ranking ASEAN members, Singapore (10th) and Vietnam (20th).

Malaysia is banking on solid public and private partnerships to close the skills gap as it charts its way to realise the Malaysia 5.0 agenda, a sustainable and resilient, inclusive, and prosperous society built upon a strong digital economy for the people of the country.

With more than two decades of global experience in cultivating digital talent, we at Huawei know the importance of developing, cultivating and shaping young talents. That is why we have established the Huawei Asean Academy and Huawei ICT Academies in various universities as well as initiatives such as the Huawei Seeds for the Future, Huawei Spark and the Huawei ICT Competition aimed at developing skilled local ICT talent who are able to predict the future of work. This is especially important in the current context of the pandemic, and who are able to meet the needs of industries of today and the future.

Our focus is to ensure future talents are equipped and ready with emerging digital skills and are able to fully benefit from advanced technologies and digital innovations such as Cloud computing, automation, AI, Internet-of-Things (IoT), 5G technology and robotics.

Through the ICT Academy, we have collaborated with more than 30 local universities across Malaysia to provide relevant training covering 5G, Cloud computing, Big Data, and other emerging and disruptive technologies.

The Huawei Spark programme, launched in 2020, aims to build a sustainable start-up ecosystem in the country that will empower more than 2,000 developers and 300 start- ups every year. It acts as a hybrid accelerator programme for deep tech start-ups with a presence in Asia Pacific. The programme aims to drive output in areas such as e-commerce, healthcare, manufacturing, and Smart Cities — leveraging Huawei’s leadership in technology and innovation.

The future – A matter of partnerships

These future tech talents are the backbone that will play a crucial part in the aspirations of the nation. We need multiple spiral collaborations between stakeholders from the industry, the education sector and government in order to identify the digital talent hiring landscape trends in the country to ensure the skills employers demand are in sync with what is produced.

When talent development in both the public and private sectors are managed successfully, a virtuous cycle of high performance, sparking innovation and creating impact can be created.

This is especially prevalent as savvy business executives and high-performance companies have recognised that to win the war for talent and push back on the Great Resignation trend, companies need to step up in providing access to knowledge.

Huawei Malaysia has established partnerships with many relevant parties in the recent past, ensuring the acceleration of innovation in the information and communications technology sector. The firm has tied up with notable organisations such as the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), Celcom Axiata Berhad (Celcom), SME Association and The National Tech Association of Malaysia (PIKOM). We also provide on-the-job training, industry attachments and specialised courses for fresh graduates as well as mid-career talent.

We also believe women are equally capable of driving technology innovation, and we value our female employees. Our own Huawei Technologies Co.,Ltd. Corporate Senior Vice President and Director of the Board, Madam Catherine Chen, is a testament to that. In Malaysia, we are working with the Women Leadership Foundation to establish talent development programmes to train the next generation of women leaders.

Huawei will continuously work on digital talent cultivation. We will keep expanding the influence of our Huawei ASEAN Academy to integrate regional resources, enable Malaysian digital talent, promote Malaysia’s Digital Economy and assist Malaysia in its digital transformation journey as well as in ultimately carrying out its role and duties as the ASEAN Digital and Talent Hub.

Huawei’s focal point has always been the people. We believe in the power of technology, we believe in the power of persistence, and we believe in the power of people. Talent is the key to maintaining rapid development, seizing opportunities, and making progress in the new era. It is our most important resource.

We plan on working with the industry and local ecosystem to achieve our shared objectives. Our long-term strategy includes resource sharing and joint development between universities and the industry to efficiently match talent supply with demand; achieve mutual benefits and support the industry’s development.

We in Huawei want to be the foundation and stepping stone for Malaysia’s talent cultivation and we will continue to open more pathways to digital transformation, promote local innovation, and ensure Malaysia remains at the forefront of the digital world.

Oliver Liu
Vice Chancellor of Huawei ASEAN Academy (Malaysia)

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