Why Singapore and the U.K. Could Be the Next Leaders in Tech Talent

The skills needed to succeed in the job market continue to grow increasingly digital, as developments in  high-growth industries like medtech, biotech, cleantech, agritech and fintech shape the talent landscape. Reports such as The Digital Talent Gap from LinkedIn show that the divide between needed and available skills is widening, with 54% of surveyed organizations saying that “the digital talent gap is hampering their digital transformation programs and that their organization has lost competitive advantage because of a shortage of digital talent.” Business and country leaders clearly recognize the connection between boosting these needed talent pools and their economic sustainability. 

Online learning platform Coursera released the first-ever edition of its Global Skills Index report in May, measuring and ranking the skills present in 60 countries and 10 major global industries. Focusing on business, technology, and data science, the study reports on which countries are on the leading edge of developing these skills, and which ones are experiencing critical gaps.  Finland, Argentina and Israel currently rank first for business, tech, and data skills, respectively.  Singapore and the U.K. are rapidly on their way up the list, however, thanks to specific investments and developments that could position them to take over the top 10.  

Singapore currently places 22nd for technology and 20th for data science, earning the country a “competitive” ranking. However, its number 2 spot in the Asia Pacific region overall is something to watch. The study observes that Singapore’s wealth and resources have enabled investment in such skill development and learning in technology and data initiatives as the government’s SkillsFuture program. It subsidizes training in data analytics and other areas, contributing to the country’s high score of 95 for statistics and 88 for data visualization. 

While Singapore’s scores are noteworthy, the city-state is also increasing its efforts to lead in the tech industry by expanding its desire for foreign talent. As the regional headquarters for high-profile companies such as Facebook and Google, the demand for tech talent is rapidly growing. To meet this demand, the Economic Development Board (EDB) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) launched a two-year pilot program, titled Tech@SG, to help tech firms grow in the region by expanding their access to global talent. Core team members of foreign tech firms will have fast-tracked Employment Passes to allow them to come to Singapore to help local tech firms expand.  

This month, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing reaffirmed the commitment to bringing in foreign talent by saying:

In a world where multi-sectoral, cross-discipline and cross-cultural teams are increasingly common, Singaporeans must learn how to work with people from all around the world…This will increase their competitiveness as individual employees and make them more attractive to employers.

He also outlined the requirements for companies to participate in Tech@SG, which included: incorporation into Singapore, securing more than US $10 million in venture capital funding in the last three years, and research or business offerings in technology or digital industries. Companies with plans to expand to Singapore already include Alibaba, Grab, SAP and Taiger. 

The U.K. paints a similar picture by landing in the top 10 for data science, ranking 9th, while coming close to the top 10 for technology, ranking 20th. Like Singapore, the U.K. is particularly strong in data visualization, with a score of 92. The U.K.’s strong economic infrastructure allows for more training and education for these skills, but more efforts have been made recently to invest in global tech talent, particularly to address the U.K.’s desire to become a science superpower. 

Building from the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa, the new fast-track Global Talent visa aims to attract talent in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. Through this visa, individuals with skills in these disciplines will be eligible to come and go from the U.K. at will for a period of three years, with the option to stay and become a U.K. resident at the end of the term. There are no job or salary requirements, and those eligible will be able to bring dependents, such as a spouse or children. Especially worth noting is that the scheme will take place regardless of the terms of the U.K. potentially leaving the EU.  

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How This Will Impact Mobility

The implications these developments will have on mobility will be increased opportunity to relocate skilled talent in technology-driven and digital roles to Singapore and the United Kingdom. These new mechanisms and programs from the U.K. and Singapore allow smoother facilitation to meet the growing demands. Whether in data visualization, machine learning, or security software engineering, the U.K. and Singapore stand as promising locations for such talent to thrive.  

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