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‘Non-degree holders suitable to fill workforce gap’

Diploma holders and students who have passed the Advanced Level are good enough to be recruited to the software development sector to fill the workforce gap in the IT-BPM sector, said an industry expert in response to the shortage of employees in the sector highlighted in the ‘IT-BPM Workforce survey 2019’ launched by the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) recently.

Former Vice President IFS, Jayantha de Silva said it is good to have graduates but it should not be a must for the IT-BPM sector as A/L and diploma holders are as good as graduates in a year or two.

“It should not be made compulsory to recruit graduates. The IT development tools are intelligent today. A/L passed students could be hired and an environment should be created to enable them to excel in the sector offering scholarships to develop skills. They could be employed for software coding, as testers and for designing,” he said.

Industry experts said 100 percent of the staff of a software development company need not be graduates. School leavers could be employed and provided training to enhance knowledge and fine tune their skills.

The ICTA launched the ‘IT-BPM Workforce survey’ to gauge the extent and composition of IT and BPM workforce of the country and weigh that against the extent of the supply of skilled personnel.

The ICT sector has the potential to uplift the national economy by attracting investment, earning foreign exchange, creating employment, increasing productivity and promoting innovation.

The edition of the survey conducted for the fifth time, focuses on achieving a workforce of 200,000 employees by 2022.

The survey highlights an improvement in ICT workforce and expansion of female ICT workforce which augurs well for the future of ICT sector. Over the years, ICTA, the apex government agency for Information and communication technology (ICT) has catered ICT needs of the government by implementing government’s policy and action plan in relation to ICT and functioned towards transforming Sri Lanka into a creative knowledge-based society.

The survey which covered ICT companies, BPM companies, Non-ICT companies, Government Organisations, Training institutions focuses on gaining insight into the strength of the workforce, gender composition, demand-supply gap, skill gap and the overall supply of the ICT workforce in Sri Lanka.

According to the survey, the overall strength of the workforce has grown from 82,854 in 2014 to 124,873 in 2018 which amounts to a growth of 50.7% and is projected to leap further to 146,089 in 2019. The overall composition of the female workforce has improved from 21% in 2010, 29.7% in 2013 to 34% in 2018.

The report reflects a relatively young workforce with 93% of ICT workers below 45 years and 80% of the workforce is calculated to be of less than eight years of experience. Apart from that, ICT companies account for 92% of employees involved in emerging technologies which is a great leap in the ICT sector.

Moreover, 64.2% of the ICT workforce are Bachelor’s degree holders of which 69% are males and 30.3% are females and females with Post Graduate Diploms reach the highest share of 35% which advocates for the quality and education of the ICT workforce.

“The IT-BPM workforce survey will bring about a drastic change in ICT and BPM sectors to identify and tackle issues to be addressed complementing gender equality, ensuring suitable personnel to fill in vacant positions and strengthening ICT sector. Apart from that, such surveys are a prerequisite in moving forward to build a substantial workforce,’’ said Minister Ajith P. Perera at the presentation of the survey report.

The reports of Central Bank of Ceylon (CBSL) reveal that earnings from the export of telecommunications, computer and information services have increased up to US$ 995 million in 2018. Of the total earnings in 2018, US$ 848 million (85%) was earned jointly by ICT and BPM companies while telecommunications contributed to US$ 147 million (15%). Hence, the ICT sector is vastly growing to be the mainstay of Sri Lanka’s economy and holds the capacity to usher in a technology-based future with latest innovations like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of things (IoT), Virtual reality (VR), Augmented reality (AR) and so on.

It is reported that the demand-supply gap is widening and of the total demand of graduates, 70.2% is demanded by ICT companies. This has been identified as the major threat in moving forward and stakeholders have a huge role to play in coping up with the demand-supply gap to come to terms with a stable demand-supply by ensuring the quality of ICT workers, enhancing the skills of non-graduates, and widening ICT education opportunities.

Apart from that, the ICT workforce has gradually improved and new avenues have opened up for ICT graduates with the rise of ICT industries. The workforce survey has boosted investors, policy makers, employers, organisations and students in ample ways from decision making to planning, recruiting, designing courses and so on.

Overall, the survey has been instrumental in finding strengths and weaknesses of the ICT sector and will continue to be a pillar for its future success through a realistic picture of the demand-supply gap, skill gap of IT human resources.

The survey will guide the universities and institutes to further their offerings, students to choose a rewarding career with future employment prospects, investors to decide on vital investment plans, policy makers to propose new policies and planning and maintaining human resources. In conclusion, the ICT industry associations and professional bodies strived to make the survey a success and their collective effort is honoured and appreciated.

(Sunday Observer)

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